Spoon and the New Pornographers, which play Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre together Tuesday, were formed in 1993 and 1997 respectively, but somehow neither has found itself on a Charlotte stage before.
Given both bands’ large, devoted followings – and SiriusXM’s current obsession with Spoon’s new album, “Hot Thoughts” and New Pornographers’ latest “Whiteout Conditions” – their concert is a big deal. The Observer spoke to Spoon bassist Rob Pope and New Pornographers’ founder Carl Newman about playing here, making their respective albums, and turning busy, experimental records into live shows.
Q. As far as I can remember neither of your bands have played Charlotte before. What finally brings you our way?
Rob Pope of Spoon: We’ve been trying to go to some different places this time. We did a tour of the South, played in Oxford, Athens, and Florida for the first time in 10 years. We’ve been trying to hit some cities that unfortunately we didn’t get to the last couple records.
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Carl Newman of New Pornographers: That’s one of the things I like about this tour. We’re playing a lot of places we’ve never played before. It’s great to play a smaller city knowing you’re with Spoon. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for 15 years. They’re a classic band. That’s one of the things that blows my mind playing music. I still think of myself as the teenager listening to music and love music. Over the last 15 years, I’ve become friends with my favorite bands. That’s happened so many times over the years. Being on Matador (Records), Oh hey Stephen Malkmus (of Pavement), Ira and Georgia (of Yo La Tengo). We’re label mates now. It’s my favorite part of doing well in music, is the people I’ve met. It’s sort of a weird foot in the door. I would never meet this person on my own.
Q. So many critics talk about how consistent Spoon records are. And the same is true of New Pornographers. How are you able to pull that off?
Pope: (Frontman) Britt (Daniel) and the rest of us are trying to make the best records we can at the time we’re making them. We’ve been fortunate enough the songs we’re making people react to. That “consistent” word gets thrown around a lot. Every interview I do. That’s a question. That’s a great compliment.
Q. Was there a certain sound or direction you guys talked about going into the album?
Pope: We knew we wanted to kind of go with some songs and sonic textures that sounded a little more far out, kind of like future sounds, not really repeating ourselves, relying on piano, bass, guitar style songs. We wanted to freak people out a little bit. It’s nice to get out of our comfort zone.
Q. Carl, you describe “Whiteout Conditions” as bubblegum krautrock, which is a genre no one’s ever heard of. Were you trying to do something you hadn’t heard before when you started the band?
Newman: I remember thinking at one point there were bands that were good musically but, they were just shoegazers. They were sort of dull. Then there were party bands and their music was not that great. We should try to find some middle ground where our music is interesting, but we still want to be a party band at the same time. Stylistically there’s a lot of vague things at the beginning. Like Blondie and the Vapors and the Cars and the Stranglers – a lot of the music that was popular when I was 10 or 11, the age when I started getting into music. That stays with you and influences you in ways that are subtle and inescapable.
Q. Is it difficult to play a lot of these two new albums live given the sonic layers and additional instruments?
Newman: We’ve figured out how to do all our songs pretty faithfully to the record over the last couple records. It’s a point of pride. Once we started using arpeggiators and keyboards became a part of the songs, I realized we have to have this. There’s a few things we just put on tracks because we have to, but not much. We’re just a live band. I’m amazed how many things the keyboard players have figured out how to play live.
Pope: There’s a lot of texture and layers and a lot of sounds that are hard to re-create in a live environment. We put a lot of work into making our live show still feel very organic and contain a lot of what’s on the album. Everybody is doing more (on stage). We added a member in 2014, Alex (Fischel). Now there’s five of us on stage. A lot of the record is really fun to play. Right now my favorite is “Do I Have to Talk You into It.”
Q. I hear a Prince influence on that one. Were you working on it when he died?
Pope: We were working on the record when Bowie and Prince left us last year. I remember the day in April when Prince died. That was a tough day. We didn’t get anything done. Britt is a massive Prince fan. He’s still kind of reeling from that. I caught him on the bus sitting by himself watching live Prince videos in the middle of the night, which is very sweet. The Bowie one hit me hard. I didn’t listen to anything else for a month. My wife refers to my Bowie month. We all have our ways of grieving. We never really spoke about making his sound like Prince. We might talk about a certain vibe we want to get at. What would Prince do or what would the Clash do? How would the Clash play this song? Sometimes something creative comes out.
Spoon / The New Pornographers
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.livenation.com