Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack: Town Portal

Because every day another band records another song.  Because 83% of those songs are unlistenable and you can’t be bothered to sift through the dreck.  Because metal is about not giving a shit and waking your own personal storm.  Because music is universal, expression is boundless, and even indie labels (whatever that means these days) don’t know everything, Decibel brings you Throw Me a Frickin’ Label Hack.

Listening to Danish export Town Portal’s engaging Chronopoly makes us thankful that, while needle-burying misanthropic rage can be a glorious trip to take, we can also appreciate the more relaxed detours into quirky melodies and less dense textures.  Town Portal work both sides of their Blizzard Entertainment-derived namesake: they bring overworld delicacy and proggy wit down through metal’s shadowy dungeon; they ascend back into safer territory with razor-edged messages from Hell itself.  Like many of their contemporaries, Town Portal bring the tech-heavy licks sans vocalist, so if you’re not usually down with the sounds of Dysrhythmia or Don Caballero, for example, then Chronopoly may not be your cup of math equations.  But hey, give “Chronoceros” a listen right here while you read up on the band’s history and current direction, and if you likey then you can check out the whole thing on their Bandcamp page.  This week, take a break from hacking and slashing and raise your mana and skill levels!

Can you give us the Town Portal lowdown?  How did the project come together, and what did you want to accomplish with it when you started?

The band came together in the last months of 2009. Jeppe (guitar) and Christian (guitar) had previously been playing together in a band called Shelflife. They knew Malik (drums) from some teenage jamming sessions, and got him to join. I (Morten) was playing bass in a band called Nightpass at the time, and invited Town Portal to come on tour with us after only having heard a handful of their songs. They accepted the challenge and were forced to take their band from a rehearsal space project to an actual band out there playing for people. When we got home, they decided that it might be a good idea to add some low frequencies to the mix, and I decided that I really wanted to supply those frequencies, and that was that. After recording an EP with that lineup, we played a few shows, amongst others supporting Polvo, before Jeppe quit to move to Hawaii, and we were reduced to the guitar/bas/drum trio that we are today. We have pretty much just been busy either touring, writing or recording ever since.

How do the different members’ musical backgrounds combine to form the Town Portal sound?

By the time Town Portal came together, everyone played in other bands. Christian was playing shoegazey stuff, Malik sported blast beats and obscene lyrics in a death metal band, and I was in a math-pop band. We do have overlaps in our music collections, but certainly a lot of differences as well. Still, as if by some stroke of magic, we really quickly found some kind of musical middle ground, where we all felt that the output was representative of our respective musical ideals. I guess you could describe our ideal song as a surprisingly timed magical kick in the balls, that somehow still leaves you wanting another one. If that makes sense.

What’s important in writing a Town Portal song?  How do songs come together?

I think all songs have some element of surprise to us. Most ideas grow out of some messed up experiment that hits a nerve, and then we build on that and shape a song from it. As with all collective songwriting our music is a compromise of all the different backgrounds and preferences mentioned above. The word compromise in its nature have both negative and positive connotations, but in our case we mostly experience the positive ones, in that we always end up with a different result than what the band’s three individuals set out to create initially, and in most cases this result is something neither of us feel we could have thought up alone. It’s definitely an exercise in letting go of artistic rigidity, but I think we all pretty quickly found this exercise pretty rewarding, making it worth the hassle.

What is your touring experience like?

As we’re writing this we’re actually sitting in the backseat of a van, floating through beautifully fall-colored German landscapes on the Autobahn heading to Paris.  This is the third European tour in the history of our band, but it’s the first one where we’re actually touring with a record and headlining if you will, so that’s a new experience. We booked all tours ourselves, and have no press mechanism to back it up or anything, so each tour is a fight to win just a few more people over in a given city, so that we’ll have a few more to play for next time we come back.  Fortunately we feel like these fights are paying off on this tour. We’re not playing for humongous crowds, but just being able to leave for distant cities, and have 40-50 people come out to see us – that’s crazy for us.

What kind of music/art/etc. is exciting to you right now?

Touring is always a fantastic way to discover new music, with endless hours spent in the van pitching new stuff to each other. This time around is no exception, touring with Baltimore’s/New York’s Feast of the Epiphany A.K.A. Nick Podgurski, who’s not only captivating us with his own music every night, but also the man for obscure recommendations during the day. New York bands like IconChasm and Time of Orchids caught on, and have been in heavy rotation on at least my iPod; both quite orchestral and experimental in their very own ways. As for other art we recently spent quite a bit of time together debating potential artists for the album artwork. Even though we didn’t end up using any of the artists we went over, they’re still a very good example of what fascinates us visually. On is New York painter Dean Monogenis, who works mostly with surrealistic takes on architecture. I guess surrealism is generally a winner for us, whether it’s in visual art or literature, and I think it has a great deal of influence on our music.

My only experience with “town portals” are from the excellent fantasy adventure game Diablo.  How did you decide on the name?

Unfortunately our only experiences with Town Portals are from Diablo as well, even though we’ve often dreamt of having them at hand in real life, i.e. for touring purposes.  And yes, the name derived from Diablo, which we all played as kids and probably all think of as one of the best games ever. At the same time one could imagine a town portal being some kind of 90’s like website, containing a grand link collection for stuff like the local library, public pools and the chess club. Somewhere in between the dark occultness of Diablo and the more grey humdrum online municipal administration, lies the kind of vibe we’re aiming for with this band, which made it a suitable name.

What comes next for Town Portal?

We just finished a small line of Danish shows, and only have one more to go this year. After that we’ll definitely have a hiatus from shows, and focus on writing new songs, possibly for a release next year. We’ve been playing the same songs live for a very long time now, and I think we all feel that the band needs a new creative injection for things to remain fun. Other than that, things are pretty open, and we definitely hope to be back out on the road in not too long to present people the new stuff. Hopefully in North America too some time.