Portugal. The Man Talks "Evil Friends", Movies, and More
Tue, 02 Apr 2013 06:56:02
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The only thing evil about Portugal. The Man's new single "Evil Friends" is how catchy it is.
It's the kind of wildly wonderful anthem that slips into your psyche and doesn't leave. Driven by energetic guitars and a hauntingly irresistible melody, it's the group's most infectious gem yet. It's also the perfect prelude to their Danger Mouse-produced new album, Evil Friends, out June 4, 2013. Are you ready to get Evil?
In this exclusive with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Portugal. The Man bassist Zachary Carothers talks "Evil Friends", movies, and so much more.
How did "Evil Friends" come together?
It came together over a while. We initially wrote it, and it just wasn't right. We'd gotten to a lull in the studio where we working on a bunch of other things. It's weird. We just craft some songs on any given day. It was missing a hook, lead line, or something. We had gotten to a different studio in L.A. We had been at Brian's studio pretty much the whole time for a couple of months. Then, we went into a really old school super sixties-style studio. It's a really amazing place with tons of vintage gear. We all went into different rooms and said, "If you were going to make the hook or important part on your instrument, go off and do it on your own". That guitar riff reminded me of something Nirvana would play. It's angsty, upbeat, and punk rock. It was pretty fun.
What does it mean to you?
It has a lot of different themes actually. Many of them are recurring throughout the record. John got a lot more personal on this record lyrically than he really ever has before. He's singing about a lot of things that he hasn't sung about before. A lot of this new album is really about himself and the relationships of the band. A couple of us live together. So much has happened over the years. I've got to think about what the whole record means. Each song has a different meaning to me. The album as a whole definitely means something, but it's one of those things where I'm going to see what people say before I dive into it too much.
That's going to be interesting to hear the more personal side of Portugal. The Man.
I'm excited about that! It's something John hasn't done a lot in the past. It makes a lot of sense. I'm really happy for him.
There's always been an intriguing disparity between your creepy, evil, and sometimes Satanic titles and the catchy, bright nature of the music.
I really like that too! There are obviously some people who have problems with it, but I think it's cool. It started off with The Satanic Satanist. I really love that contrast with upbeat, powerful songs, colorful imagery and sinister, evil titles. We're big fans of contrast.
It's great to have some mystique.
I'm a big fan of not being too open about what you mean. It leaves things open to interpretation. I was always a big fan of Nirvana. I love his Kurt Cobain's style of writing lyrics. The songs can mean so many things to different people, and it gives a personal investment to what the music means to you. To tell you the truth, as amazing as Kurt is, I don't even want to know what Kurt meant by those songs. They mean something to him, and they mean something completely different to me. That's what I love about them.
What were you in to around making the record?
As stupid as it sounds, we get pretty self-involved when we're in the studio. There's not much time. I'm not really thinking about anything or listening to anything other than the demos we've made and how to make them better. There are some definite influences. We'd go listen to a little bit of nineties stuff and things with punk rock vibe. They come from a harder style like grunge rock and alternative. There was a lot of Nirvana. We were all over the board. I've been listening to a lot of hip-hop lately for some reason. I got new headphones, and I've been getting my hip-hop fix for quite a while.
What have you been listening to?
I was coming back to all of the music I used to listen to. Every months, and I've been doing this for the last couple years, I go back to the bands that first got me in to music. I was lucky enough to have parents who had a really amazing record connection, especially living in Alaska. Going up before the internet, we didn't have access to anything underground at all. We had Top 40 radio, Oldies, and our parents' record collections. My parents were great. They had a lot of The Beatles and Pink Floyd. When I was about eleven or twelve, I started finding my own bands and seeking them out. It was usually off of TV and stuff like that. I found Nirvana on my own, The Beastie Boys, and Rage Against the Machine. It was something my parents didn't show me. It was something my older cousins didn't show. It was stuff I found, and I bought with my Christmas money or for doing chores for my uncle. It signified a special time in my life when I found something that was my own. That's when I first started playing guitar and got into the drums. I got into rock 'n' roll on my own terms then. I get nostalgic about that and go back and listen to those kinds of bands. I remember what falling in love with music felt like on my own. I love Pearl Jam. I think they were the first CD I ever bought. Rage Against The Machine was a conscious influence. We don't play a similar type of music, but it's from the same thing. I like heavy rock and hip-hop.
If you were to compare Evil Friends to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
I'd love to say something awesome—basically anything Stanley Kubrick. We use movies a lot for inspiration. It's not lyrically. It's not a pinpoint inspirational point, but it's a vibe. We've always been very visual people. We're always thinking about movies scores. Whenever we're trying to develop a mood, we're thinking about movies, and it mostly goes back to Kubrick. Generally, in the band, he's our favorite director. I can't even say how many times John and I have watched 2001: A Space Odyssey over the course of our friendship. It's been a lot. We always see a visual in our heads. We're hardly ever on the same page, but we think that's important. I'd have to think about the answer for this record [Laughs]. This album goes all over the map, but it definitely is more upbeat and danceable. Lyrically, it gets pretty heavy though.
Eyes Wide Shut is so underrated.
I think so too. The scene where Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman are talking in the bathroom and she tells him she would've thrown their whole marriage, kids, and everything for one night with that guy is so serious. They were together. It's just crazy to me how Kubrick captured that. It's unbelievable.
How did the Evil Friends music video come about?
We had a really good time doing that. We didn't have too much of a plan. Lately, we never do. Our buddy Michael Ragen directed it. He came up to Alaska. We get along really with him. He's a very smart guy. Whenever we can, we hang out and watch movies. He had a rough idea. We were watching some nineties or early 00's hip-hop video. I think it was DMX or Ruff Ryders. We liked that whole crew idea with everybody on motorcycles. It's that crew vibe. We thought it'd be rad to do something in Alaska. That's how it started. We had him buy a shitty camcorder with night vision, bought some ski masks and clothes, and got a bunch of friends together. It was really fun. We filmed it about a half an hour from where I live at the end of this road. There are some abandoned missile silos up there. It's funny because that's where John and I became friends sixteen or seventeen years ago. It was one of the party spots in town. We'd go up to the end and have parties. There's a big airstrip up there. John and I became friends drinking beer up there. It was the middle of winter. We bought a case of beer on the way up, and John and I were up at the point drinking beer and filming a video this many years later. We never knew what we were getting into. It was above zero. It was ten-to-twenty-five degrees. Luckily, it wasn't quite as cold as it had been during "Sleep Forever". It was like thirty below zero. It was a painful experience. The cameras kept freezing. Being in night vision, this one was a lot easier. When you're filming in Alaska, there are only so many hours of sunlight. It's dark from four o'clock until ten the next morning. For "Evil Friends", we had some fun in the woods and the snow.
Is there a song that is speaking to you the most right now?
There's a deep cut on the album called "Holy Roller". I think it's going to be one of those fan favorites. It's got a really cool energy and vibe. I think it's one fans are going to love. We finally got it right on the last day of recording. It has everything.
Have you heard "Evil Friends"?