by Dave Sharp on Apr 01st, 2012
Portugal. The Man has maintained a slow and steady climb from the indie label depths — starting with Fearless Records and Equal Vision Record — to realm of Atlantic Records each album along the way is a snapshot of its place on that climb. From the diversity of the tracks to the thoughtful artwork, each record personifies some bold corner of this intricate band’s hexagon.
But, don’t get caught on any thoughts of pretntiousness. Just becuase there’s a high level of art in Portugal. The Man, doesn’t mean their noses are in the air. Quite the opposite, actually. They embody the DIY “punk rock” ethos that’s valuable in a band (in fact, they’re a reincarnation of the hardcore band Anatomy of a Ghost) and they’re an interviewer’s dream, casually conversing with complete thoughts.
Check out our interview with guitarist Zach Carouthers and get to know Portugal. The Man before they pull in to Music City on April 26.
Click here to enter to win tickets to the show and Portugal. The Man vinyl!
SZ: You guys were on the front lines of DIY digital promotion back in 2005. You released In the Mountain In the Cloud with some creative YouTube promotions. How has your DIY promo strategy changed and adapted since 2005, especially since signing with Atlantic?
Zach Carouthers: We’ve always felt those things to be important. Not only promotions, but updates or content in general. We’re constantly looking for new ways to interact and inform our fans with videos, photos, and of course all the social media sites. We have fun with it. Those things haven’t changed much since signing with Atlantic. They appreciate how much we do on our own and support it.
SZ: When you switched gears from Anatomy of a Ghost to Portugal. The Man, what was the goal? What were you leaving behind and what were you moving toward?
ZC: When Anatomy split up, John and I moved back to Alaska and aim to create a project that was a mix of The Beatles and The Wu-Tang Clan. I don’t think we ever really came close, but after a few albums we started to find our groove. Started getting an idea for where we wanted our band to go. Still love all the guys from Anatomy and we hang out as often as we can. Every member has played in Portugal at one point or another. That band just ran it’s course pretty quick. We were all ready to move on.
SZ: You guys make an honest effort to include different artistic media in the things you do — but the totally unique video for “Sleep Forever/People Say” stands out. Tell me about that video and how that concept came to be in your [vocalist] John Gourley’s family’s Alaskan backyard…
ZC: To be honest, there wasn’t much of a concept. Michael Ragan has been a good friend of ours for a while now. He’s directed or shot several of our music videos and is extremely talented. Mike and John are always talking about movies and coming up with tons of concepts for our videos. We gathered in Alaska with not much of a plan, but faith that something good would come out of it. John has great ideas and Mike knows how to bring them to life. We would get all the footage we could during the few hours of daylight that exist up there in the winter, while trying to keep the camera functioning at -50 degrees. Eventually the storyline started to come together and I think it turned out amazing. We’re very lucky to be from such a beautiful place and we were excited to share a little piece of our home with everyone.
SZ: When people hear you’ve taken the step toward a major label, they assume that you’re living large in hilltop mansions and such. But, we know from a recent interview that you guys are scraping by on the road. What makes it worth it to you to slit cell phone bills, sell everything and keep making music?
ZC: Things aren’t as rough as they used to be, but they’re not quite peaches and cream. We’ve always invested everything we make back into the business, but we’re not homeless anymore. It all comes down for our love of playing music. It’s our hobby, it’s our job, it’s really all we do. We’re very lucky to do what we do and see the places we see. We don’t take it for granted.
SZ: What are some influences that people may not necessarily hear in your music, but that drive you to create music?
ZC: A lot of our influence can be pretty obvious. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin… All of the artists that any rock band would love. We listen to a lot of hip hop as well. Oddly enough, we get a ton of inspiration from movies. Wether it’s a soundtrack in a Torrentino movie or a score from a Kubrick film, we love how sounds and images work together. We’ve always tried to write visual music. Not sure if it comes off that way, but it’s certainly an intention of ours.
SZ: Tell me about the dynamic of the band. You guys seem real tight knit. What does that lend to the music you create?
ZC: We have known each other a long time. Especially John and I. We spend almost every hour of everyday together, so obviously things can’t always be good. Ha. Our dynamic is good and strong. Everyone has certain strengths and faults both with personality and when it comes to work. Each member has their own jobs and roles that we’ve figured out over time. Where someone lacks, another picks up. Besides a few hiccups, we’ve figured out a good balance when it comes to living and working together.