Photos by Nick Licata
Tessa: Hey guys! The blog I write, Drive A Faster Car, is based in Atlanta and you’re playing at The Earl there in two days. Have you guys played in Atlanta before?
Portugal. The Man: Yeah, yeah… It was two floors…
Tessa: The Earl? The Loft/Vinyl? Star Bar?
PTM: No, it’s big and weird…
Tessa: The Masquerade?
PTM: Yes, The Masquerade.
Tessa: How did you guys end up at The Masquerade?
PTM: I can’t imagine they knew what we sounded like [before booking us]… It felt a little out of place.
Tessa: It’s usually a lot of punk and heavy metal bands at The Masquerade. They definitely do some indie rock shows as well.
PTM: We had a good time at that show though. Got a bass in the face. It was pretty punk rock.
Tessa: So you had a great set tonight and you have one more tomorrow during the day – how are your festival sets in comparison to your usual tour sets?
PTM: For Bonnaroo, we had an hour so we had to cut the fat off of our setlist. We usually we play about an hour and a half. The festival thing is new to us so we’re figuring it out.
Tessa: Is this your first festival?
PTM: Yeah, yeah. We’ve done big shows but it wasn’t anything like this one. We’re hitting up the entire summer festival circuit.
Tessa: And you have a new album coming out in July too and I hear the artwork has some kind of Transformers qualities to it.
PTM: [laughs] It came together really good, just the way it should’ve. I was pretty surprised to be honest. I brought it to Austin — Austin Sellers — he’s the guy that I worked with for all that stuff. I remember I first gave it to him and he was just like “Fuck you, they’ll never let us do this. They’re going to make me work forever on this. It’ll never get pressed.” And uh, we worked it out so it was a really simple piece. It was one cut out of one piece of paper. There’s no plastic in it or anything like that. We saved money in some areas and went overboard in others, so it evens out.
Tessa: So music-wise, how is your new album different from your previous ones?
PTM: Um, I think with the new record we picked up where we left off. I think it was more of an approach to less of a jam than we’ve run with in the past. Which is good for us to do! I think we really needed to make a record like that. Where we actually brought our influences in more. Which is all oldies radio station stuff like The Beatles, Zombies, Sam Cooke. So we wrote some really short structures and it worked out for the best. It’s a little hard to write a pop song. I feel like everybody thinks it’s a cop-out to write a pop song, but it’s actually pretty hard.
Tessa: So this change is just due to you wanting to incorporate more of your influences, not constructing it for radio or the like?
PTM: I think it would be fucking stupid for us to do it for that reason. You have to play music for yourself. In the end, we all listen to The Beatles. With the state of music today, I don’t think there would even be a question of it. It would be just silly to write for radio. It would be fucking cool if they would play us though.
Tessa: What bands are you seeing at Bonnaroo while you’re here?
PTM: Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors… I wish we were staying longer. Beastie Boys, [I] was talking about Phoenix maybe. I thought it would be nice to hang out Saturday too, but we have to miss out. And we’re going to run into half these bands playing on other festival stops.
Tessa: You guys are doing the whole summer festival circuit, right?
PTM: Yeah definitely. We’re playing Lollapalooza, Outside Lands and a lot in Europe.
Tessa: So you have a new album coming out. I’ve read the first line and last line of your new record, and a little explanation behind the correlation, but I was having trouble understanding if it was positive or negative towards Alaska and how it relates to the band as a whole?
PTM: Oh it’s positive for sure. It was a reference to the title. The record wasn’t necessarily about religion. Actually, just thinking about it right now, 90% of that record is not about religion. It was probably more, more than that. It was more a record about escape, a record about learning what you really need to get by, and getting over the things you feel you need to give in.
Tessa: Okay last question — Favorite up-and-coming bands from Portland? Besides you guys of course.
PTM: I got two bands for you: Builders and Butchers and Red Fang. They’re [Red Fang] my love. They’re fucking bad ass. I’m going to throw Hello Electric in there too. I think Hello Electric is bad as fuck.