If you’re wondering how Portugal. The Man landed Danger Mouse to producer their brand-new Evil Friends album, well, you’re not alone: turns out they’re not even sure how it happened.
“We had the same publicist for a long time, and apparently he had listened to the music, because, when we met, he knew the history of the band, all the music we had put out,” PTM frontman John Gourley laughed. “But, to be honest with you, I really don’t know why he wanted to work with our group; it just sort of came together.”
Of course, even during that first meeting with the Mouse — who, just in case you’ve been asleep for the past decade, has helped created iconic records with Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz and the Black Keys, to name just a few — Gourley wasn’t all that sure what was happening. This was confusing especially when the producer told him, rather matter-of-factly, that he wasn’t interested in working with any band besides the Keys.
“The way I recall it happening was, I went to his place to meet up and talk about music. There was no ‘We’re going to make an album together!’ There was no thing happening, it was just us meeting,” Gourley explained. “And the first thing he says to me was ‘Yo man, I don’t really need to make another record with a rock band, I don’t really want to. I work with the Black Keys, those are my guys.’ So immediately we’re on the same level: he doesn’t want to make a record, we’re in the middle of self-producing, we were fine with that.
“But throughout that day we just hung out, listened to music, [and eventually] decided to make the album together,” he continued. “I did think it was funny though, it says something about his loyalties. He’s a good dude; he stands by his guys … that’s his rock band.”
So, somehow, PTM and Danger Mouse began crafting the songs that would shape Evil Friends, an album that sees the band sanding down the psychedelic edges of 2011’s In The Mountain in the Cloud in favor of more polished — albeit still plenty weird — pop. That focus is due in no small part to Danger Mouse, who also added plenty of flourishes during the recording. For example, Gourley is particularly proud of the vibraphone at the beginning of the album’s title track, which was used on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. But mostly, he was content to stay out of the way, and let Portugal make the record they had planned — no matter how insane those plans may have been.
“Our whole thing in the studio was ‘Who cares? It’s just music.’ It was just trying to write songs as we went and see where it took us. There was no plan; I mean, there was a plan, it was Dark Side of the Moon,” Gourley laughed. “We were like ‘Let’s do Dark Side …,’ and then three days in, we were like ‘That’s so stupid, what are we thinking? But we were having so much fun writing stuff, we just continued. But, I mean, Dark Side of the Moon is massive. That’s like saying you’re going to write Thriller. You can’t touch any of those albums, you’ve just got to make your own thing.”