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Interview: Portugal. The Man

Portugal The Man

Just hours before Portugal. The Man were set to play their biggest headlining show to date at NYC's Webster Hall, bassist Zachary Scott Carothers jumped on the phone with NJU to discuss their upcoming record among other things. Unlike some instantly over-hyped acts, the Alaska/Portland, OR group's success has been a slow build. Their six LPs in just six years and relentless touring may have something to do with it.

Their latest effort In The Mountain, In The Cloud could very well be the quartet's most important yet. The release will be P.TM's major label debut and arguably their most anticipated. Last month, Portugal. The Man posted up samples of every song on their forthcoming album as well as two full tracks. Today, the group premiered their lengthy double music video for "Sleep Forever" and "Got It All (This Can't Be Living Now)".

View that long-form video, stream ITMITC's first single "Got It All (This Can't Be Living Now)" and read our interview with Zach where we discuss: writing new music, touring, signing with Atlantic, our appreciation for the new Lykke Li album and if he thinks Portugal. The Man will be around 10-15 years from now, below. 

 Portugal. The Man - Got It All (This Can’t Be Living Now)


You guys put out new records pretty quickly, how do you go about writing new material?

We try to do what we can. It doesn't seem that crazy to us. we don't take many days off, except Christmas. We play music and we like to do it everyday. It's our job, our hobby and all that stuff. 

John's our main songwriter and he's really good with coming up with ideas and he'll come up with chord progressions and simple melodies and we've all got pretty good at being spontaneous and building parts. We work together pretty quickly. 


You guys seem to tour non-stop. Any particular methodology for not getting burnt out on the road? 

We take care of ourselves a little more. Not totally, we still drink too much. We try and take the time to get a little bit better food, eat at new places and see the city and do fun things just to keep us a little bit sane. 

We're obviously very lucky to be able to travel around the world like we do, so we try and take advantage of it.

We don't sleep too much cause we stay up late seeing things and having fun and then we get up very early and try and get stuff done before load in. 


I saw you at Maxwell's a couple years back and now you've sold out Webster Hall. What's the best part about being able to fill bigger venues?

It feels good and it's not something we have to miss, cause playing small places like Maxwell's is really awesome and really fun and luckily we're still in the position where we still play a lot of small shows like that. 

In the big cities we've been doing very well lately and we'll play big clubs. It's usually nice, we get help loading in, the stage sound is always amazing and a lot of people come and it makes you feel good. 

We still do small college towns where it's just a few hundred people in a little bar. We're from a small town in Alaska, so not a whole lot of people come there to play, so we remember what that was like growing up, so we always try and hit the small towns and play there for sure.


Major labels seem to be on the decline these days, especially when dealing with rock acts. What made you guys feel comfortable about signing with Atlantic?

I don't necessarily believe they are. Obviously record sales have dropped a lot, but with technology there are so many new ways to promote and support bands and stuff like that. I think there is still a lot of smart people that those companies and they find ways to survive and the bands do too. 

There is obviously not a ton of money left in it anymore, but that's not what it's really all about. It's about playing music and I don't care how many records we sell. I like to make them and go on tour, so as long as enough people keep coming to the shows to put gas in our van and food in our bellies we're going to keep doing it. 

We're also really flattered that Atlantic Records wanted to work with us. Their roster is just legendary and to see our names up on the same wall as Led Zeppelin, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and stuff like that is pretty insane.


Any particular goals for the band? More specific ones... do you want to headline a certain festival or win a Grammy or something?

Honestly, I want to do this for as long as I possibly can. I wouldn't say anything specific. I like to travel. I want to play in Africa, Australia and Japan. I just want to keep traveling and seeing new things. 

A Grammy would be great, but who am I kidding we might be a whiles away from that.


Any particular bands you'd like to tour with in the future?

Yeah, we always like touring with friends. Luckily, we get to bring out bands on tour cause we've been doing mostly headlining for the last couple years. As far as bigger bands I'd love to play with The Flaming Lips. I think those guys are one of the best bands playing right now. They're very creative and very cool. Just real interesting people. 


I love the new Lykke Li record. I'd definitely love to tour with her. I listen to that record everyday. 


You guys seem to be coming a long-term cult following band. Do you see yourselves doing Portugal. The Man 10-15 years from now?

Oh yeah. If we can, that's what we want to do. We've worked really hard at this and we all really enjoy it. We're getting to a point where we are all getting older, so I'm sure we'll get to a point where we won't do it quite as much cause I'm sure we're going to start wanting to have kids and wives and things like that. I'm personally never going to stop playing music. I'd love to keep doing this if there is still somewhat of an audience I'm sure we'll keep doing this for sure. 


In The Mountain, In The Cloud drops July 19th via Atlantic Records. Pre-order here.

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