A good friend in high places

By Paula Yeoman

Indie rockers hit right notes with top producer, writes Paula Yeoman

Portugal. The Man are keen to visit New Zealand after seeing photos and videos of the country.
Portugal. The Man are keen to visit New Zealand after seeing photos and videos of the country.

Indie rockers Portugal. The Man were ensconced in a Tallahassee studio working on their eighth album Evil Friends when they received a call from Danger Mouse, AKA Brian Burton, which made them drop everything, relocate to California, and start over.

It's pretty drastic action for a band that was nine songs in but as co-founder Zach Carothers explains, it's not every day that you get the chance to work with one of the best producers in the world.

"He was always on our list of producers to work with but realistically we never thought we'd be able to do it," he says of Burton, whose catalogue of work includes Jay-Z's The Black Album, Gorillaz' Demon Days and The Black Keys' El Camino. Carothers says the seed was sown when Portugal. The Man was touring with The Black Keys and drummer Patrick Carney suggested they ask Burton.

"We were like 'Oh f*** yeah, of course we'd love to do that, but he's untouchable. And he's very choosy about what he does."

But as luck would have it, Burton was a fan.

"It was such an awesome experience working with Brian. He just brings so much to the vibe of recording. And, because unlike a lot of other producers, he's an artist too, he kind of took us under his wing and gave us a lot of advice about things that a lot of producers don't really care about or know about."

It's the most radio-friendly of the eight albums the rockers have made since they formed in 2005, leading off with the insanely catchy Plastic Soldiers, followed up with a bunch of equally addictive tunes, from the title track, to Modern Jesus and Purple Yellow Red and Blue.

But it's not an album of individual singles, it's a seamless body of work made to be listened to from beginning to end. "My favourite record is Dark Side Of The Moon. And you know, I make myself a lot of playlists and compilations but something like Dark Side Of The Moon, you have to listen to the whole record. It has to be like that, it has to be in that order. We obviously haven't perfected that yet, but it's something we're always striving for."

Although originally from Alaska, Portugal. The Man is now based in North America's music hub, Portland, Oregon. But with the release of Evil Friends, the band is gearing up to go back on the road and Carothers hopes a visit to New Zealand is on the cards.

"We want to come down there so bad. Growing up in Alaska we'd always look at photos and videos of New Zealand. So we are definitely trying. It's such a beautiful place.

"When we do come we're going to try and hang out for a week - go camping."

Portugal. The Man's new album Evil Friends is out now.

- Herald on Sunday

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