A password will be e-mailed to you.

Portugal. The Man have been smoldering for half a decade, nurturing a unique brand of melodic, soulful rock that’s pushed sonic boundaries over the course of 5 albums and hundreds of shows including their inaugural 930 Club stop tonight.  John Gourley’s vocals soar on songs that are undeniably infectious and bursting at the seams stylistically without losing their way.  Gourley is accompanied by Zach Carothers, Jason Sechrist, and Ryan Neighbors who transition with ease from jams steeped in electronics, organs, and funk with the occasionally apt blistering guitar solo.    Right on the heels of 2009’s The Satanic Satanist and breakthrough performances at Bonnaroo and beyond comes American Ghetto, a record as unique in its conception as its distribution.  A brooding but beautiful discourse on the psychological punishment of small town life (the band hails from Wasilla, Alaska – yes that one,) Portugal laid the record before fans and press at the same time and waited for the wolves to come out.  Since then, they’ve received more raves via alternative press, from blogs to Twitter to consumer reviews, than their last 4 albums combined and have pillaged the iTunes charts without the immediate attention of major press outlets.  With a proper record and cd to follow this digital leader, they’ve joined a growing number of artists who’ve put the music before the marketing and are enjoying unparalleled success.  We caught up with Zach to discuss the evolution of the band, the new record, and bringing fans along for the ride.

ptm_promo_photo-EmilyDyanIbarra

BYT: Hey man, thanks for catching up with me while you’re on the road and everything.

Zach: Yea, no problem dude.  Appreciate it, thank you.

BYT:  Funny, I talked with Hockey last week whom you’ve toured with and The Dig before that who you’re on tour with now.

Zach:  Right on, those guys are awesome.  We’re having a lot of fun with The Dig right now.  They’re a great band, super tight, and really talented dudes.

BYT:  Yea they seemed really cool and like they’re having a great time getting out on their first big tours and all.

Zach: Yea, they’re just fun to be around and it’s really refreshing.

BYT: You’ve been on tour nonstop the last few years.

Zach: Yea pretty much, although we just had a pretty good break.  We had about 2 or 3 months off over Christmas and stuff.  We still did a lot of work, went into the studio and did some demos up in Seattle, but basically have been around home about 2 months and it seemed kind of crazy.  We were all itching to get back out on the road for sure.

PortugalTheMan-Photo02

BYT: Portland is where you guys call home these days?

Zach: That’s what we call home but some of us still call home Alaska ‘cause that’s where our parents live, that’s where we grew up, but we know we can’t live there.  At least for a while, just because it costs too much to fly down, tour and stuff like that.  Probably just gonna have to wait ‘til we make enough money to buy plane tickets and stuff.

BYT:  Until you get the jet?

Zach: Yea, yea (laughing,) until we get the Lear Jet.  I don’t know if that happens anymore, it might happen a little bit in hip-hop but I don’t think too many rock bands these days have jets.  I gotta say we’re not really pushing for the jet!

BYT: I was put on to you guys by some friends in California years ago.  I’d fly out to see The Mars Volta shows and they’d hand me your cd’s.

Zach: Right on.

BYT: Yea, so it’s cool to catch up, and I saw your Boonnaroo performance which was amazing.

Zach: Oh, thanks!  That was such a fun show, holy shit.

BYT: yea, what was that like?  The tent was overflowing, the crowd was way into it, it was a later show around 11 or 11:30.  I’m sure for a lot of the audience it was the first time they’d ever seen you.

