Portugal. The Man are coming into town tonight, hot on the heels of their newest Danger-Mouse produced LP, Evil Friends. With positive reviews coming in from all over the interwebs, P.TM are enjoying bigger venues and larger crowds as a result. Just the other day, Rocks Off had the opportunity to chat with Zachary Scott Carothers, bassist and founding member of the Portland-based indie rock group. While only a brief conversation ensued while he had a short break before their show in Dallas, he shared quite a bit about working with a top producer, the band's love for Houston and how similar Texas and Alaska really are.
Portugal. The Man have been either recording or on the road for seemingly forever - since they first became a band in 2004, after Carothers and vocalist John Baldwin Gourley moved from their Wasilla, AK home to the more music friendly Portland, OR. According to Carothers, growing up in Alaska was "inspiring and enriching, but didn't have much to offer as far as playing music. It took moving down to Portland to really open our eyes to what a real music scene had to offer. Going to bars with so many underground bands playing every night was completely different from what we were used to in Alaska."
Having spent so much time in Texas with family and touring, Carothers described the state as being "pretty similar in mentality" to his home state of Alaska. "I can't explain it, they're still completely different, but there are so many similarities. I think having spent so much time down here I've grown accustomed to the people and feel at home in both states."
"We love the hell out of Texas. Ever since the beginning of the band, we would come down here and the shows would have so many people. So much support coming from Texas."
Having seen P.TM four or five times here in town, I can support that statement. "We say openly quite a lot that it's one of our favorite places to play. Everyone loves Austin, but I love Houston too, really nice people there."
Portugal. The Man's show at House of Blues tonight will be at their biggest venue in Houston to date, previously playing the smaller Fitzgerald's for their past two shows, and the smaller rooms at Warehouse Live and the now closed Meridian in years past. "We paid our dues, worked hard and toured non-stop year after year. When we were first touring, we would play a show and only 15-20 people would show up, but the next time we came back those people had told their friends and our crowds doubled, which we're obviously pretty happy about," noted Carothers, "I've got no backup plan, I really need to make this work."
Their latest LP, Evil Friends, is their eighth studio effort, and second with Atlantic Records. It was the first time, however, working with a big name producer. Danger Mouse, multi-Grammy award winning producer and all around bad-ass, brought an "old-school producer route" to the recording process which was "really cool in this day and age. He plays a lot of instruments, and is really good at figuring out where things go. It was more of a collaboration than anything."
You can really hear the influence of Danger Mouse in the new record. He brings a certain innovative approach to all of his work that you can spot from a mile away. Not innovative because no one else has done it, but innovative because no one else has done it in decades. Evil Friends is just the latest masterpiece he's given to us.
Portugal. The Man were the perfect group for Danger Mouse to hook up with although it almost didn't even happen.
"The CEO of Atlantic records set up a meeting with John [Gourley] to go hang out with Danger Mouse. Right off the bat he told John 'I already have The Black Keys right now, and I don't really need to work with a rock band' which took a lot of pressure off the meeting. And John just said, well, that's fine, we're almost done with our new record anyway, let's just hang out and listen to music. Over the course of the day they just got along on so many levels and really saw eye to eye on what they wanted to do with the recording. By the end of it Danger Mouse was like, 'let's make a record.' So we did."
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"We had already started recording in El Paso, and had about nine songs on our own, but a bit into that process we found out that working with Danger Mouse might be an option, so we said hell, let's see what we can do with him," said Carothers, "we started fresh with him because someone like that, that has produced some of the essential albums of the past decade, we honestly wanted to start from the beginning."
Portugal. The Man got their start supporting a fair amount of great bands, including jaunts with The Black Keys through sheds a few summers ago. Now that they've gained quite the name for themselves, they've had the ability to bring some great bands on the road with them to return the favor. They brought Telekinesis with them last time they hit Houston (who kick ass), and are bringing up and coming blog-stars Guards with them this time around. "We've got Guards right now. Unfortunately, they had to drop off our last show. They had van trouble and couldn't make the long drive after." A problem that is in the past for the guys in P.TM now that they are enjoying the perks of a tour bus with a professional driver. "We had Skaters at the beginning of the tour. All four guys are friends from an old band we used to tour with in 2009. They now have a new band that's super punk rock, but has this really rad kind of Strokes-ey songwriting element - really strong in a raw punk rock fashion."
Portugal. The Man are hitting the stage tonight at Houston's House of Blues, and while you're jamming out to the hits, you might be also wondering a little bit in the back of your mind where the puzzling name comes from. I always had a feeling that it was the end and beginning of a sentence in one of their favorite books, or something like that, but Carothers went on to describe it as somewhat of an "alter ego, like Ziggy Stardust or Sgt. Pepper. Portugal was the name we chose to represent our band - we are not just one person, and a country represents a group of people, so the first name that came to mind was Portugal. We wanted one name for one group of people from one point in the world. It all made more sense when we were first starting out." While it's still a bit confusing, I dig the name.
Tickets for tonight's show at House of Blues are $28, with doors at 7pm and Guards set to open at 8pm. Unless you're headed to the New Kids/Boys II Men extravaganza down the street, I'd strongly recommend coming out for this show.