The first question I’m usually always asked when I mention the name of one of my longtime favorite bands The New Pornographers is, “What kind of name is that for a band?” Well, A.C. Newman answered it best on Chart Attack in reference to a quote from Televangelist Jimmy Swaggart who believed rock and roll was the “new pornography”.
“That [Swaggart quote] came after the fact. Somebody told me that and I thought it was so good that I was going to make it my new story.
The truth of it is, I’ve always liked the Japanese movie The Pornographers. It’s a mid ’60s movie. I was so fascinated by the word pornographer – it just seemed like a weird word to me. It seemed like such a clinical word to describe what it is.
[Also], Dan [Bejar], at around the same time, had a song called “The Pornographers”, that was on the first Destroyer record.
I also always loved the name The New Seekers. I always thought it was a ridiculous name. There were the original Seekers and then a few years later, a completely different band showed up and they called themselves The New Seekers. I really liked the New.
Somehow, in my head one night, it just became The New Pornographers. Before we’d written any songs – before we were a band – I thought, “We’re going to be a band and we’re going to be called The New Pornographers.”
This is a band that isn’t afraid to tackle controversial subjects – one most recent subject being the last Presidential election. They even proudly displayed “Resist” stickers on their equipment during their most recent tour. But along with controversial subject matter, you’ll also find pure, unfiltered humor, sincerity and deep truths that unmask stigmas such as depression which is represented in their latest album Whiteout Conditions released earlier this year. The New Pornographers are the realest of real in every sense of the word – the kind of people you want in a best friend. And selflessly, every piece of music they produce becomes that friend.
One of the greatest attributes of The New Pornographers comes from their ability to multitask their career as a solid, perfectly harmonized band while simultaneously maintaining solo projects just as powerful and deeply personal.
I recently caught up online with Todd Fancey, guitarist for The New Pornographers, as the band was nearing the end of their current tour in Europe. Inquisitive over the years about discovering new solo projects from members of the band, I discovered Todd’s project Fancey, a revival of the music of the 70’s, an era with a unique mix of genres such as soft rock, funk, soul, pop and even salsa. Songs from that era included a wide mix of instruments such as strings, horns, flutes and electric piano, rhythm guitars and synthesizers.
As a child of the late 60’s and mid 70’s, my earliest music influences began with bands such as Electric Light Orchestra, KC and the Sunshine Band, the Bee Gee’s and Blondie. It was a generation of songs that told stories encased in repetitive lyrics and catchy rhythms. Instrumentally, the music of the 70’s seemed to hold the unique ability to either take something sad and make it happy, or to take something happy and make it even happier. I always felt the music born in the 70’s was far too short lived…although I imagine Mark Watney in Andy Weir’s The Martian would adversely disagree with me.
Within Todd Fancey’s solo project Fancey, which has produced three records and one EP since 2004 and is due to release County Fair, a 10-track covers album due out on January 26, 2018, he has managed to keep the music of the 70’s alive in such a way that it feels like it never ended in the first place. Upon first listen of Todd’s music, you can feel that it’s personal and purposeful. It’s music that holds the essence of perfection in how it’s created for the most authentic sound possible.
All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine yourself on the dance floor with fragments of light from a glittery disco ball splashing across the faces in the crowd. Grab yourself a pair of bell bottom jeans, pop one of Todd Fancey’s records on the turntable and you’ll be transported back in time. Follow me as I dive into a bit of his dual life as guitarist for The New Pornographers and singer/songwriter for his solo project Fancey, and treat yourself to a listen of his new album Love Mirage as well as a few samples of his prior albums below the interview. But before you do, here’s an exclusive sneak peek at the tracklist for his upcoming covers album, County Fair due for release on January 26, 2018:
- Amarillo by Morning (Terry Stafford)
- Carolina Caroline (Jonathan Edwards)
- Come Run With Me (The Brady Bunch)
- Early Morning Rain (Elvis Presley)
- Flying on the Ground Is Wrong (Buffalo Springfield)
- Merry Go Round (The Brady Bunch)
- My Rifle, My Pony and Me (Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson)
- Peter and Lou (Valdy)
- Is Anybody Going to San Antone? (Charlie Pride)
- Seabird (Alessi Brothers)
Listen to Todd Fancey’s cover of “Amarillo by Morning” from his 2018 record County Fair:
Listen to Todd Fancey’s cover of “Is Anybody Going to San Antone?” from his 2018 record County Fair:
JK: Hey Todd, thanks for taking time out of the European leg of your tour promoting The New Pornographers latest album Whiteout Conditions to speak with me. I attended your show at Terminal 5 In New York City on April 26, 2017 and the band put forth an incredible performance! I remember the audience vehemently chanting for an encore and the band did not disappoint. You snuck in the song “Challengers” from the self-titled album Challengers which I noticed wasn’t on the setlist. Was that a last minute addition and if so, what prompted the change? I, for one, was super psyched to hear it!
TF: Yeah, “Challengers” keeps coming back as a good way to start the encore mini-set. I think A.C. [Newman] just likes it there because it works well and is a quieter song.
JK: What were the circumstances that led you to join The New Pornographers?
TF: I was asked to come on tour for The New Pornographers first U.S. tour because Dan [Bejar] was off doing other things and they wanted a second guitarist. I was happy to get the phone call! Kurt [Dahle], our drummer at the time, knew me from being in Limblifter with me so it wasn’t really an audition so much.
JK: You’ve been with The New Pornographers for roughly sixteen years. That’s given you and the band some solid time in building a history together. I recently saw a tweet from Neko Case saying, “A band IS a marriage.” Do you share her view in that respect?