Zach: Oh, yea!  That specific show did so much for us.  We get people, every day, at our shows on tour who come up and say that they’d never heard of us until Bonnaroo.  Or, even if they weren’t there, “my friend caught you at Bonnaroo and said it was awesome.”  Really, that day just could not have gone better.  That was the first, major open air festival we’d ever done.  It was perfect, we showed up early in the morning, we were the first band at Bonnaroo. Literally.  We were the nerds that showed up early to the party.  It was really, really cool, everything kind of went our way.  The band before us got stuck at an airport because of all the storms, but it ended up working out for them and they got a later set, but, normally at a festival you only have 15 minutes to setup, line check, and play. It’s always really frantic.  But, because the band before us was out, we had an hour and 15 minutes to setup our gear and sound check.  Everything was good, all our levels were awesome, and it was the first show after nightfall.  It was just crazy, the biggest crowd we’d ever played for, and it felt really, really awesome.  That was such an awesome festival, we’re bummed we can’t play it this year but we have some other cool stuff.  We get to play Coachella this year which is an awesome festival as well, we get to play Sasquatch.

1267423491IMG_9901.JPG.700x800

BYT: Speaking of this year, with the way you guys released the new album last week, have you started to get some feedback already from the label and fans?

Zach: Yea, definitely.  It’s doing really well on iTunes right now, it’s pretty high up on the charts.  I’m sure part of that is that we didn’t release hard copies at first.  It’s doing way better than we thought it would, for sure.  We were just really curious to see how it would go not sending it to press first, releasing it to everybody at the same time, and instead of having the press buzz about it have the fans do it.  Just online, on blogs, on Twitter, just kinda spreading the word.  We’d been wanting to do it for a while and it came out really cool, worked out great.  Way better than we thought and we couldn’t believe the response from it.

BYT: It’s very innovative but also in the vein of the current paradigm shift as far as people releasing music and doing it digitally.  I mean, even Billy Joel is releasing shit digitally first.  As far as releasing it at the same time to everyone, are you still seeing the same amount of press attention from major outlets?

Zach: Oh, no, definitely not!  It’s all been grassroots kind of stuff like blogs, online magazines, stuff like that.  John says hi!

BYT: Oh, hey, whatsup John!

Zach: So yea, it’s been really cool and everybody has taken it upon themselves as far as writing reviews.  We’ve got more reviews on iTunes for this album than we have for anything else so even people without blogs or anything are still doing their part.  It’s a really good feeling.  We’ve got really cool fans, we’ve got fans that represent.  They want to help out and we’re very lucky to have them for sure.

1267657511IMG_1990.JPG.700x800

BYT: I remember last year, I was a little late on Twitter, but following you guys and seeing you’ve been pretty active as far as that’s concerned.  It may blur the line between the fan and the band but it seems like it can do nothing but help as far as getting the word out.

Zach: Sure, and we like blurring that line, we like being a band that’s accessible.  We don’t wanna be one of those bands on Myspace that comment on your page everyday and get super annoying.  We don’t wanna be like that but that’s why we have things like Twitter, facebook, mailing address.  We’ll give you a shitload of information if you want it but you have to sign up for it.  We’re not just going to overload everybody who doesn’t give a shit about us, but, if you DO give a shit about us and you’d like to know what we’re up to, all the time, you’ll have no shortage of updates.  We like that kind of stuff, you know?  We like meeting the people every night at the club, we’ll have cigarettes in front of the club and talk to people.  We all hang out at the bar after the show in the venue.  We wanna be an accessible band and we want people to connect with us on a personal level.  I think that kind of shit’s important, you know?  That’s the way things are going these days.  It wasn’t that way in the 80’s or 90’s but that’s the way it is now, especially if you’re a smaller band.  If you really hang out, talk to people, and meet as many people as you can that come to your show, it’s just gonna help.  Those people are gonna be serious about your music and we appreciate it too.  It’s the whole reason we get to do what we do.  All those people at our shows put gas in the van and food in our bellies and we really appreciate it.

BYT: Getting back to the new record, I’ve gotten through about half of it and I’ve noticed it’s got a lot more synths and keyboards, a little more sinister sounding to me than the last record.

