- - Sunday, August 20, 2017

Let’s get a few things straight at the start: Portugal the Man is a band, not a man. And the group is not from the exotic land it takes its name from but rather an icy-cold small town of Alaska. As their fanbase has increased, it has grown to include collaborators Danger Mouse and Beastie Boy Mike D.

With Portugal the Man’s set to hit Sprint Pavilion in Charlottesville, Virginia, Monday, I checked in with the bassist Zach Carothers just hours before the group was set to play “The Tonight Show” to discuss sleeping in Kim Kardashian and Kanye’s bed and why being prepared is overrated.

Question: Where are you at right now?

Answer: I’m in New York City. Small time boy in the Big Apple. We’re on with Jimmy Fallon tonight. Yeah, I’m pumped.

Q: Do you do anything different to prepare for a live shoot on a TV show?

A: We don’t really practice, but we do things differently. Tonight some of The Roots are playing with us, which is gonna be rad. We’ve got some dancers coming up onstage with us. We do something different, but I wouldn’t say we prepare for it. We just decide to do things different.

Our whole thing with our band is really stupid. We try to be a little bit unprofessional when it comes to playing shows. We decide what we’re playing five minutes before we go onstage. We always prepare for being unprepared.

Q: What is the benefit to that?

A: Keeps it less safe. If we know exactly what we’re doing, if everybody got eight hours of sleep and are freshly showered and completely sober, then those shows suck. You don’t believe it at all. It’s better when everybody is a little on edge.

We found that every single member of our band works differently. Everybody has stress levels on where they perform best. I can deal with a lot of stress. Our drummer cannot. But for some reason our singer thinks that our drummer performs better when he’s just been yelled at. It’s pretty much pandemonium all over the place.

Q: How has the creative relationship between you and singer John Baldwin Gourley evolved since you started playing together in high school?

A: It depends on the day. We have obviously become very tight, but there is push and pull. We’re like brothers: We love each other likes brother, we fight like brothers. I’ve broken his ribs, he’s broke mine.

We’re from Alaska, so we get into little scraps. We sometimes bring out the best in each other, we sometimes bring out the worst. But what’s important is we’ve learned to work together. We have to celebrate that the differences are why our band does well. If there was two of him, or two of me, this band would not work.

Q: Did life change when you guys signed to a major label?

A: Of course it did. When we signed to Atlantic, it offered more opportunities. We had kind of opened up every door we could open up on our own. At that time it’s not like Danger Mouse would have responded to our emails if it hadn’t come from the president of Atlantic Records.

We did well with our career, but there is only so far you can go. We wanted to work with people that you can’t buy like Danger Mouse. He doesn’t do things for money. You can’t just be a prince from the Middle East and say, “Here’s half a million dollars. Record me for a week.”

Atlantic allows us to open doors and connect with people we couldn’t get to on our own.

Q: Why was there a three-year gap between your last album and new album “Woodstock”?

A: We worked that whole time, wrote probably 40 to 50 songs. We had three to eight versions of each. We said 100 [songs] but they weren’t real. We wrote 50 songs and wanted to narrow it down to the best 10 — like Prince would do. Or Michael Jackson. And we could not do that.

Q: Where did you work on the songs?

A: We were in a beautiful studio with Mike D (Beastie Boys).  We were in Rick Rubin’s studio in Malibu. I was sleeping in the same bed Kanye and Kim would sleep in.

This is the nicest studio in the world. The most beautiful place. Interns were bringing us smoothies all day. We were very comfortable, so we couldn’t stop writing. It was endless writing.

You’re never done unless you tell yourself you have to stop. The longer it goes, the more pressure it is from yourself, the band and the label. Because of all that, we really lost perspective on what the album was.

All the time we’re there writing, the world didn’t stop turning. The social and political climates were changing drastically. By the time we were wrapping the studio time up, we realized we hadn’t mentioned the elephant in the room. Finally we decided to scrap it all. We went back in, took our favorite parts from the other recordings and started anew. We wrote some things that make sense now.

Q: For the next album, will you revisit the songs you scrapped?

A: We always say we’re gonna go back in, but every time we go back, we say, “We could just write something better.”

We will take lyrics and stuff like that. Chord progressions. But in general we like to keep moving forward.

Q: You slept in the same bed Kim and Kanye slept in. Any remnants left behind that proved that?

A: I didn’t have a black light. (Laughs) But the studio is where he finished “Yeesus.” He had the studio booked for a year, and we were only allowed to use it when he was at Fashion Week in Paris or out of town. They said, “You can use it. But if Kanye comes back, you gotta get out.” I said, “I don’t mind being kicked out by Kanye.”

Portugal the Man plays Sprint Pavilion in Charlottesville, Virginia, Monday evening. Tickets are availalbe at Ticketmaster.com.


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