Having five-time Grammy Award winner Danger Mouse produce your album is no small feat for any band.
But Portugal. The Man frontman John Gourley says he was initially annoyed — to put it mildly — when the idea was suggested for the group's new “Evil Friends.'
Gourley is quick to note that he certainly respects Danger Mouse (real name Brian Burton), who co-founded the bands Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells and has also worked with the Black Keys, Norah Jones, Jack White, Gorillaz and others. But the Portland, Ore., band was already at work on “Evil Friends' in El Paso, Texas, and happily left to its own devices.
“We were going to self-produce and that was that,' recalls Gourley, who co-founded Portugal. in 2004 with bassist Zachary Carothers. “We didn't need anybody, and everybody trusted us to make the record — but, of course, nobody's really gonna let us do that.'
So, he says, it was “frustrating' when the group's record company called to say, “' Hey, can you come to New York tomorrow and meet up with Danger Mouse?' I was like, ' You (expletive)! In the middle of my record you're gonna call me up and say you got another producer?'
“But of course I'm gonna come. It's Danger Mouse. I'm not stupid. It was almost more frustrating because he IS such a great producer, and I knew we'd probably be better off with him.'
Fortunately, Gourley and Danger Mouse hit it off quickly. The producer quickly let Gourley know that “he works with the Black Keys, so he didn't necessarily need to work with another band. He asked what kind of record we wanted to make, and I stupidly said, ' The best. I want to make the best record.' But that's the truth. That's why we make music. If you're not reaching for ' Dark Side of the Moon' every time out, what's the point?'
Danger Mouse apparently liked that answer, and Gourley and company in turn liked the attitude that he brought into the sessions.
“It was just, ' What the (expletive). Let's just write an album that flows. Let's not worry about tempos or anything and just come up with stuff,'' Gourley says. “We hit this groove and just went, ' Oh, man, let's keep writing songs.' It became so much fun to go into the studio every day and throw out another idea and see where it took us.'
Danger Mouse isn't the only fresh element in Portugal.'s universe on “Evil Friends.' It's the group's second album for Atlantic Records after six previous releases on independent labels. It's also the first to feature members Noah Gersh on guitar, Kyle O'Quin on keyboards and Kane Ritchotte on drums, all of whom joined after 2011's “In the Mountain in the Cold,' which brought additional energy to making “Evil Friends.'
“It just feels like a new band, it really does,' Gourley notes. “We've put out a lot of music, but this feels fresh. This feels like a new band to me. It's really funny to see that after eight records or whatever, and it's a lot of fun. It feels like we just started. That's a good feeling.'