An interview with Jason Sechrist from Portugal. The Man
Published: Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 13:08
Psychedelic indie rock outfit Portugal. The Man is an extremely busy band. Shortly after releasing their latest album In the Mountain in the Cloud, they wowed Chicago with an amazing performance at Lollapalooza. Afterwards, the group's van and trailer were stolen, along with all of their equipment. Luckily since then, a lot of their missing gear has been located. In the midst of this mess, Portugal. The Man set apart time last week to talk to 88.7 WPCD about the new album, music, and their stolen equipment. (Jason Sechrist: JS)
WPCD: What was it like working on the new album, In the Mountain in the Cloud?
JS: It was wild. At first we thought we had a strong thing going on but then we found out we had clashing ideas in the beginning. It started to work out that a lot of our songs really weren't taking place like we originally dreamed of, so it turned into a rough event and no one could really see eye-to-eye on how a song should go. So it kind of shut down a few of the creative ideas in a sense. We were just having a hard time deciding on what was the right thing to do. But in the end after going on tours in the USA and then the European tour we ended up being able to listen to the mixes over time and kind of figure out what was good to stay and what could go and things like that. In the end it turned out to be a good experience but it ended up being – across touring and recording – a nine month period of time, which usually is not the case for us.
WPCD:How does this album differ from previous releases?
JS:We got to work in a couple of pretty amazing studios with really, really nice analog boards and things to capture really great reverbs. Andy Wallace worked on the mix and he really helped get the whole album a good individual staging.
WPCD: How does Portugal. The Man tackle the songwriting process?
JS:In the winter time typically – that's when John [Gourley] gets most of his acoustic guitar work and things like that done – he'll track little demos here and there and will bring them to the band or in the studio. Some demos are thirty seconds long, some demos are a minute and a half to two minutes long, so almost a whole song, it just all depends. And then we all just go for it from there. Some songs speak to you really easy. Some songs will take a day to do and some songs will bug you for a month to get right, so that's the neat part about it.
WPCD: Since 2006, you've continued a steady pace of an album every year. How is the band able to find the inspiration to write and record so frequently on top of all of the touring?
JS:Through the touring you get to improvise the songs, like just changing small notes and small things here and there, and that stuff lends towards jams or any type of cool new parts. Then those parts can be taken onto new recordings. I think that's one way of doing it. And we don't really run out of energy per say. There's just so much to celebrate in music and there's so many different ways you can take your spin on something. Old music has plenty of fuel. New music has plenty of fuel. Hearing new artists for the first time, even if their old or new, is plenty of inspiration. Movies are good inspiration. Nature, you know, the planet is a huge inspiration for us as well; the sounds of the Earth.
WPCD: Do you make it a goal to release an album each year or does it just sort of happen that quickly?
JS: I think it happens, but it was something that John wanted to do. John wanted to try to do a record a year and see how far it will go. Now, the thing we're noticing is now that people want you to play shows; the further out you get demand for your concerts to be played, the thinner your time spread is in terms of actually getting to record or actually get some off time to make music because people want you back over in this city or people want you back in that country. I think that's what definitely slows bands down. To do a record a year definitely can seem a lot; I wouldn't call it a lot, I'd like to say it's a pretty great average to have, but it's not necessary. I know that typically when I listen to music myself it seems like upon every year, out of the 25 or 50 artists that you follow that you're excited about their new release, it still seems like only five of them you're really celebrating throughout the whole year. And then the other ones you're like "well it was good," but you only end up favoring like four or five of them.
WPCD: Are there certain tracks off of the new album you're particularly proud of?
JS: Oh yeah! The songs I like the most are "All Your Light" and "Once Was One."
WPCD: What about a favorite to perform live? Or are those your favorite live, as well?
JS:Yeah, I mean "All Your Light" is awesome to play live. We're getting that one down; we've been messing around with these synthesizers and stuff trying to get all of these sounds to come across live really well. That's our favorite of the new stuff to play, but all of the songs are quite playable live. That's the good thing, this album is the most playable for us live, translating, versus all the other ones.
WPCD: What have you been listening to a lot lately?
JS: I checked out the Phantogram release that came out about a year ago. There's this Washed Out record that just came out that's really nice. The Bon Iver record I listened to a couple of times, that's really good.
WPCD:Oh yeah, we recently did a review of that album.