A.C. Newman Turns The Tables On Sound Advice’s Janessa Slater

Janessa Slater is a media coach who bears an uncanny resemblance to SNL’s Vanessa Bayer and has been dispensing so-called Sound Advice — and many merciless insults — to the likes of Drake, TV On The Radio, Tegan And Sara, HAIM, and most of the lineup of Governor’s Ball. We thought it was time somebody turned the tables on Slater, so we asked New Pornographers ringleader A.C. Newman (whose band is about to release Brill Bruisers, its first album in four years) to give her a taste of her own passive-aggressive medicine. Here’s how the conversation unfolded from there.

A.C. NEWMAN: Janessa, they say that those who can’t do teach. Have you considered teaching media coaching?

JANESSA SLATER: They say that those who can’t do tea — ohhh, it’s like a burn on me. I can’t media coach.

NEWMAN: I think the answer is yes.

SLATER: Uh, the answer is no. I hate children and I would never teach. So, joke’s on you. Or, excuse me. Trick’s on you. [laughs]

NEWMAN: Good burn.

SLATER: Thank you. Don’t try to burn the burner. Maybe you should teach burning. [laughs]

NEWMAN: When giving advice to musicians, you often try to lighten the mood with jokes. Has there ever been a time when one of these jokes has gone over well?

SLATER: Hmm … pretty much all the time. Pretty much all of the jokes go well, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. Once again, maybe you should try teaching burning.

NEWMAN: Could you share a few of your many professional regrets with us?

SLATER: First of all, don’t assume I have a lot of professional regrets, because that makes a jerk out of you and me. [laughs] Um, I guess one of my biggest professional regrets is that I didn’t cosign on that car that my ex-husband Darrent bought, because that way it would have been a lot harder for him to divorce me. But you know, they get all those professional papers together, and they go, “Are you guys buying this car separately or are you buying it together?” And at the time, I thought because he has better credit than me, he should buy it by himself. In retrospect, we should’ve bought it together, put both of our names on the car, and then that way, you know, it would have been much tougher for him to leave me, because he would’ve been like, “Oh, god, we’ve gotta get the law involved more.”

NEWMAN: Are you sure you don’t have any more regrets?

SLATER: That’s pretty much my only professional regret. That and what else? Maybe that I don’t reach more fans every day and more bands every day. I wish that I could reach every artist that’s out there and give them my great advice, but I’m not a superhuman. Although I guess I just missed the cutoff on that, ’cause I guess I’m about as close as you can get. Maybe I’ll give you some notes for yourself?


SLATER: First of all, I just wanna say I’m so sorry that your comic book empire is ending. And I haven’t read the last comic yet, but I’m hoping you went for Veronica, ’cause I just think that she’s kind of a better life partner, and I think, what’s Betty gonna get you, you know what I mean? I don’t know, what does she know how to do? Cook or something? Anyways, so I’m sorry to hear about that, but maybe you might want to change your image a little bit if you want your band to really succeed.

NEWMAN: Would you like to take a moment to imagine what it would be like to have a rewarding day at work? Just take a moment.

SLATER: OK, um, well, it would be like any day at work, because every day is rewarding. But for it to be a really rewarding day at work, I would do what I do every day, except that I would come home and my ex Darrent would be waiting for me with just like a ton of flowers, and he’d be like, you know, “I wanna get back together, and also I forgive you for all of that stuff.”

NEWMAN: Are you totally set on the sound of your voice or is that something we could work on?

SLATER: Um, okay, that sounded like another burn, and, um, for your info, I have a band called Janessa Rocks.

NEWMAN: Is that R-O-X or R-O-X-X?

SLATER: It’s R-O-C-K-S, because I know how to spell. [laughs] Anyway, it’s called Janessa Rocks, and I do lead and backup vocals.

NEWMAN: At the same time?

SLATER: Sometimes.

NEWMAN: So sort of Tuvan throat singing?

SLATER: Yeah, so it’s like this. [singing] Janessa rocks (she rocks, she rocks), rocks (she rocks, she rocks), Janessa rocks, and she rocks (and she rocks, rocks).

NEWMAN: It’s hard to believe one person’s doing all that.

SLATER: I know. I was kinda into a cappella when I was younger, so I kinda learned how to make my voice sound like an instrument. And by an instrument, I mean a backup singer. So I heard that now that Archie Comics are ending, you’re in a different band?

NEWMAN: Mm-hmm. Well, sort of. I should take off the glasses. I’m looking a lot more rockstar-like now.

SLATER: Yeah. Like, “Where’s Jughead?” [laughs]

NEWMAN: Exactly. This is my alter ego. You know, just so I can have a little peace.

SLATER: I don’t know anything about alter egos. What’s the name of your new band?

NEWMAN: I have a band called the New Pornographers. We’ve been around for a few years.

SLATER: Uh, I know the new pornographers, and they’re not a band. OK?

