Hello My Name Is…Portugal. The Man, Alaska In Winter and Birds & Batteries

Birds & Batteries are a shoegaze outfit from San Francisco that mashes up Americana squares with synthesized lines, and what takes shape is an explosive pop concoction that speaks to the heart. Lead singer Michael Sempert is the first to slap the “Hello, My Name Is…” sticker today and here’s the epitome of a great band name story:

“It all started when I was in college.  My friends and I owned a blue parakeet named Rrrrroberto.  It was important to roll our ‘R’s’ when saying his name, otherwise he’d have no idea who you were talking to.  Rrrrroberto had a lot of emotional problems, as some birds do, and those issues were only aggravated by his drinking.  We eventually found that the only thing that would stabilize his mood swings was a dildo named ‘The Man Machine.’  By rubbing Rrrrroberto with the it, we found that vibrations actually soothed him and he would stop shaking and cursing.  Don’t ask me how this discovery was initially made cause it’s pretty embarrassing, but it helped to calm him down during his fits of pirate-like rage and sometimes he would even sing us the occasional sea shanty.  One night, in the midst of one of his depressive-sailor outbursts, we found that the Man Machine was out of batteries.  It was late and the stores were closed so we decided to panic, but that didn’t help.  Rrrroberto was inconsolable.  The next day we stocked up on AAA batteries and agreed to never speak of the shit-storm that had ensued the night before (our cat Manuel has never been the same). Sadly, Rrrrroberto died years ago in a car accident, but I still keep those triple A’s handy.  We considered using the band name Birds & Dildos, but it doesn’t quite have the same ring of alliteration so we figured, screw it.   Birds & Batteries it is.”

Birds & Batteries latest album, I’ll Never Sleep Again is available at Amoeba Records and Aquarius Records.

Portugal.The Man gives Alaska a good name. Beyond a dog sled race and natural sky lights, there’s not a lot to do in “The Land of the Midnight Sun.” Their brand of psychedelic prog-rock shakes up the territory, which is what their new album, Censored Colors, does to my speakers. Here’s the larger than life tale of their name as relayed by lead singer John Gourley:

“We love the idea of solo projects. Names like James Brown just sound bigger than life. We were not a solo project, so we decided to create an alter ego like Ziggy Stardust or Sgt. Pepper. We wanted his name to represent all of us boys in the band, and we figured a country is one name that represents a group of people with similar ideals. We just thought Portugal would make an awesome name for a guy.”

See Portugal. The Man on tour!

Dec 5 2008 at Ike Box in Salem, OR
Dec 19 2008 at Downstairs at Club M in Anchorage, AK
Dec 20 2008 at Mat-Su Resort in Wasilla, AK

Brandon Bethancourt, the brains that created the beats behind Alaska In Winter, had the crazy luck of having a stable of indie insiders to help record his breakthrough record Dance Party In The Balkans. Amongst them were Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw) and Zach Condon (Beirut), who happened to be a longtime friend.

Brandon’s story is a simple, yet romantic one. It begins with the typical dropping out of art school in Albuquerque, which led to the not so typical scenario of a semester spent in a tiny cabin out in the woods of Alaska. With not much of a night life to speak of, Brandon threw his heart into recording music on his laptop through the winter, hence the name. It’s kind of like when you get a tattoo to commemorate a special event, but not as permanent or painful.

Alaska In Winter has just released a new “dance party” inspired album titled, Holiday, which is available on Milan Records.

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