The New Pornographers might not be a household name, yet they make their way into American households on a nightly basis. The rousing coda of "The Bleeding Heart Show" appears in a commercial for the University of Phoenix that airs during late-night TV.
John Collins, the band's bassist, prepared the mix used for the ad and was blown away the first time he heard it, in part because he'd handed the track to the advertisers a mere 48 hours before.
"My thought is like you're slogging along in this cave and then you put an mp3 on a rock in front of the cave," he says. "And before you know it, it's up in the sky."
Hearing the Vancouver-based indie rock band in a commercial could generate cynicism in some fans. Yet, "The Bleeding Heart Show" just happens to be one of the most brilliantly orchestrated pop songs written this millennium. It builds in dramatic tension for several minutes until it reaches the climax, which features the band's six singers belting out "hey-la-hey-la" in a swelling, double-tracked chorus. If you don't believe me, run to your nearest music-playing device, crank the song and then we'll talk. Commercialism aside, this song deserves placement where more people can hear it.
"I think it's kind of valuable advertising for a band," says Collins of the University of Phoenix spot. "It's kind of callous to say, but it's exposure."
If that hasn't raised the band's star, it was also touted in an article last December by Richard Florida, who listed it as one of several bands that could make Canada the "next musical Mecca." The mention is news to Collins, who only recently heard about it. "Sounds like a pretty hip economist," he says of Florida, a former Pittsburgh resident.
And to think the New Pornographers' 2000 debut nearly stayed buried in a drawer, never to be released. Further, the lineup on their four albums rarely appeared onstage together until last year. Singer and composer Dan Bejar (also of Destroyer) shied away from the stage, Neko Case's solo career often kept her busy, and main songwriter Carl Newman lives in Brooklyn. But everyone made last fall's tour in support of Challengers, album number four. The release features Newman writing in a laidback mood on many songs, a change from his catalog of upbeat power chords. The new album still makes for an interesting listen, and although Bejar won't be appearing when the band plays the Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead this weekend, it should be the basis for a strong show.
The New Pornographers with Okkervil River. 8 p.m. Sat., April 12 (doors at 7 p.m.). Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. $27-$30. 412-462-3444 or www.homesteadlibrary.org