NEWMAN: You’re thinking of the website.

SLATER: Not the new pornographers I know. They’re just a group of scrappy twenty-somethings that are trying to make it in the biz, and I’ve consulted with them many times, and I just hope that they take my advice — you know, because I think they could really do something huge. No pun intended.

NEWMAN: I’m gonna read you back some advice you gave to Grammy-winner Drake, another Canadian, and ask you a question about it. You told Drake, “You maybe wanna choose a name that’s more hip-hop/rap, like Graham Cracka,” another suggestion you gave was “Drake Time,” which you clarified was like break time. Hearing that read back to you, can you tell me, what the fuck were you thinking?

SLATER: OK, very strong f-bomb not needed. But I guess what I was thinking was, you know, Drake, you hear “Drake” and you go, “I don’t really know what that is.” He’s a cool rapper, and I think that should be reflected in his name. Graham Cracka — you know, it’s a cool name, and it also makes you hungry. Drake Time, it makes you think of, like, a relaxing break time, but it also makes you think of Drake. And then you start associating him with cool, relaxing breaks, and graham crackers. I don’t know, that’s a star I’d listen to. That’s someone I can get behind.

NEWMAN: If you’ve spent some time in Canada, you know the term “cracker” is sort of offensive to a few of us. It’s like, “Hey you cracker, go back to Toronto, you cracker.” And Drake probably knew that when you said that.

SLATER: I’m sorry, are you inside of Drake’s head? ‘Cause the last time I checked, there was only like, an extremely hot black Jewish dude inside of his head, so. And by inside of his head, I mean attached to his head.

NEWMAN: Do you ever listen to music in your personal life, or do you like to remain completely free of music at all times?

SLATER: I don’t generally listen to music. I used to listen to it when I was younger, but it kinda just sounds like noise to me.

NEWMAN: Well, it’s here to stay.

SLATER: Music’s here to stay?

NEWMAN: So I’m told. That’s what Dick Clark said, anyways.

SLATER: Yeah. No, I know music is here to stay, and people really love it, I’m just not one of those people. Which is why I do my job, you know? I think I’ve got a fresh eye for music because I’m not into it.

NEWMAN: So your job, is it a volunteer position? Like an internship?

SLATER: Uh, no. My job is actually pretty well-paid — you know, when people actually pay. And that’s all the time. I never do any of my consulting for free. Once in a while people will say, “I’m not paying for that” — you know, “You just gave me bad advice and I refuse to spend any money. In fact, I feel like you should give me money.” And to those people I say, “Hey, this is my job.” I say, “Pay up or you can’t use my advice.” And I think a lot of people who have done that have found that they’re pretty big jerks, actually. And have not gotten the benefit of my advice. And to those people I say, “I did just open up a PayPal account if you wanna pay me directly through that, and I can get you more information on that via my Twitter cell phone.” So to you guys, once again, got a PayPal account, it’s so easy to pay me, so. I won’t even charge interest.

NEWMAN: So you don’t listen to music.

SLATER: No. No no no. I mean, once in a while, you know, if I’m in a mall and they’re playing music, I’ll listen to it. But no.

NEWMAN: Have you started thinking about what you’re going to do after your career as a media coach is finished?

SLATER: After my great career as a media coach ends because I go into retirement, I think that I’d like to retire maybe to Cannes, maybe to Nice, or somewhere else in the south of France, with my ex Darrent. And I think we’ll just live in like a chateau or something. I’d love to live in, like, not a huge chateau but a little chateau, and I think we could just retire there and drink the finest French wine and cheeses, and every so often I think my clients would call me and they’d say, “Thank you so much, you’ve done everything for me,” and I’d say, “Look, phone calls cost a lot, I’m in France, and I can’t really afford to talk to you right now,” and then that way I’d be able to sort of blow them off without them knowing that I was doing it. And then also I think I would just wanna like, you know, enjoy all the cuisine. With Darrent. Maybe, I don’t know, have a — what do you call those where you like get married again but you’re already married? Renew our vows. I think I’d like to renew our vows at least once a year like Mariah. And that’s pretty much it.

NEWMAN: That was a long answer. Thank you. Did you have any interesting past jobs before you got your career as a media coach?

SLATER: I worked at my ex Darrent’s car dealership, and I did get let go because I was quote-unquote “annoying the clientele,” which I don’t know what that means. I worked in a courthouse, mostly as a defendant. And I worked at an ad agency where I came up with song jingles, even though my job was officially secretary, so none of those jingles got picked up. But I know that you’re in a band and if you ever wanted to talk about maybe getting any of those jingles going, I would just want like 50 percent of royalties.


A new episode of Sound Advice featuring LeAnn Rimes is out today via Above Average; watch it here. The New Pornographers’ Brill Bruisers is out 8/26 on Matador; pre-order it here.

[Graphic by Michaela Schuett.]