Portland, OR's Portugal. The Man needs no introduction. I was grateful to snag a few minutes with the band as they continue to criss-cross the country promoting their new album Evil Friends, due out June 4. Here's 10 quick questions with guitar/percussionist Noah Gersh.
Working with Danger Mouse, what was it like? What are his best attributes as a producer? What are his worst?
It was an overall great experience. He pushed all of us to be so much better. His level of taste is so high that it puts everyone in a different zone of trying to live up to that, which is always a good thing. Understanding subtle dynamics and maintaing a kind of studio equilibrium is so important, and his intelligence allows him to see those things with ease and never let you feel like you're lost. That stuff is so valuable and he did it all perfectly.
Zach had been quoted as saying the music is the "most aggressive thing we have ever done," can you explain that comment further.
I completely agree with Zach. Musically, things are much more upfront and confrontational. Even in softer moments, parts really come in and announce themselves. Songs like "Atomic Man" really align themselves with the heavier aspect of the bands earlier records, and our current live show. Lyrically, the same things are true. The lyrics have a directness about them that is just raw.
The music has been documented as having been heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, can you explain that further.
It's safe to say Pink Floyd has a big influence on all of us. Specifically to the record, it was more about creating an internal logic to the record that a lot of those Pink Floyd records have, specifically "Dark Side". Not a concept, but using musical and lyrical themes that keep calling back at each other all over the record. That is how it showed up this time for sure.
Since 2006, you have released an album every year, but took a break in 2012. Was this intentional? If so, why? If not, does it feel weird having not released something last year?
Well I mean we started making this record in March of last year at Sonic Ranch. That was right after the touring cycle for In The Mountain came to a close. In the middle of those sessions, Brian and John had a sit down in NYC and decided to make this album together. We went on tour right after El Paso and then had to wait a little to start with Brian. It was really just scheduling. We were playing shows the whole time we were making Evil Friends, on the weekends. It didn't ever really feel like we stopped working and took serious time off, but I think the stretched out process helped refine the ideas on the record as much as they could be and that was awesome.
How did you guys meet Kane Ritchotte, and what made you choose him as the right drummer for PTM? What does he bring to the table that the other drummers did not?
I've been playing in bands with Kane since he was 13 and I was 15. His technical abilities as a drummer are really amazing. We were in a bit of a pinch in the middle of the Jager tour and Kane was the person we called. We finished that tour and everything since has been a natural progression from that. Every drummer this band has had has been incredible in their own right and right now we're happy with where things are at.
You've been through quite a few lineup changes, how have you been able to weather the storm?
From what I've experienced, giving up has just never been an option. You become so close to the people you play with, obviously, and it's never easy to see someone go. We all have nothing but love for everyone who's ever played in this band, we are still all great friends. People just have to make life choices that don't always align with the continual work that being in a band like this requires. Going through those adversities always pulls everyone together and new energy from new players is never a bad thing.
You guys have a penchant for creating music videos. Have you made any for Evil Friends aside from the title track? Is anything in the works?
Right now there are videos for "Evil Friends" and "Purple Yellow Red and Blue" out. We're finishing up one for "Modern Jesus" and I'm sure we'll continue to make more for the album.
You have made a habit of writing music that defies labels, convention and/or expectation. Is that intentional? Where does that sense of creativity come from?
From what I've experienced and gathered from past experiences, the band just makes whatever it's feeling at the moment. There is definitely a sense that no area is off limits to explore in the studio. I don't think any of us want to repeat anything the band has done or become safe in our decisions. The core of the songs, John's musical and lyrical voice, remains through everything the band does and the rest is just pure exploration and excitement. Things stay fresh that way.
What are three adjectives you'd use to describe a Portugal. The Man live show?
Loud, free, and hopefully fun.
What adjectives best summarize the new album?
Dark, composed, and I don't know what the word for the direct center between tight and loose is, but that would be the last one.
List three books, CDs, and movies you recommend that you've been diving into over the past three months.
In book land, I've really just been trying to finish 1Q84 by Murakami for what seems like forever. It's such a big piece of work that I haven't been able to find the time to just sit down and finish it, but I've been loving it. As far as music, I've been all over the place. The new Savages record is awesome. Overgrown by James Blake is beautiful. The new Mikal Cronin record is really fun and has some amazing melodies. Then there's Random Access Memories which will take a while to digest but is pretty amazing in scope and grandeur. I've watched Upstream Color the new Shane Carruth movie twice now. Wanting to go see Mud. There's too much to list with movies. I just want to find more time to see and explore more