Portugal. The Man: On playing festivals, signing to a major, the Internet and more.

| November 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

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Portugal. The Man have been keeping busy for a good part of the last decade. Between playing festivals, touring and recording albums, this four-piece gang of psychedelic rockers are living up and going over all expectations. Just recently added to Atlantic Records’ cast, Portugal. The Man is slowly learning the ropes of being in a major whilst keeping their work standards and songwriting principles. I was able to see them playing CMJ Marathon a few days and keyboardist Ryan Neighbors was kind enough to take the time and talk to NYC Art Scene. Here’s the full interview.

First of all, how’s it going, mates? 

It’s going quite well. We just got home from a 5 week long tour of the states and are enjoying a week at home before we leave for Europe for another 5 weeks.

You recently played CMJ Marathon in NY.  CMJ is something that can be called a decentralized festival. It happens throughout the week and includes many different venues, a totally opposite form of doing things if compared to many other famous festivals, which jam everything together in one big field. To you, what is the big difference when playing in these two distinct types of event? Which do you prefer?

With festivals such as CMJ, I really enjoying going to different clubs and venues around town. It allows me to see more of the city and end up in some places I wouldn’t normally be, especially being that we are not from NYC. Festivals that are on one hella big field make it easier to see more acts, which is quite nice as well.  We definitely end up sweatier and dustier at the open air festivals. I can’t really pick a favorite because they are all so go to us. Our band has been very lucky to be involved with so many festivals over the last few years.

Did the smaller festival vibe have influence at all on your set at Terminal 5? From playing a stripped-down acoustic set to the choice of the cover songs? David Bowie is one of the open speakers for CMJ and you covered ” All the Young Dudes” (in a rather brilliant fashion, I might add). 

We had been doing those cover songs all tour. Glad you liked it by the way, thank you very much. We practiced the covers in advance just to have something fresh for those in our audience who have been watching us for five years. As far as the acoustic sessions go, it was really cool to play a full 30 minute set acoustic. Usually we only play 2-3 songs acoustic and it is really fun to hear how some of the other songs pan out in the stripped down setting.

What’s the coolest thing about playing in NY? Anything exciting happening behind the curtains? 

We all just enjoy coming back to NY. There is always more to see that you didn’t see last time. We generally only spend a couple days at a time in NY so any chance to be there is great for us. A guy from our management team had a birthday party after our Terminal 5 show. I had the pleasure of shotgunning beers with a bunch of old timers. That definitely had to be my behind the scenes highlight.

Last year you signed with Atlantic Records. How was the transition? Did it make any major difference that resonates on the recording of In the Mountain In The Cloud?

The move to Atlantic put a lot of stress on us while recording the new record. It wasn’t Atlantic putting this pressure on us, it was us thinking too hard about the fact we are on Atlantic. Living up to the Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin standard caused us to over think everything. We took 8 months to record the album, instead of the usual month long process.  A lot of butting heads and a huge lack of communication between us. It was a very strange and tough time for us. Spending so much time together, but feeling so apart. We finished up the record in Seattle, just the band and close friend Casey Bates. We remembered that music was fun and at the heart of it all, we enjoy playing music together. It lifted a huge weight off our shoulders and we couldn’t be happier with the final product.

With some exceptions, you released most of your work in LP form, as well as in digital download and CD. So, heading for a tricky question now, what do you expect from the future of music business? In your opinion, LP is mostly a luxury article nowadays or yet another way to reach true fans by the recording quality itself?

LP’s have made a huge resurgence recently, people are excited about buying them. We all live in a house together, there is a record player in the living room. We get excited to buy new vinyl and come home to show each other. We all listen to it together, you can’t escape it. I personally enjoy having an iPod and a record player. We travel so much that I would have no way of listening to music otherwise. It is easier to browse through more artists and the find the ones you like, but sampling 30 seconds of a song doesn’t do most bands justice.

Starting out in Alaska, how big of part the internet played in your career? 

There is no way to deny that the internet has done some great things for music, a lot of great bands would’ve never been discovered if it wasn’t for the web. But there is definitely a lost connection with a lot of fans and the bands they love. When I was growing up, I knew the first and last name of every member of every band whose CD I owned, no question about it.  I loved fewer bands than I do now, but I loved them so much more. You couldn’t afford to like 200 bands, now it is quite easy to like a lot of bands, but not know anything about them.  This is of course something Twitter has helped with a little bit, you can now see what your favorite bands are up to on a daily basis, I think it is quite neat.

What was the favorite festival you attended (both playing and as a fan) and why?

My favorite festival we ever played is Bonnaroo. The first time we played, in 2009, was an amazing experience. I have never attended a major festival without playing, could’t afford it honestly, but when we play festivals we love watching other bands. I get really excited when I read the lineup and try to figure which bands I will actually have time to see. Festival weekends are very busy for us but we always get time to catch a few. That first Bonnaroo couldn’t have been better, we played a great show and watched some great acts. I look forward to next year and hope to play more festivals.

 The term “indie” is often used in descriptions of your work. How do you feel about it, especially after signing to a major? 

The term “indie” doesn’t really bother me. I think it used to carry more weight when there were less bands with that tag, now it really just means you don’t sound like Nickleback. So if people describe us as “indie” I guess that is a good thing right?

 On random notes: How cool is Conen O’Brien? Do any of you speak Portuguese ? (this always raised my eyebrow).

Conan O’Brien is my favorite late night personality. He is consistently funny and he does the goofy thing well. I won’t lie, I am kind of a goof, so I can appreciate the physical movements he incorporates into his jokes. Playing on his show was so much fun. We were nervous at first but I think we pulled it off fairly well. I just had to realize that we were playing a song we had played 100 times, why should this time be any different? Conan was a very friendly man and I hope they invite us back at some point. None of us speak Portuguese, that would be a nice touch though.

Make sure to check out Portugal. The Man’s music, news and much more at:      

By: Nilo Ayer

















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Category: Exclusive Interviews

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