Posted June 4, 2013 by Jeff in Tunes

Getting into the groove with Portugal. The Man’s Zach Carothers

Portugal.The Man
Portugal.The Man

Produced by Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, The Black Keys, Sparklehorse), the new album Evil Friends from Portugal. The Man has a groove to it and features infectious songs such as “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” one of the summer’s best singles. The band is about to embark on a North American headlining tour and bassist Zach Carothers, who originally founded the band in 2012 with front man John Gourley, recently phoned in from New York to talk about the album.

I’ve read a bit about the band’s history. But tell me, how did you and singer John Gourley first meet? What did you two share in common?
Music was what we had in common. We met when we were 15 or 16 years old just through mutual friends at a party at a gravel pit riverbed out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of Alaska. He saw my band play. There weren’t a lot of other bands around. There was one other band in my town that did original music. Their singer was in jail for murder, I’m pretty sure, and John came and saw my band and thought it was awesome. We started playing music together. I played music with him for several years and all that time I had no idea John could sing. He was a very shy guy. He would play guitar and scream a bit. A few years later, I moved down to Oregon to go to college and started a band with my friend and we weren’t great. Me and this other guy would switch off on vocals. John had recorded a song and sent it to us. He had an unbelievable voice. The next day we called him up and told him, “Get down here.” We’ve been making music ever since.

What were your indie label experiences like?
Some of it was good and some of it was bad. When we started the band, we had a rough outline of a band. We wanted to build everything up very slowly. We were on smaller indie labels and it was really cool. It was a little difficult. Now, we’re on Atlantic and we’re honored to be on a label like that. When I called my dad and told him we were signed, it was a pretty good day. Led Zeppelin is his favorite band and they were on Atlantic. He was a proud father.

What inspired the short film Sleep Forever?
We didn’t intend it as a short film. It was more like a long music video. We made it for two songs off our last album. We love working with our buddy Michael Regan. He directed several of our videos and shot almost all of them over the last couple years. He’s a cinematographer, not a director. He only directs us. He’s a close friend and like an extra member of the band—only on the visual side. We have no plan when we do those. In the clips, John walks off into the woods but loses the dogs. We figure out the rest of the story as we go. It’s a lot of fun except for the cold. That was a particularly cold shoot. It was 40 below zero. The cameras kept freezing, but the dogs were totally fine. It was a fun experience. The last one we did up there in Alaska for Evil Friends was even more fun and the weather was better. It was 20 degrees. Again, we had no plan. We just got some friends and the snow machine and the beer and made the film.

How did you respond when Danger Mouse was brought into the fold?
We were, oddly enough, a little pissed off. We were already in the studio and we were nine songs in. We were going to do it ourselves. Everybody trusted us. We were feeling really good. Then, we got a call that John had to fly to New York and had a meeting with Danger Mouse. We had mixed emotions. One part of us was like, “Oh my God. That’s amazing.” The other emotion was “Wait, you don’t trust us.” It was crazy. John flew out there and Danger Mouse started the meeting by saying he didn’t need to work with another rock band. He said he already had the Black Keys. John said, “Alright, cool. We’re almost done with our record. You wanna just hang out and listen to music?” After a day of that, he wanted to work with us. They were on the same page with most things. We scrapped everything but two songs – “Sea of Air” and “Hip Hop Kids.” Everything else, we scrapped and started over. It was an amazing experience. He is so smart and amazing and has such great style.

If I listen to Dark Side of the Moon, I listen to Dark Side of the Moon. I don’t fuck around.

How did Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon become a primary influence?
I think I got misquoted and for some reason that interview ended up everywhere. My actual answer was that Dark Side is my favorite record ever. I was asked if it was an influence and I said, “Yes, but not necessarily sonically.”  Pink Floyd was so special, not necessarily in lyrics, but melody. They would have a certain riff that they would bring back to reflect different tones and different moods. I thought that was such an amazing idea. It connects songs and lyrics and makes you think way more. Albums like that I can’t stop listening to. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s such a solid album that I never take one song off it and put it on my morning drive time playlist. I have to hear the song that comes after it. It’s just my thing. If I listen to Dark Side of the Moon, I listen to Dark Side of the Moon. I don’t fuck around.

 If I’m feeling crazy, I want to listen to crazy music. I love music that breaks new ground.  

Is progressive rock in general an influence?
Oh yeah, we have a crazy collection of stuff. Right now, I’m on a huge hip-hop and metal kick. I listen to Kanye and then Slayer. Kendrick Lamar and then Cannibal Corpse. I think it’s because the in-between time when you’re done recording and the record’s not out yet is the worst. There’s nothing you can do. There’s no direction. We all turn into psychopaths. We’re very anxious. We’re not nice people to each other. Everyone gets real weird. Being anxious and stuff like that, makes me want to listen to really aggressive music. If I’m feeling crazy, I want to listen to crazy music. I love music that breaks new ground.

Do you generally think more in terms of the album?
Yeah. That’s what we intend to do. We really try to make the record as an idea. But we also try to make songs that can stand on their own. We prefer it that way. We don’t just make singles, otherwise I’d be wealthier than I am right now. We decide to make albums. Writing music is the one completely selfish thing we do. We just make what we want to hear. It’s fun. If nobody likes it, oh well, we liked it. That’s all there is.

Upcoming 2013 Tour Dates

June 7

June 8

June 9

June 11

June 12

June 13

June 14

June 15

June 18

June 19

June 20

June 21

June 22

June 23

June 25

June 26

June 27

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

July 4

July 5

July 6

July 10

July 12

July 13

July 16

July 17

July 18

Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts

Washington D.C. – 9:30 Club

New York, NY – The Governor’s Ball Music Festival

Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Theatre

Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom

Cleveland, OH – House of Blues

Cincinnati, OH –  Bogart’s

Manchester, TN – Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival

Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue

Detroit, MI – St. Andrew’s Hall

Chicago, IL – House of Blues

Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theater

Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue

St. Louis, MO –  The Pageant

Dallas, TX – House of Blues

New Orleans, LA – House of Blues

Houston, TX – House of Blues

San Antonio, TX – Josabi’s

El Paso, TX – Tricky Falls

Santa Fe, NM – Santa Fe Sol Stage & Grill

Telluride, CO – Telluride Conference Center

Aspen, CO – Belly Up Aspen

Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Park City, UT – Park City Live

San Diego, CA – House of Blues

Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern

Oakland, CA – Fox Theater

Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom

Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market

Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.