April 27, 2014
Shortly after the second of two consecutive nights of shows at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley, we were able to catch up with Zach Carothers, the bassist for Portugal. the Man. Earlier during their set, Zach told the crowd with a big grin that the Greek was “the venue so nice we play it twice!” We discussed the environment, cuddling and Kanye.
Check out our full picture gallery from the show here.
SFCS: Can you tell us about the “Sumatran Tiger” record you just released and your collaboration with the Smithsonian National Zoo?
Zach: Yeah, it was just a really cool project. We came up with the idea together with an ad agency and the Smithsonian National Zoo and it was a very original idea to spread awareness. We’re always down to help, but if you can do it in a really fucking cool way then I just think that’s rad. We donated a song, we donated studio time, and we’re very happy with the outcome.
SFCS: And you also do stuff with GreenPeace and other environmental charities?
Zach: We just met with Earth Justice today, too. We’re from Alaska so we have a pretty unique perspective on the environment. I’ve watched glaciers just melt in front of my eyes growing up. Everything in the Arctic is just magnified by climate change. It’s very real to us. And now living in Portland, Oregon, which is about the greenest fucking city you can get, we’re very into that stuff.
SFCS: What do you think is the band’s biggest accomplishment so far?
Zach: Oh god, uh staying together [laughs]. We all live together and I’ve been friends with John for years and it’s not all peaches and cream. We uh fist fight sometimes ... it’s very… if you can imagine…
SFCS: Who wins?
Zach: It never gets there. It’s actually really funny because we never want to hurt each other, it’s like we’ve seen each other fight other people and when we punch right at the last minute you kinda slow down. We kinda, it’s real weak, and very passionate and it’s pretty cool. So yeah staying together.
SFCS: This is your 7th album already —
Zach: Yeah! We’ve been doing this a long time. I was playing music with John before that, I’ve known him since we were 15 or 16. It’s been crazy.
SFCS: What’s the most important aspect to you of a live show?
Zach: Aw man. Honestly I think it’s the vibe. As long as we’re having fun, drinking beer, joking around, laughing with each other. We jam. Just that energy.
SFCS: You’re up there with a huge smile, we can see that.
Zach: It’s obvious that we just love to play music. That’s what we do every day and I’m just happy that people show up and watch.
SFCS: When we see you’re having fun, then the audience has fun.
Zach: Oh yeah, I feel like that should project on to the audience.
SFCS: What was the last show you attended as a fan?
Zach: As a fan… I just went to watch Sleeper Agent at the Doug Fir. I wasn’t super familiar with them, but there’s a radio station in Portland that I’m friends with one of the girls there, and we’re kinda show buddies. So she’ll call me and ask for tickets to this, and say I got you tickets for this. We just give each other free tickets for shows. So Sleeper Agent. It was pretty good.
SFCS: If you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be?
Zach: Big spoon. I like to cuddle.
SFCS: What’s the coolest venue you’ve ever played?
Zach: Well The Greek [here] is pretty fucking up there. We’ve done some amazing ones. The Gorge in Washington. Red Rocks. They’re the best venues ever. And a lot of crazy little ones. We played a rock quarry in Austria. We’ve done some cool shit. This place is legendary. Tonight, I’m gonna say this one!
SFCS: What’s on your current playlist?
Zach: Lot of Kanye. Lot of Wu Tang. Lot of hip hop lately. That’s kinda what I’ve been doing.
SFCS: Do you like old Kanye or new Kanye?
Zach: I like all of it but I think the new shit is just really pushing boundaries. Same with Kendrick, same with Drake. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop because I feel like they’re pushing the genre, pushing the envelope. I like groundbreaking music. It’s what I dig.
SFCS: When you guys have a day off in a city, what do you do?
Zach: I walk around and take pictures. I’ve been getting more into film lately. I brought 7 cameras on this trip. It’s been pretty fun. I’ve been pretty into Polaroid lately. I just got a 1967 SX70. We eat a lot. We drink a lot. We like to meet people. See the sights. Sometimes we do the touristy shit because we’re very lucky to be able to do this. Bands that just go and sit in their hotel, they’re fucking idiots.
SFCS: We just read John’s interview with GQ. What’s your must-have style item for going on tour?
Zach: [Looking down at his unbuttoned shirt] Uh, I don’t need buttons apparently. I don’t have a must-have. I just lost all my luggage. I went to South America and the airline lost all my clothes. I showed up there with a t-shirt and jeans. So to tell you the truth, I don’t really care. I have stuff that I love, that I like. I’m actually very into fashion, but there’s no must-haves. I guess I need pants, for everyone else’s sake. Nobody wants to see that.
SFCS: If you could be known for anything besides your music, what would that be?
Zach: Probably something cool. Like a very generous lover, something like that. Good kisser. [laughs]. Put that one. And being a gentleman. Nice guys finish dinner.
SFCS: Where’s your favorite ice cream around the world?
Zach: There’s a place called Izzy’s in Minneapolis that sells very amazing ice cream. But I guess I gotta rep Portland, I’ll go with Tillamook’s. My mind changes every day about everything. I’m gonna go pretty normal with the boring answer and say vanilla. Super good vanilla. If you kill that, then I know all the other stuff’s gonna be amazing.
SFCS: If you could take credit for any song ever written, what would it be?
Zach: I’m gonna do two, but they go together. “Brain Damage,” and “Eclipse.” Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd.
SFCS: Yeah that cover tonight! [They covered “Brick in the Wall” earlier in the evening] I’ve seen the “Hey Jude” cover a few times.
Zach: It’s so much fun. You can’t really beat that song. It’s a great way to cheat. If a show is going weird and we’re like “I don’t know if they like us,” throw in a song that everybody likes. You win em over. And if it’s the last song they hear they walk out like “that was great!”
SFCS: Is there anything else you want to add?
Zach: Stay in school. I dropped out of college and high school. When I dropped out of high school I was like “Eh maybe shouldn’t have done that.” I had a 3.6 GPA and it was two weeks before graduation. I was listening to too much punk rock music. So I did that and I was like “Eh shit I should probably go to college.” So I started a band. And I dropped out of that too!
Photos by Sam Engel