John Baldwin Gourley Vocals, Guitar Zachary Scott Carothers Bass, Percussion & Vocals Ryan Neighbors Piano, Rhodes, Organ, Synth, Farﬁsa... etc. & Vocals
From Satan's Satanist to America's Ghettos
As I sit down to get into this topic that is American Ghetto I am realizing that I have put it off for far too long. I for some reason have it in my head that I have told you all that I would be posting on this subject nearly every month since it's completion... Well, I really have no excuse aside from our endless work schedule and our promoting of The Satanic Satanist. Before heading on I cannot help but point out how funny I find it that every time I talk about promoting the Satanist, or talking about the Satanist or doing artwork for the satanist etc. that it is somehow being overheard and taken out of context. It is just a thought, and now, we continue into Ghetto and the whats, hows, whys and whens.
To find ourselves in the Ghetto we must first deal with The Satanist. The Satanic Satanist came together in such a special way for us. It was a huge learning experience. It was finding some understanding of where our songwriting highs and lows were and trying to expand in either direction. It was an album of focus and at the time and in my mind still, it was the thought of perfecting something we have attempted basically since our bands birth. We love SONGS. Absolutely and in every way. We approached with this thought and to the best of our abilities at the time wrote songs, short and to the point. I mentioned this was a heavy task to take on. Sometimes knowing when to stop and what to cut is more difficult than any jam out or extension of verses, cutting of choruses, noise pollutions.... I said sometimes, but really, most always this is the case. Sorry noise bands, I love what some of you do, love it, but this is mostly true in my mind. We are very happy to have done this and will continue to promote that thought and that album, it is and always will be a huge point in our career and came together in so many ways thanks to Paul Q. Kolderie, Adam Taylor and Anthony Saffery, not to mention the AMAZING people at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, Southside and Hurricane and any and all Euro festivals as well!
"Having said that" Thank you Larry David
We move into the Ghetto
As much as I am fully in love with the way the Satanist came together and better understanding of self and songwriting, there are other sides of this band and music that are worth exploring and maintaining. There has always been something very magical to me about spontaneity in the studio and onstage, improvising and basically just "going for it" and seeing what comes out. We have always had a great experience with this and I have always loved the idea of capturing a moment. Where planning a scene has its own consistency and focus, capturing a moment can somehow magnify those moments and give you a clearer and more truthful view of the world in which it exists. This idea of "capturing a moment" is exactly what we talked about as I headed back to Boston to record American Ghetto with Anthony Saffery. There are often great friendships born in music. I imagine a lot of that is due to the fact that we spend days on end for weeks and months at a time crammed into vans, hotel rooms, studios and venues with the same people. It is bound to happen. Anthony happened to be one of these lasting friendships. We discussed doing something a bit different from Satanist, doing something a bit more beat driven and just, overall, having fun with sound and doing something a bit more spontaneous. With these thoughts in mind I took a relatively short break after returning to Portland from Boston and basically flew right back out with a handful of ideas and some great conversations on direction with Anthony. Soon after returning to Camp Street and tracking the initial skeleton of the album with Anthony we were joined by Zoe Manville who had come out for some additional vocals once again and, once again did an amazing job covering our female vocal ranges... As hard as I might try, some notes are better left to those with the confidence to reach them... American Ghetto was an album that, though drum machined and programmed and synthesized, maintained a lot of feeling and the soul and heart of what this band is. Much of this was due to the fact that it is probably the most consistent album lyrically and the most true to some of the harder points of my friendships back home, some that have ended some that remain and many of which were forfeited to some poor life choices and the downfalls of small town life. It is the first time I have really gone into these things, and there was a very strange mixture of both happiness and sadness to finally get it all out. Song by song each piece is a different group, person, or place that I spent a big part of my life. From the streets we drove and the places we built bonfires and had parties. Overall a good experience that is a big part of who I am today.
