Buzz for Portugal. The Man’s Danger Mouse-produced record, Evil Friends, has solidified it as a breakout album in its own right. Though, in reality, Portugal. The Man are hardly new at all. With eight studio albums and three EPs under their belt, the boys (John Grouley and Zach Carothers at the heart of the band since their ’04 beginnings) have been around the bend and back again. Yet somehow they seem transformed, and the attention they’ve been gaining is met with a new hyperactive energy. The reason I can assume, is that their latest effort is monumentally more accessible and radio friendly than anything they’ve done before, swooping in precisely at the right moment for the indie blogosphere to embrace it with open arms. Though they’ve been a prolific band for quite some time, Portugal. The Man will bring their ear pleasing sounds to Fort Lauderdale for the first time on October 9th. Naturally, we caught up with bassist Zach Carothers to get the scoop on all things music and touring before their venture to sweaty South Florida. Turns out he really likes Kanye West, and Stanley Kubrick.
For Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man released two singles with accompanying music videos (“Modern Jesus” and “Evil Friends”). As a whole, the band have been pretty consistent when it comes to releasing music videos, which may-in part- be due to their extremely creative group of friends. Long time pal, Michael Ragan, has directed quite a few of their music videos, and also bridged a relationship for the band and AG Rijas, who directed “Modern Jesus”. I asked Zach if he felt the videos were important, and he explained that though they may not be entirely vital to the music industry, they open up great artistic doors for musicians. He seems to be a legitimate fan of the art, stating confidently “I’ve got probably a hundred VHS tapes packed full of all my favorite videos” and that “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen 2001 A Space Odyssey, but I’ve watched it listening to Black Sabbath, and it’s a completely different movie! And I like those kinds of things, they help to open up your mind to new ideas.”
Though the latest album is a definite culmination of all the band has been working towards since around the time of their American Ghetto album in 2010, it isn’t a very heavy effort, in fact it seems very fresh. This could be because that feeling seems to resonate with the band, as they’ve continued to be excited about the music they make with an incredibly quick pace; “You know, we’ve had so many different players- people going in and out of the band over time- whenever we put out a new record, it’s a completely new thing for us. It feels like a new band.” This is a great sentiment to have, but Carothers isn’t naive to the pressures the band will undergo at this point in their careers, which he proved when I asked what he thought about their current place in the music industry: “I feel very good about the position we’re in- it’s a difficult one though. Right around this is always a hard time for bands, there’s several big jumps you gotta make. We’ve definitely made a few.”
Much of the arduousness involved in their current state as a band has to do with blending indie credibility with more of a mass appeal. We discussed what it means to be a “big” band, to which he provided some insight as to its connotation: “So many people are afraid of the word ‘mainstream’ and about getting big. I completely disagree with that whole thing- we’re trying to make accessible music! We want to make music that a broader audience can listen to, but we don’t want to sacrifice any art or anything like that”, to which he elaborated with an example: “Because I mean, look at David Bowie, David Bowie was huge and still is. Nobody ever questioned his artistic intent- you know? He found that key, he found how to be cool and big. And I love that. My goal is to make the mainstream cooler” .
We continued to converse about pop music, as well as our youth culture’s apparent fear of liking anything too widely known, and the fault in denying that some things are popular simply because they are good. “Yeah, I think it’s ridiculous. I know what I like, and I like what I like, but I have a very strange taste in music sometimes. Like the new Kanye West record, I’ve listened to that probably 200 hundred times, I listen to that every day! I LOVE it. It’s amazing. The production alone is incredible!” . Though transforming the mainstream as a whole proves a certainly difficult task, one could definitely argue that Portugal. The Man are well on their way.
Tickets are now on sale for Portugal. The Man’s show at Revolution Live, October 9th. They can be purchased at Radio-Active Records (without service fees) where there will be a meet and greet with the band for the first 150 people to pick up their tickets at the store.