Felix White from the New Pornographers on Making The First Impression

We think that the hardest thing to do in life is to make the first impression. Why are we conditioned to wait for a person to smile, look at us, recognize us before they make a first impression?

We are wired to wait for images to come before we decide whether we like or hate someone and those are values we have always had. So why didn’t we recognize New Pornographers’ Felix White, singer and songwriter and co-founder, after seeing him at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park? Not so fast. I’d love to get his take on that conversation.

His response: “Vindication. The Stone Pony is a shrine to God, and he is high up. And I looked him right in the eye. And I whispered something and I said, ‘I see you here. The water’s right there, and you’re standing there and I don’t care if you want to come meet me for a while.’ And that’s the first time I’ve ever done that. And I did [meet him] the next night.”

In a nutshell, this is the most important issue for people to consider when they meet someone: Do they greet them on equal terms? Do they look you in the eye? Does he or she show interest in what they have to say and move forward? We don’t want to be beholden to someone who has the certain personality to immediately condescend and who may, in fact, be waiting for us to screw up.

After 21 years on tour, what has made it work so well for the New Pornographers?

We’ve been really conscious of not treating the fact that we have been together for so long as an audition. People say to us all the time, “Why aren’t you done?” and we just think of it like a song. The songs play themselves out and the character develops and we feel very aware of the fact that we have to keep writing and making new material and the songs always write us back. We have the freedom to make new choices about the songs; we don’t spend our time thinking about, “OK, you guys and I will have to make another record in a year and a half.” We are both at the top of our games, so at this point, it’s all very manageable.

After 21 years on tour, what has made it work so well for the New Pornographers?

We are in the studio every week. We work very hard at our craft and it makes for a good story. What we enjoy is the process of writing, not the end result. “White” is one of the only albums where we did everything except play the drums. We just do it with our hands. When you think about it, that album has little impact. Our current tour with Florence + the Machine is almost entirely live. We are doing so many new things. And “Gazebo” is still a real massive rocker but we’ve done something different with that single than we ever have in our career. We’ve evolved a lot and moved on.

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