There were other consistencies brought around in Ryan's keyboard playing and Zach's bass lines as well as Jason's thoughts on sound and delivery. Jason has always had a great ear for this and I am not sure how often it has been mentioned. There is something really great to be said about a Ween fans ear. They hear everything. There was still the room full of instruments and gear at our disposal and still the level of excitement that was brought from Anthony Saffery and Adam Taylor. We spent our nights out with Anthony's family in Cambridge and our days in Camp Street just riffing off one another. It was a truly great experience and is, in my opinion, one of our most important albums.
The Release: How does March 2nd sound?
We have had several talks about what this album is and what it should be and how we should release it. This has obviously taken some time and is the main reason I have waited to post this blog. This album is a very important one to me. It is very personal and it is very much a part of this band. It is a part of our growth and a part of our future. It is something that I strongly felt needed to be something for all of you, something for the people that have supported this band. We worked hard to save enough money to self-finance this record, something we could not have done without you. As much as it was discussed, we honestly feel that American Ghetto is something best left for all of you to do with as you please. On March 2nd we will make this record available to you, press, radio, retail, etc. Nobody gets the record early; we will not be soliciting reviews, airplay or any support from the industry. It is up to you to tweet about #americanghetto or to share or to send friends to buy. If you want to write/blog/play American Ghetto, March 2nd is your opportunity. It will be the same for everyone. We love all of you very much and appreciate every bit of the support. It means everything and exists only with your continued support. This album is yours, we will be doing a handful of these throughout the future of the band. Join mailing lists and follow on twitter. Send your friends. Lets take this to the next step.
Much Love, John
I want to finish with a huge thank you to Steve and Dan and everyone at Equal Vision Records for allowing us to approach the release in this way. It took a lot of talking to get to the point where we all knew this was right to do. This label deserves your support. They are truly great people and have allowed us to do all we want. You are very appreciated EVR, thank you. Thank you as well to Anthony Saffery for all the hard work he put into this. Thank you to Adam Taylor for sitting through so many sessions of "brain storming", ideas take time, thank you for manning the helm. Thank you to Paul Q. Kolderie for letting us take over the basement and letting us work freely. Thank you to Tjinder Singh and Steve Smith and Ian Kennedy for the additional work. Last but not least, thank you to Rich Holtzman for the trust and faith in this project and for helping us put the release together in this way and for investing every bit of his time into this project.
Interview by digitalbath
On June 8th, I had the opportunity of not only seeing the great Portugal. The Man, but I was also able to sit down and ask Zach Carothers (bass/backing vocals) and Ryan Neighbors (keyboard/backing vocals).
I had the chance to talk to them at Rams Head Live about their new album, being released on June 19th, 2011. The album is titled In the Mountain, In the Cloud and according to Zach and Ryan, it’s going to be their best album to date.
Featuring 11 tracks, we can expect to hear something similar to what they put out in American Ghetto, with a bit of influence from their new Atlantic producers.. and David Bowieapparently.
You can listen to the interview here: Movin’ on Up! Five Minutes with Portugal the Man
The show itself was an absolute blast! I had never heard of the band playing before Portugal, , but Zach and Ryan assured me before our interview that they were well worth the listen. Their a three piece jam band from Unknown Mortal Orchestra and were most definitely a good fit to open up for Portugal.
Throughout both bands’ sets, we all had the opportunity to witness some of John Gourley’s artwork. The backdrop for both bands was a giant painting of the album art for In the Mountain, In the Cloudand I have to say, it looked absolutely stunning amongst the fog and lights.
Once Portugal actually started playing, the crowd went insane. They came out for a second to tune/set up their instruments, everyone, including myself, started screaming like school girls, and they walked back off. Shortly though, they came back out and started jamming their hearts out. I had downloaded one of their previous live sets off of their website when they were allowing downloads so I had already come to expect a great set with a couple new songs and tons of classics. However, they ended up playing a few newer songs that I hadn’t even heard before. Let me tell you, I’ve been a bit skeptical about what In the Mountain, In the Cloud is going to sound like and after this show, I’m convinced it’s going to be great. Guess we just won’t know for sure until June 19th! Look for our review on the day of release here