Zach: Yea, it definitely is.  This album was mostly John, he flew out just a week or two after we got out of the studio for Satanist.  We’re big fans of doing that, in general, just going right back into the studio after we’re done.  When you’re in there for 6 weeks or so you’re thinking creatively the whole time, you know?  You’re always coming up with ideas and it’s hard to just turn that off and plus there’s a lot of ideas that you had that you didn’t get to lay down or wouldn’t work for the record or you just didn’t have the time to try.  John went straight back in and used American Ghetto to lay out some more of his more eccentric ideas or some of the darker ideas that wouldn’t really fit the vibe of Satanist and it turned out really cool.  We came around on tour a few weeks later and added little bits and pieces but most of that was all John.  He’s definitely into the loops, beats, and samples.  That’s kind of how the band started out but we quickly turned to just a rock and roll band so we’d been kind of missing the dark synths and beats and loops side of it, the electronic version that we used to be heavily influenced by.  We wanted to bring it around full circle using the songwriting ideas, the chord structures, and put thought into all those structures in our songs and use the beats and loops we did at the beginning.

l_a7d3c0b03c0322c4df5702c7a769487d copy

BYT: I read that a lot of the themes are born out of being from a small town, and I know in that culture it’s like everybody knows everything you’re doing, you feel trapped in some ways.  Also, your town is more infamous than famous at this point, and probably undeservedly gets a negative eye cast upon it, especially here in DC.  Does that affect the writing outside of your own thoughts on being from a small town in Alaska?

Zach: I don’t think it’s affected our writing as most of the lyrics, especially over the last 2 records, have been really all about Alaska and growing up there more so than being influenced by Wasilla over the last couple of years.  It was more growing up there and remembering what it was like then.  It hasn’t changed a whole lot, it’s gotten a little bit bigger, and there’s obviously been a spotlight on it the last couple of years.  I don’t know if it’s really changed the way we’ve thought about it or the way we’ve written about it, it’s just kind of weird in our personal lives to tell someone at a truck stop where we’re from and have them know of our town because that’s never happened before. Every time we’d tell someone where we’re from they’d say, “Huh?  Where the hell is that?”  Now it’s like “Oooooooh.”  So that’s kind of weird but I don’t think it’s affected the lyrics or the writing thus far.  It definitely could in the future but most of the stuff about Alaska has been about growing up there and what we remember as kids.  As far as American Ghetto, it’s all about the teenage years, the parties that we went to, the people who got really bad into drugs and just bad shit in general.

1268694871IMG_6090.700x800

BYT: Did you guys do the cover for the record?

Zach: Yea, John did that.  He took the picture, or he didn’t take the picture, it was on his camera.  I imagine one of his family members did.  It’s him and his little nephew Charlie who was just born last year and outside of his parents’ house, in front of his garage, then John did the drawings overtop of it.  Our buddy Austin put everything together and laid it out like he usually does.

BYT: I saw it’s being offered as a T-shirt which reminds me of all of the different packages you’re offering, especially with the resurgence of vinyl.

Zach: Oh, yea, we’re big fans of that.  You were talking earlier about releasing things digitally and we’re never just gonna do that because we are fans of packaging, fans of art, and there’s so much more you can do to complement a record with the art, especially with the vinyl artwork, so I don’t think we’re ever gonna go all digital but we wanted to try it at first like this.

BYT: When you guys first started touring it seems like you were touring with bands labeled post-punk, or post-hardcore if you have to put a label on it, but you guys had more melody to your sound.  Did you find, playing to those demographics, you were able to bridge the gap and those fans have stuck with you?

Zach: Yea, I definitely think so.  How that all started is those were our friends.  Back in the day, John and I were in a band called Anatomy of a Ghost that was a little more in that scene, the Alternative Press scene or whatever.  When we started Portugal, we knew that we didn’t really fit in that scene and we didn’t really want to be there but we just didn’t know what to do.  Our booking agent is in that culture, he books Chiodos and stuff like that.  That’s all we did is just kept doing that, plus it was all of our friends, and then we randomly wanted to creep out of that but that stuff was cool.  It was good to start off that way, you know?  The people that like that kind of music are big-time music fans.  They’re excited to go to shows, buy t-shirts, they talk on blogs.  They’re not quite as pretentious as a lot of small indie rockers are.  It was kind of cool to be in that and we wanna be a band that can tour with anybody.  We’d love to stay, you know, as least tied down to a genre as we can.  We’re not going crazy about it and trying for Primus or something like that, they can do whatever the hell they want and nobody can really say that anybody sounds like Primus, you know?  We won’t be that crazy about it but we’d definitely like to float around.  We’d love to tour with hip-hop acts, we’d love to have comedians open the show, we love rock and roll, we love blues, we love a hell of a lot of country.  We’d like to be one of those bands that just kind of floats around and dabbles in anything we can.

