We travel from Alaska to Brooklyn for this edition of A-Sides, but not literally. That said, it’d be cool if I could somehow transport people via a blog post. Get on that, Google.
All John Baldwin Gourley wants is to work hard on his craft and make music on his terms. Fame is so secondary for him and his band Portugal. The Man. That said, the frontman realized that by signing with Atlantic Records, the fame monster may rear its head now and again. While he understands it, it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily cool with it.
“I never had any aspiration or goal to be a singer in a band. I never liked going up to people — I have social anxiety. I couldn’t even order food four or five years ago. When we did the Conan O’Brien show and it threw me back into it. He came up to me after the set, and thanked us. I couldn’t say anything. I think I just walked away. I was like ‘are you serious?’ We did the show because he’s a hero to us.”
Ginger anxiety aside, Gourley said he has made peace with the success (he noted it helps that the label is extremely supportive and doesn’t “play mind games”) that has come to him and his Oregon/Alaska native band. It’s a good thing he is, because the band’s stature in the business has continued to rise since the release of their third album In the Mountain in the Cloud last summer. Late last year the band performed the track “So American” acoustically for A-Sides, and Gourley discussed its meaning. Watch the video and read the brief story behind it … um … below it.
Gourley on “So American”:
I was sitting on a porch with my friends in Alaska, and it triggered something. I had been doing a lot of traveling around the time Obama was running, and I was walking down a street in Germany and a kabob vendor walked by and said “are you American?” It was 3 a.m., and here he was telling me “you have to vote. Palin is trouble.” I know nothing about politics, and I thought it’s so American of me to take it all for granted. We live in one of the greatest countries in the world, if not the greatest, and it’s all about working hard and having a voice and using it, and it’d been lost somewhat.
My friends on the porch were saying ‘these food stamps’ are great, and I’m like, I pay taxes…I pay for you to sit on the porch. I can eat dinner each night but because it’s because I work so hard. We have every opportunity handed to us. It’s not about building a f–king fence across the border of Mexico. It’s just knowing how to treat each other. It’s ‘So American’ to sit back and ‘say yeah this is great country’ but do nothing to fight for it.
I’ve been going to these Occupy protests in different cities, and there’s this real defeatist attitude coming from I hate to say it … the hippies. I’m not trying to generalize the group but they have this weird agenda. I think it’s great that people are coming together but I see people sleeping until two in the afternoon. You’ve got to get up! Somebody has to rise up and come out of it. You’re not really speaking. You’re just there.
And Now…This is The Now
This is The Now comes off as sort of an offbeat Lou Reed (that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one) with their debut EP “Titan,” which drops later this winter. The band’s frontman Tiger G. recently performed the track “For You” for me with some sure-fire iMovie effects added for, well, effect. Before we get to the song, here’s some thoughts from the enigmatic mind of Tiger G.
On “For You” and more:
It went through many lyric iterations, I knew what the song was about but had to figure out how to say it. The process is different depending on what type of song I’m writing. For This Is The Now I wrote the melody and chords and recorded a bunch of the guitars and pianos around the hook, and then sculpted the song. I’ve written many different types of songs under different aliases and for different reasons. For TITN I went to a strain of music I love — the glam of Bowie, early Roxy Music, T Rex and Lou Reed. I wanted something very layered, with lots of guitars and keyboards.
About A-Sides with Jon Chattman
Jon Chattman’s music series features artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometimes humorous) way. No bells, no whistles — just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, I’m hoping this is refreshing.