Portugal. The Man

Portugal. The Man

GIVERS, Alberta Cross

Thu, October 20, 2011

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Terminal 5

New York, NY

$22.50 advance / $25.00 day of show

This event is all ages

Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man
It was last spring 2012, and John Gourley—frontman of Portugal. The Man—found himself in New York City about to ring the bell at Danger Mouse’s apartment--a long way from his current home in Portland, and farther still from his real home in Alaska. Six full-length albums in six years, nonstop touring, a stint with The Black Keys and festival stops at Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza—up until this moment, Portugal. The Man embodied all dimensions of DIY rock range.

When it came time to begin work on the seventh album, Gourley thought long and hard about the next move and kept coming back to one concept: The most satisfying work is collaborative work. From building houses with his father in Alaska to building a devoted fanbase, he had sought partnerships. So he took a bold step — bold for a proven band, bolder still for its uncertainty of sound — a step up to the apartment of a possible collaborator, Danger Mouse.

“I walked into his place,” Gourley remembers now. “And it wasn’t going to happen. He was like, ‘Hey, man, just so you know, I don’t really want to record a rock band.’ And I was a little relieved. We’d done this by ourselves before, and we knew we could do it by ourselves again.”

But then they got to listening, and to talking about how much Danger Mouse had loved In the Mountain in the Cloud — the 2011 followup to Portugal. The Man’s break out record The Satanic Satanist. “From that very first meeting,” says Danger Mouse, “we were very ambitious about what we could do…otherwise there was no point. So we decided: Let’s try and make something really special.”

So Danger Mouse — aka Brian Burton, the five-time Grammy award winning producer behind everything from Gnarls Barkley and Beck to The Black Keys and now U2 —and the band agreed that they were game for the challenge and began production on what would become Evil Friends, the undaunted re-awakening for Portugal. The Man. As much as their collaborative imaginations melded, to construct songs that lived up to the ambitious visions they had would take some time. After all, here was a band with an evolving lineup — Kyle O’Quin on keyboards, Noah Gersh on guitar/percussion/keyboards, and Kane Ritchotte on drums joined Zach Carothers on bass and vocals and Gourley on lead vocals and guitar — building new songs with a new producer trying to do something neither of them had done before.

They went, together, to Los Angeles and worked through several sessions — at Mondo Studios, Eltro Vox Studios, and Kingsize Soundlabs. The band worked months longer than they ever had on one thing. And somehow — maybe it was the collaboration in the air, or maybe sheer will — they finally stopped searching and started realizing: “What really brought our record together was getting past that period of looking for something, and figuring out how to do something really new, really hard, and really satisfying,” said Gourley.

Each track on Evil Friends is as different from the next as Portugal. The Man’s previous records were from each other, which is to say a piece of a growing mindscape, and wholly a part of the group’s tumbling fever dream. Where the 2009 hit “People Say” was a cheery guitar rally, the new title track is a bells-and-balls ballad emerging from darkness into a pipe-whistling punky thump, albeit with Gourley’s trademark falsetto and thundering guitar. And yet here is Evil Friends swirling, like a tornado that sends a napping child toward Oz, into something of a tale of Portugal. The Man’s arousal from when it decided to make something special to when it actually did: The weighted down questions of “Plastic Soldiers” (Could it be we got lost in the summer? / Well I know you know that it’s over) give way to the confident melodies of “Modern Jesus” (The only rule we need is never giving up / The only faith we have is faith in us) and finally, brazenly, to the anthem “Smile” (We watched the sun come up / But took it down to hide it / Seems like the spring has come and gone / It felt like forever).

It took all year, and Portugal. The Man — a group guaranteed for seven years to pump out a record, to tour and tour and tour, to tuck its fans to bed at night with a community of psychedelic rock — had learned to slow down and transform all-day, all-night recording with Danger Mouse into adrenaline, into words that are at once dark and light, into sounds that are overlapping with danger and charm. The whole “evil friends” thing was just a happy writing accident, by the way, a lyrical coincidence belying a collaborative friendship Burton says taught him, too: “I felt like I was watching them do something special and I wanted to let them do it, so sometimes I was more hands-on, but sometimes more hands-off than I had been with anyone,” says Danger Mouse. “They had done enough albums that I thought it would be fun to shake it up a little bit.”