BYT: Indeed.

Zach: We really appreciate it too, and especially in DC.  I mean, we’re playing the 930 Club and that’s a little bit bigger than we’re used to playing so we really appreciate things like this because it does really help.  Anything that helps get more people to the show that week, we just really appreciate it.  That’s awesome.

1249926265IMG_1713.700x800

BYT: The music scene here is strong, I mean I couldn’t go last time to the Rock and Roll Hotel but 930 is down in a different neighborhood and literally less than a mile away is The Black Cat which Dave Grohl partly owns…

Zach:  Oh, yea, that’s where it was supposed to be originally I think but they bumped it up to the 930 Club.  It’s cool, we’ve already sold a lot of tickets which is kind of crazy.  I wasn’t expecting as many tickets as already sold, I wasn’t expecting many to e at the show but it’s definitely going well and it’s gonna be a fun show.  We’ve heard that that club, we’ve never been there, but it’s known as the best or one of the best clubs in the nation, so… everybody talks good about that club.

BYT: Yea, I mean they’ve had a lot of the same staff for a long time, not a lot of turnover, and they’re all just really into music.  They book Merriweather over in Maryland too, I mean Seth Hurwitz has been doing this in DC, kind of like the Godfather to a lot of this in DC for a few decades.

Zach: That’s awesome, we’re pumped to get there.

BYT: Unfortunately I’ll be on my first SXSW trip that week.

Zach: Ah, bummer, but that’ll be fun too. South-By is just a great fuckin party man!  So much fun.

BYT: Any recommendations?  I won’t have a wristband, I’ll just go to some friends’ showcases.

Zach: Yea, you don’t really need a wristband, it’s all about just go to the shows you wanna go to, and the parties are fun.  Always some random band playing that’s really good.  Honestly, we just kinda hang out in weird places.  We made really good friends with the guys that work for Pure Volume and throw the Pure Volume parties.  I know the guy we’re closest too doesn’t do Pure Volume anymore but I think he still might be having something to do, just a party, but we always hung out at the Pure Volume parties.  Our buddies worked there and we didn’t have trouble getting on the list ‘cause when we were there nobody had really heard of us.  Our first time at SXSW we went out on this bus and went to the Pure Volume party ‘cause we couldn’t get into any parties and randomly the guy working the door liked our band and was, “Oh, Portugal. The Man! I love you guys!”  We were like, oh, shit, no one even knows who we are and he said, “Yea dude you guys can go in” so we went in, free drinks and just had a really good time.

1258626376IMG_3566.700x800

BYT: This website, BYT, is doing showcases on the 19th and 20th for all DC bands which is cool for all the bands here.  It’s got a beer sponsor so that helps.

Zach: Oh for sure!  That’s great, that’s one thing, you can definitely do South-By for cheap.  The parties have free beer, free booze, music, you make a lot of friends and can have a lot of fun.  It’s cool, for sure, you’re gonna have a good time.  Austin is fucking crazy, you’re gonna see a lot of funny shit.

BYT: Yea, been a couple times, like they say it’s weird.  I’m gonna meet a friend in Nashville on Monday, head down to San Antonio then finally back up to Austin early Thursday.

Zach: Oh, right on.  That’ll be a fun trip man, you’ll have a good time.

BYT: Again, I really appreciate you taking the time.

Zach: Of course!  Be safe at South-By.

Catch Portugal. The Man with The Dig tonight at the 930 Club.

X
X