At this time last year, Destroyer singer/guitarist Dan Bejar's biggest concern was the cost of getting silkscreened sleeves made for his group's third album, Thief (Cave Canem).
Suddenly, the casual side projects he dabbles in with cartoonist Blaine Thurier, his Vancouver roommate, are threatening to eclipse everything Destroyer has accomplished during the past five years.
Call it providence or sheer dumb luck, but just as Thurier completed his first digital video movie, Low Self Esteem Girl, the Toronto International Film Festival decided to accept submissions in the digital video format.
Not only did Thurier's sleazy slacker exposé make the cut, but the band he shares with Bejar, the New Pornographers -- led by Zumpano's Carl Newman with Thee Evaporators' John Collins and Limblifter's Kurt Dahle -- make their first Toronto appearance during Citytv's Festival Schmooze broadcast Friday (September 8) at 10 pm. It's a neat trick, considering that only last week the New Pornographers had their debut album, Mass Romantic, mastered, and inked a deal with Mint Records for an October release.
"Blaine started making Low Self Esteem Girl just over a year ago," explains Bejar, who admits his portrayal of a guitar-strumming couch potato wasn't a stretch. "It's his first shot at filmmaking. He went at it very methodically, getting some how-to-make-a-movie books, then buying a digital video camera to shoot some footage and a fancy computer to edit. Lo and behold, he's got a screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Pornographers party "Carl Newman will be in Toronto promoting the film with Blaine, Kurt is going to be there with Limblifter anyway, so they just had to fly John and me in from Vancouver to have the New Pornographers perform one song for the Festival Schmooze.
"While I'm there, I'll be playing some new Destroyer songs solo at Ted's Wrecking Yard Sunday (September 10) and maybe Carl and I can pitch our own film ideas to some drunken movie moguls. This music thing is for the birds. The real money is in film."
It may be a bit premature for Bejar to discount the earning power of the New Pornographers. Just about every last three-minute thrill-pop epic on the fantastic Mass Romantic album sounds like money in the bank.
They've managed to bring together the most commercial elements of early-80s new wave with an avant-glam blast of vintage Roxy Music and T-Rex boogie for a shout-along sound that has eluded both Weezer and Guided by Voices.
Add the charismatic belting of guest vocalist Neko Case, doing her best Dale Bozzio on the title track and possible single Letter From An Occupant -- which appeared on Mint's Vancouver Special benefit compilation earlier this year -- and the enormous sales potential of the New Pornographers should be evident.
"The New Pornographers is really Carl's brainchild. He produced the record with John and arranged all the parts once everything was recorded. If there was a concept going in, it was to make some good-time music with a bunch of singers and a lot of circus nonsense going on in the background, while trying to maintain an exciting rave-up quality. It turned out to be much more straightforward pop than anything Carl has done with Superconductor or Zumpano, and it's definitely more rocking than Destroyer.
"When Carl first sprang that Letter From An Occupant song on me, I knew right away that it could be huge. I think he wrote it specifically for Neko. When she came in to do her vocals, I remember Carl kept telling her, 'No soul -- sing it like a robot!' It worked out great."
Missing Case The fact that Case has yet to play a single gig with the New Pornographers underscores the inherent problem with "supergroup" projects. No matter how successful the assembly promises to be, the members' allegiances always remain elsewhere. Should an offer for an arena tour present itself, whether each of the New Pornographers is prepared to put aside their full-time responsibilities remains to be seen.
"We haven't really talked about that yet, and maybe we should. Destroyer will always be a priority for me, even though I realize there's a finite audience for what we do, whereas the New Pornographers sound really is all-embracing. Those songs reek of hits.
"I guess it's something I'll have to deal with when I get my first $100,000 cheque from Mint. Anyway, they can always get another guy with a mop of curly brown hair to sit on a stool and pretend he's me."
NEW PORNOGRAPHERS, performing as part of the FESTIVAL SCHMOOZE, at the ChumCity Building (299 Queen West), Friday (September 8) at 10 pm. Invitation only. Broadcast live on Citytv. 591-5757.
DESTROYER, with CLOVER HONEY and WOODCHOPPER'S ASSOCIATION,at Ted's Wrecking Yard (549 College), Sunday (September 10) at 9 pm. 928-5012.