Neko Case is many things: solo artist, member of indie supergroup The New Pornographers, the thinking music fan’s dream girl (she was even asked by Playboy if she’d strip for them a few years back, a request she had no trouble turning down) – and also the creator of one of our favourite albums of last year, Middle Cyclone.
It’s also her perkiest solo album to date. ‘That’s true, it’s a little more upbeat. New president!’ she laughs. ‘I don’t know if that’s why, but I’m sure it has an underlying effect somewhere. See, during the [US] election [in 2008] I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s going to take for-f******-ever to get rid of Bush,’ and then next thing I knew it was the inauguration! I was so excited. We got Obama, and Bush got his suitcase, his money, and baby livers or whatever he’s taking with him. The baby steaks that he dines on every night: hand raised, grass fed…’
Um. The album? ‘Oh yeah. There’s still darkness. I can’t help it, I have a nasty sense of humour.’ Sure, but in the past when Case got dark, it lead to songs like ‘Deep Red Bells’, her 2002 rumination on serial killer Gary Ridgway, aka the Green River Killer (the lines ‘When speckled fronds raise round your bones/Who took the time to fold your clothes’ still inspire a shiver). There’s not really a lot of chuckles there. ‘Well, no,’ she concedes. ‘There’s still a sense of humour in the old records too; but I don’t think it was as evident as it is now.’
So what prompted the change? ‘You can’t do the same thing all the time. And, you know, I had more time with the songs and less of them were written in the studio, so I did some experimenting. And it was the first time we were ever able to really rehearse: I’d never had a full band before that were the permanent guys and ladies. So it was a good time,’ she explains. ‘Camaraderie: it’s good.’
Speaking of which, her work with The New Pornographers is kicking back into gear. ‘Any day now I’m expecting to get some demos of the next New Pornographers recording, which I believe we will be recording over the summer,’ she says. ‘I’m going to see Carl [Newman, NP’s leader] the day after tomorrow.’
It’s unlikely he’ll have anything like Middle Cyclone’s closing track: ‘Marais la Nuit’ is more than half an hour of, well, frogs. ‘That was an afterthought. Daryl [Neudorf, who co-produced the album with Case] and I were laughing because there were 37 minutes left on the CD, which was almost as long as the CD itself, and we thought: Let’s not waste it; let’s put something soothing on there. And I had this recording I’d made of the frogs in the pond…’
Well, it’s a good way of punishing those who listen to the album on an iPod shuffle, rather than as a piece. ‘True. Vindictive, even,’ she snickers. ‘Except it’s so soothing they can’t get mad about it.’
Middle Cyclone is available online.