“In the beginning, I asked Brian why he had wanted to talk about making a record,” recalls Gourley. “And he admitted that he was surprised when he saw us live. ‘I didn’t know you guys could sound like that.’ There had been this perception that we’ve been something else — and I’ve noticed it, at festivals, everywhere — that we were something we were not. But then we got in a room with Danger Mouse, to the place where we could just throw that out, wake up and say, Here we are. We’re this band! Let’s just make it, together.”
GIVERS
GIVERS
What do Givers give? It is an often overlooked, yet all too important question concerning these starry-eyed melodi-mystic rebels. They take hearts, this much is known. They certainly take away any restraint one may have had concerning revealing dance moves. They take time, they take care, they take naps, they STEAL attention… but what do they GIVE?! I stare intently between songs, through lasers, feathers, sweat, confetti, paint, at these friends who i must now call people as they are at once also strangers in the throes of the prismauditory hallucination that is their music. The colors, tones, shapes, and threads, up-beat, weaving, psych-folk, meshing, afro-delic, beckoning my mind out into the open, much as a dream catcher above one’s bed. Then it hits me: Givers give dreams. Seeing them perform is to be overloaded with blissful information. More than one’s mind could ever hope to descramble and classify within any 24-hour period. Their music is not only music; it is motivation, inspiration, and a celebration of the world around us. To experience it is to be changed forever, for the better; to know that you yourself have more to Give. -LastFM
Alberta Cross
Alberta Cross
The title of Alberta Cross’ new album, Songs of Patience is, in many ways, literal. “It's been three years since we last released a full-length album,” says singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee, a Swedish-born musician who has spent a big part of his life abroad in London and now Brooklyn, NY. “It was a crazy ride that ended on a positive note. Three band members and five producers later, the record is now ready.” The highs and lows of the band’s journey raised a grander set of ideas, infusing the disc’s title with additional universal meaning.

After touring extensively on their debut, Broken Side Of Time, with bands like Them Crooked Vultures, Oasis, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and stopping at festivals like Bonnaroo and Sasquatch, Alberta Cross headed to an old, abandoned house in the middle of nowhere near Woodstock, NY. There, they braved the freezing winter and embraced a sense of the building’s haunted past to envision ideas for a new record. Initially, the motivation was to get back to the songwriting quality of the band’s 2007 self-produced EP The Thief & the Heartbreaker—a blurry forethought that would later become clearer. “Bringing other guys into the band on the last record changed things,” says London-born bassist Terry Wolfers. “I think we became aware that we wanted to bring back some of our original sound. That was the basis of our intentions.”

The Woodstock session opened the doors for Wolfers and Ericson Stakee, who formed the band seven years ago after they met in a London pub, to craft the songs that would appear on Songs of Patience (ATO Records), but the group needed more inspiration. Petter moved across the country from Brooklyn to LA in early 2011, intending to spend some time writing on his own again and searching out new creative motivations. But after Wolfers and the rest of the band members joined him in LA, where the group went into the studio with producers Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, My Morning Jacket) and Mike Daly (Whiskeytown, Young the Giant), Petter hit a wall.

“I love LA, but the combination of relocating and straight away hitting the studio made me spiral out of control.” Ericson Stakee says. “I needed to let go of everything around me and close to me, so I could discover what I missed and what I really needed. I partied too hard, and I blew my newly earned money. Once I hit rock bottom, I visited home in Sweden and plummeted back down to planet Earth. I knew exactly what I had to do.”

This meant that Ericson Stakee and Wolfers, unhappy with the album they’d finished in LA, had to find their way back to what inspired Alberta Cross in the first place. The two were forced to look their new album in the face and admit that it needed revision, a step that allowed them to open up their creativity, pen additional tracks and re-mix/re-track a few songs from the L.A. sessions once they’d returned to New York. There, they laid down new songs with producer and friend Claudius Mittendorfer (Muse, Interpol), rounding out the original album to be an expansive, thoughtful portrait of their experiences—as a two-piece.

“We always wanted to be two,” Ericson Stakee notes.

Wolfers adds, “It took all that to realize the only way this band will work is as the way we started it.”

In the end, Songs of Patience is both a throwback to Alberta Cross’ roots and a progression forward. The album veers from the melodic sprawl of opener “Magnolia,” a track Petter wrote in L.A. about “too many late nights, for better or worse,” to the pensive provocation of “Lay Down,” which was penned in the back of a van in Tampa when he felt “beat down by the road” after a two-year straight stint on tour. Petter’s self-defeat and subsequent self-discovery are apparent on hook-laden rocker “Wasteland,” a track about “our generation being lost and sometimes in need of guidance,” while the fuzzed out layers on “Crate of Gold” reveal his growth as a songwriter, leaving himself to explore the motivations of the Occupy movement. The focus throughout the album’s songwriting was strong, engaging melodies, as well as Ericson Stakee’s poetic narrative sensibility, both of which allow the listener to inhabit a new place for the span of the album.

“Everything we have been through is present in our record, and it's my proudest work yet,” Ericson Stakee says. “For the first time ever, I wanted to print my lyrics because it’s important that people form an idea of what each song is about. At the same time, I’d like my songs to be more open, so people can incorporate their own experiences and give them their own meaning. Although the songs are serious, the whole album feels more colorful than ever.”

In the end, the record is the sum of three years’ worth of parts – a struggle that concluded in victory. It opens new possibilities for the band’s visceral live show, a notable facet of the group defined by their raucous, gritty onstage performances that swell the tracks into bigger, more expansive versions of themselves. Songs of Patience has also, in many ways, become a decided source of inspiration for the band members – one they hope magnifies the personal battles and upsides of their fans.
Venue Information:
Terminal 5
610 W 56th St
New York, NY, 10019
http://www.terminal5nyc.com/