Zach Carothers of Portugal. The Man
Zach Carothers, founding member of the band Portugal. The Man, recently spoke with Morning Mix host Cindy Howes about the band's newest record Evil Friends. They discussed what it was like working with Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse), how the band changes from record to record, and the benefits of being ambiguous.
Portugal. The Man is currently based out of Portland, Oregon. However, the band formed in Wasilla, Alaska. Singer/guitar player John Gourley and bassist/back up vocalist Zach Carothers both left Alaska in 2004. Although it was been almost a decade since their departure, Portugal. The Man is still influenced by their homestate. According to Carothers, "Where you're from shapes you as a human being in general. Alaska is a very particular place. We've always had a lot of the imagery (from Alaska) in our artwork and our lyrics and in our songs in general. It was really a mix of growing up in Alaska and leaving Alaska."
Since 2004, Portugal. The Man has released 5 EPs and 8 full length records. For their latest release, Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man were able to have Danger Mouse, who has worked with The Black Keys, Gorillaz, and many other well known artists in the past collaborate and produce their new record. Danger Mouse is renowned in the music industry for his work. "It's just a taste thing with him, he's got an absolutly amazing style and amazing taste," Carothers comments on the unique experience of working with Burton in the studio. "It was pretty much like Danger Mouse just joined our band for eight or nine months while we were recording. He's a very smart producer in a lot of ways. He's got a really unique perspective as far is being an artist himself. He really knows the dynamic of being in a band. He gave us so much insight into everything, it was really an amazing experience. He doesn't change bands, he gets something special and unqiue out of them." What's unqiue about Portugal. The Man is with each record the listener is getting something different. "We've been different ever since the beginning. We've had a lot of different members and lineup changes. We really set out to change our sound with each record. We never want to make the same record twice." Aside from working with The Black Keys, Burton does not venture outside the artist realm to work with bands often. "The whole working with a full band was definitely new for him. We hit it off pretty quick on this one." The title track "Evil Friends," was a particulary important step in the recording process for Burton and Portugal. The Man. "We were stuck on that song, we were trying to figure out a hook or a melody." Carothers highlights how Burton attacked the situation during this episode. "He wanted to clear the room and work with just John. He told us all to take out instruments into seperate rooms and told us each individually "It's your instrument right when the song opens, what would you do?" and I've never been told that." Carothers explains how moments like this gave him and other members a new insight while writing music and how it helped them grow as musicians.
Aside from their varying musical style from album to album, Portugal. The Man has become known for having an aura of mystique with their lyrics. Carothers explains that although he and the other members of Portugal. The Man are very open as people, but lyrically they are vague and ambigous. "The point of it is it establishes a very personal connection. When I hear a song that has lyrics that are beautiful and amazing but a little bit vague it makes makes attach them to something very personal in my life." Portugal. The Man aim to do the same with each song of theirs.