IMMACULATE MACHINE opening for the NEW PORNOGRAPHERS with destroyer at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), Sunday (October 9). $25. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Kathryn Calder, A.C. Newman's long-lost niece and the newest New Pornographer, is in the tour van with her original group, Immaculate Machine, heading to, or through, "Gaytown, San Francisco."
Or maybe she's saying "the gay town of San Francisco." I'm not quite catching what she's saying about her carrot-topped indie hero uncle's second home. The cellphone reception is bad, and asking her to repeat herself here is only going to complicate things.
I do, however, manage to get the skinny on Calder's twisted tale of music and family regained. It's actually not that twisted. It's not even new. Calder sounds kinda bored of talking about her connection to the university pop rocker A.C. (or Carl) Newman, whom she first met before New Pornographers were even a twinkle in her uncle's eye.
"You ready?" she jokes when queried about her family business. "My mother was adopted when she was young, and then about eight years ago she found her mother, and her mother is Carl's mother," she says plainly.
With the flashy news of a "long-lost" relative (some authorities, including the New Pornographers' own website, are calling 23-year-old Calder Newman's "teenage" niece) in the band, the immediate inclination is to think that Newman and Calder found each other a year ago - just in time for her to lay down keyboards and vocals on the New Pornographers' quirky, mellow, soaring and at times challenging third LP, Twin Cinema (Matador).
Otherwise, why didn't Carl extend the invitation to join the chaotic supergroup - the Pacific Coast's Broken Social Scene - a long time ago?
"I think it was just that he didn't see my band play before," she says. "He didn't really know I was a singer. I wasn't forcing it on him or anything, and then I guess some people saw our band. He realized I could sing and asked me to play."
Calder has been playing with guitarist Brooke Gallupe and drummer Luke Kozlowski, Immaculate Machine, for years, performing their own strange brew of Victoria, BC-distilled, bassless, synth-heavy garage pop.
But now that she's also an official member of Newman's band, which participated in a mini-tour this summer sans their female star Neko Case (whose own solo career is perpetually heating up), some have speculated that Calder has been recruited as a future Case replacement. A re-Case-ment?
"No," Calder says, a bit tersely maybe. "No, I don't think so. I don't think anybody could be the new Neko Case."
Either way, the connection has benefited her first band, who've been supporting Newman's band on their fall tour.
"I've noticed that people actually show up on time for my band's new shows opening for the New Pornographers," she observes, "which is pretty good. So we actually get to play for people."
Not that they were doing all that bad before. They just signed a three-album deal with Mint Records and played CMJ at CBGB's in New York a couple weeks ago. Seems like things are on the way up for Immaculate Machine. But Calder will never forget Immaculate Machine's good ol' days.
"We played this one show in Halifax, part of this ridiculously long tour of Canada, at this art school, but the people who ran it were sort of on the brink of collapse. We got about three quarters of the way through our set - I guess someone had called the police because it was in a residential neighbourhood.
"So they showed up during our last song. We finished the set, and the police sorta stormed in and said, 'All right, everybody out or you're all getting arrested.' It was flattering because some people were trying to decide whether to buy merch or get arrested.
"We shut it down."