TF: Having been with the band since 2001, yes, it is like a marriage. We’ve been fortunate in that we get along very well together. We just had a great six-week tour and it really did go smoothly. You have to work on it, work on giving people space when you can and getting your own space too.
JK: When The New Pornographers goes into the studio to record, what’s an average recording day like? Is it always a serious endeavor or are there any shenanigans between bandmates? I know on stage there are often some pretty hilarious impromptu jokes.
TF: An average recording day when I do guitar parts is a long hard day of work but that’s a good thing. It’s tense in a certain way because you want to get each part done to move on to the next. So, it’s heads down and get to work. There are some laughs along the way always with this band.
JK: What was it like for you touring with Waxahatchee?
TF: Waxahatchee were so easy to tour with! It was just the two of them and their lovely merch person as well. Couldn’t have asked for better touring partners. I watched them play. It was really great, beautiful songs.
JK: I have to ask about your recent tour of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Being totally honest, how would you rate your nerd/science geek level of excitement on a scale of 1 to 10…10 being “I want to watch watch them build the next space probe!” and 1 being “Cool! A bumper sticker for my guitar case!”?
TF: With NASA, somewhere around a 7. I am interested in their past especially, the Apollo Program and earlier. They treated us very nicely and it was a big thrill to be there. Usually when the band goes to see things like that it’s too early for me as I usually wake up on the bus around 2:00 pm, but I had to go to that one.
JK: You appeared offscreen on an episode of The Office titled The Dinner Party which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. The episode included your vocals on a fictional album called The Hunted. What was it like working on a television show?
TF: It was fun to make the recording for The Office. It took about five minutes to write, as Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupinsky [had previously] sent me the words to work with. Then I had to wait about sixteen months to find out if it was going to be used because of the writer’s strike at the time. I’m proud of that because I love that show so much, and to have Steve Carell and the other cast members be in a scene with me singing (badly…and they asked me to sing it that way) is still surreal.
JK: You were born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Do you still reside in Canada and what, if any, differences in culture do you experience while travelling in America?
TF: I live in Vancouver, Canada. It’s a great city. I think many places in the states are far more friendly than Vancouver though. I have no idea why. America gets this horrible reputation but it’s a very friendly place in general and my favourite country to tour in by far.
JK: A.C. Newman wrote the track “High Ticket Attractions” during the Trump campaign and his lyrics prove almost Nostradamus-like yet simultaneously casting no opinion politically one way or the other. As a Canadian citizen, do you ever foresee an election in your country that could hold such a division of it’s citizens?
TF: I can’t imagine an election in Canada being as divisive as the one America just had in November. We aren’t as widely polarized in Canada. One of my theories is that the Florida election of 2000 took existing divisions and made them far worse as everyone in America waited weeks to find out the results.
JK: Along with your career as guitarist for The New Pornographers, you’ve had your own solo project in the works for awhile now called Fancey. You released your first album, Fancey on March Records in 2004, an EP titled The Magical Summer in 2005 also on March Records and your second album, Schmancey on What Are Records in 2007. Your latest album titled Love Mirage was just released in January of this year on your own label, Stoner Disco. Your albums as a whole seem to blend an A.M. radio 70’s disco pop with a hint of soft rock. What’s your inspiration behind re-creating this unique era of music?
TF: Well it’s my favourite kind of music and a worthy challenge to make music that sounds like that. I also like the simple lyrics of those A.M. radio 70’s songs.
JK: Are there and any bands or songs in particular from the 70’s that influenced what you want to reflect within your own music?
TF: There are more than a few flagships from that era that I aspire to in terms of recording achievements. A few are “On and On” by Stephen Bishop, “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” by Chris Rea, “Fallin’ in Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds and of course anything by England Dan and John Ford Coley, such as “It’s Sad to Belong”.
JK: Love Mirage sounds very much like a record actually recorded in the 70’s. Can you tell me how you and producer Allan Rodger accomplished this instrumentally?
TF: Instrumentally, we made sure we used all real vintage synths and instruments. When you use real Rhodes electric pianos and write in that style you’re going to sound 70’s!
JK: I get a definite ballroom waltz vibe when I listen to the track “Disco Angel”. Was that an intentional feeling to the song?
TF: Yes, “Disco Angel” is basically about “waltzing” back in those days, which was pretty much just hugging and slowly turning with each other during a slower song. It was called a “waltz” even though people into real waltzing must have derided it.
JK: Do any of the songs on Love Mirage reflect events from your own life?
TF: Pretty much all of the songs reflect my life. I like to have maximum relevance to my life with each song in some way. It’s the only way I can get feeling into them.
JK: Any plans to tour for Love Mirage and your previous records?
TF: Touring is a possibility once the Whiteout Conditions touring wraps up, but that won’t be for awhile.
Listen to Todd Fancey’s new album Love Mirage:
Listen to “Cross O’ Gold” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Lost In Twilight” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Call” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Bitter Life” from Todd Fancey’s 2007 record Schmancey:
Listen to “Strayed Out” from Todd Fancey’s 2004 record Fancey:
Listen to “In Town” from Todd Fancey’s 2004 record Fancey:
Listen to “I’ll Be Down” from Todd Fancey’s 2004 record Fancey:
Text Copyright © Janice Keegan & Todd Fancey 2017 – All Rights Reserved. Images Copyright © Janice Keegan, The New Pornographers & Todd Fancey – Used With Permission – All Rights Reserved. Music Copyright © Todd Fancey – Used With Permission – All Rights Reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Janice Keegan & Todd Fancey.