Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Portugal. The Man - The Interview

Well it's been a long time coming and I can't quite believe that it actually came to fruition, but I was able have some questions answered by Portugal. The Man's bassist, Zach Carothers. I'd like to thank Zach for taking the time to answer the questions, those guys have been incredibly busy supporting their new record, Evil Friends.

The Drawer: You’ve got a new record coming out in June and it was produced by Danger Mouse, how did that pairing come about and what was it like working with him?

ZC: Craig, the head of Atlantic Records got us together for the most part. We were already in the middle of self producing what we thought was the new album when we found out we had the opportunity to collaborate with Brian. So we scratched almost all of the record and started fresh with him. We learned a lot working with Brian. He had a very unique insight into band life being an artist himself, so he knew a lot about how important it is to keep our artistic intent while trying to write accessible music. 

The Drawer: How does the sound of ‘Evil Friends’ compare to your earlier works? Purple Yellow Red and Blue is almost like dance music.

ZC: Every record sounds a lot different from the last one. Evil Friends is just more put together. We took longer on this one and put a lot of thought behind it. PYRB is a little tongue in cheek. I would say its our version of Money by Pink Floyd. 

The Drawer: Is there a concept behind this record?  A lot of your previous records seem to focus on a central concept or theme whether musically or lyrically.

ZC: There always themes in our albums. We normally write all the songs in the studio, in a relatively short amount of time. We like to make connections to songs by repeating melodies and lyrics. Make for a more solid album as a whole I feel. 

The Drawer: When you guys sit down to make a record what are you listening to? Do you sort of keep yourself in a bubble musically and hole up with the songs you’re working on or do you listen to other things? Did anything in particular creep in to influence the sound on the new record?

 ZC: Things obviously creep in, but nothing in particular. Everything influences us. I was listening to a lot of Nirvana, La Roux and Kanye before we went in. I guess that makes sense. Once we get in the studio, we pretty much only have time to listen to the music we're making.

The Drawer: What’s the writing process like? Does John come with the songs pretty well formed or are things sort of sketches until you get into the studio/rehearsal space?

ZC: It really depends.. On this album he went in with Brian a week or two before we came in. So most of them were put together pretty well. Chords and basic structure. Melodies to build off. But lyrics always come the last week of tracking. Ha.

The Drawer: What do you guys like to listen to? What’s in the cd/mp3 player at the moment? 

ZC: I've been very anxious and stressed out lately. Whenever I have that aggression I need aggressive music. You'd think I'd be curling up to some Jeff Buckley, but no. Metal and hip hop. Kanye, Slayer, Kendrick, and more Slayer.

The Drawer: You’ve been pretty prolific since the band came about, releasing an album just about every year since 2006, has that been a goal you’ve set out for yourselves, or has it been the result of just writing a lot of material or just sort of a natural process?

ZC: A natural process that became a goal. John and I grew up in Alaska and with that, a very good work ethic was instilled in us. We know how lucky we are to be in this position. We won't take anything for granted. We'll work our ass off everyday.

The Drawer: The first Portugal. The Man album I ever listened to was ‘Church Mouth’ after picking it up on a whim at a record store largely in part because of the band’s name and the cool looking album cover.  You guys recently reissued that record for Record Store Day 2013 in a really small run of 500. How much input does the band have in something like that? Where did the decision to press ‘Church Mouth’ for RSD come from?

ZC: We're very involved in talking to our fans. I'm always outside talking with them at our shows, or reading emails and blog post. People really like those special limited runs of things. We have input and also have people we trust on our side.

The Drawer: Along the same lines, how do you feel about digital vs physical music? You released a limited number of physical copies of the ‘American Ghetto’ cd and it seems like the days of a listener wanting to have something that they can hold are maybe coming to an end. Would you prefer your fans to have physical copies of your records or does it even matter?

ZC: I have a lot of digital music. That's how I check out new things, but when I hear a record I love, I've got to have it on vinyl. I don't care how fans want to listen to it. I'm just glad they do. That's for them to decide. There are a lot of ways to support a band you like these days. We appreciate it. 

The Drawer: You just got done playing Coachella and you’ve played other large festivals like Bonnaroo, what’s it like playing for all those people? Do you enjoy playing huge shows like that or would you rather play more intimate clubs?

ZC: It's a tough call. Playing festivals is unreal. So amazing to see all those people that love music so much. The energy is just crazy. Quite a party. But it's also good to play smaller clubs. We get to make it our party. Our lights, our playlist in between the bands. It makes it a special night for us. Both are beautiful. Luckily, I don't have to choose. 

The Drawer: In 2011 you posted several concert recordings on your website for free download. Why did you decide to make them free and is that something you’d consider doing again?

ZC: Of course we would do it again. It was just something fun we wanted to do for our fans. A little thank you for coming out to our shows. 

The Drawer: What advice, if any, would you give to all the people out there that are making music in basements and bedrooms that are trying to be heard?

ZC: This day and age there is so much you can do on your own. You just have to do it. My advice is to just play music everyday. 

The Drawer: Finally, where does PTM go from here?

ZC: We've got a long tour ahead of us. It's been too long and it's so nice to be back out on the road. We get to go to Japan for the first time! So excited about it! I imagine that we'll start working on a new album as soon as we get the chance.

The Drawer: Thanks so much for taking to the time to do this with our little blog and best of luck with the new record. I know I’ll be picking it up on 6/4.

ZC: No problem bud! Thanks a bunch!
Set list from 6/8/13 show @9:30 club in DC which I was fortunate enough to attend.

Above is a clip of the band performing Day Man/So American/People say from the DC show.

Here's Sleep Forever/Hey Jude from the same night.

If you get a chance to see this band, please do it, they put on a great show.

Here are some tour dates:

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