Sixteen years into their existence, the New Pornographers achieved the highest sales chart debut of their career in August.
“Brill Bruisers” — an album of shiny power-pop songs inspired by tuneful late ’60s vocal groups and the synthesizer-decorated, 1970s- and ’80s-era of the Electric Light Orchestra — entered the Billboard 200 albums chart at No. 13.
Understandably, New Pornographers founder A.C. Newman was pleased.
“Considering that people don’t buy records anymore, it was pretty good,” the Vancouver native said from his home in Woodstock, New York.
Following a break from late-year touring, the New Pornographers returned to the road Tuesday. They’re back in New Orleans Friday for a show at the Civic Theatre.
“It is amazing to have the longevity that we have,” Newman said of the group’s sustained and rising popularity.
“When you’ve been around like that, you stop thinking about getting your big break,” he mused in his Canadian accent. “You start thinking, ‘Well, we have a pretty good career here. Let’s try to maintain this.”
The group’s longevity justifies Newman’s original concept for the New Pornographers and his choice of bandmates. When he formed the group in Vancouver in 1998, he cast musicians he admired in the lineup. They included Virginia-born singer-songwriter Neko Case. She later developed a thriving solo career. Another original member, Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Bejar, found success soon thereafter with his project, Destroyer.
“That’s the one thing I feel great pride in,” Newman said of his fellow Pornographers. “I was an amazing talent scout. The one thing I did with this band that was genius was going amongst my friends and saying, ‘All right. You’re gonna be in my band, because you guys are really good.’ ”
Despite the large audiences that Case and Bejar command when they’re apart from Newman, they always return to the New Pornographers collective.
“It’s weird valleys in the way the band works,” Newman said. “We’re very active for a while and then people go off and do their other things.”
And when Case and Bejar are busy with their projects, it’s actually good for Newman.
“I can do a lot of work on the New Pornographers without them around,” he said. “There’s so much work to be done. Songs to be written, making demos and just experimenting. It’s so fun, too.”
Newman is already contemplating the group’s next album.
The New Pornographers’ previous visits to New Orleans included a first for it, a Halloween night show. In honor of the special occasion, everyone donned costumes during the performance.
Animal lover Case wore a polar bear suit. Others wore pirate, mummy and ecclesiastical costumes. Both Newman and Bejar appeared as the Grim Reaper.
“I don’t know why that was,” Newman said. “It seemed funny at the time.”