I discovered Portrayal of Guilt a year or two ago when their first 7" first hit the web and I saw a lot of people chatting about them. After checking it out, it was clear to me that the band definitely lived up to the hype, delivering a powerful brand of emotional hardcore.
When I saw they were touring right away I was super stoked and tried to bring them through Detroit. Unfortunately, schedules didn't work out so I wasn't able to make it happen, but in talking to Matt a little bit I realized I had actually booked his old band Illustrations a few years back when they were on tour with the mighty Seizures.
I figured now would be a good time to check in on Portrayal, as they just recorded a new record with Matt from Majority Rule and seem like a band set to make some big things happen in 2018.
Talk a little bit about your family and childhood. What was your upbringing like and what presence (if any) did music have in your house as a kid?
My childhood and upbringing were pretty “run-of-the-mill” in my opinion. My parents divorced early on, so I spent time at both houses. Neither of them really exposed me to any music in specific. They would play music around the house from time to time, but I thought nothing of it. I wasn’t really interested in music until I started skateboarding & discovered everything I listened to on my own time.
Alright so how did you gravitate to skateboarding and who were some of the first bands that started catching your attention through that whole realm?
I started skateboarding not long after Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out in ‘99. I’m sure many can relate to that. Through those games I discovered bands such as AFI and Suicidal Tendencies, among others. The Girl “Yeah Right!” video introduced me to Interpol and Le Tigre, bands I’ve continued to enjoy throughout the years. The list goes on...
So what was the next step for you in terms of starting to go to shows? What were some of the first bands you saw, venues you were going to, and what impressions did those experiences have on you?
The first band I saw live was The Jonbenet at The Sanctuary in San Antonio. Of course I’ll never forget that, though everything to come after is a blur. Shows weren’t as inspirational to me as music was. I had a friend living with me around the time I first started going to shows who left me with his entire hard drive of music, containing bands such as Yage, Pg.99, Majority Rule, Funeral Diner, Love Lost But Not Forgotten, Hot Cross, Neil Perry, La Quiete, Raein, among plenty of others. This was my first exposure to any sort of heavy, emotional music. I went through plenty of phases between then and now, but this music has always been very dear to my heart.
So at what point did you pick up an instrument, and when did you first start playing in bands?
I started playing bass in high school when I was living in the UK. It was around then that my interest in music started to grow and I eventually picked up guitar, though these were just hobbies back then.
I was asked to play in my first band not very long after I started going to shows in ‘06 and played in a few throughout the years until starting a band called Illustrations in 2010. That project ended abruptly last year, spawning Portrayal of Guilt.
What lead to you living in the UK and how long were you there? What are some of the similarities and differences you've noticed, both in terms of broad cultural differences as well as how the music scenes tend to operate?
My dad was stationed there for work and felt it was best if I was out there with him, though I hated every minute of it. Not the location, just the general situation. We were out there for two years. To be honest, I was so out of my head during that time that I couldn't explain the experience even if I wanted to. Plus, I hadn't been to any shows yet. It was a rough time for me.
Yeah I wanted to ask about Illustrations....I know you guys had been at it for a while and put out a full length last year, did some touring (Fall of Troy?), but it seemed like once I saw Portrayal form I never heard about Illustrations any more. What happened?
Word. So talk about the formation of Portrayal. What sort of influences/vision did you guys talk about when the project took root?
James was drumming in Illustrations near the end of the band and we had already spoken with Blake about starting another project a couple of months before the band had actually ended. As I mentioned before, I've always been keen on emotional, dark and dissonant sounding music thanks to my early exposure to the genre. There was no real vision involved until we finished writing our self-titled EP. I think that release speaks for itself.
You've definitely hit it hard in terms of touring thus far. What have been some of your best experiences on the road up to this point and how has being so active so quickly impacted the dynamics within the band?
I can't even describe what experiences might've been "best" while on tour, because they're all equally amazing. We knew we wanted to travel with this band, so that's what we're doing. It's good to get some experience traveling together so early on because it helps us figure out if we can handle each other for long periods of time. From the two tours and other travelling we've done as a band thus far, I can say that we are dynamically at our best when we're together.
Correct me if I haven't followed correctly, but the EP was initially co-released by Contrition and Miss the Stars, and once that sold out you guys repressed it DIY and are having Deathwish help with distribution. How did your relationship with DW coming together, and will you guys continue to collaborate with them going forward?
Right. Deathwish contacted us just before the first pressing sold out about helping us do a second, which included an exclusive vinyl color. Though we are eternally grateful to them for helping us keep the record in press, we wanted to keep our options open. We'll see what happens.
So let's talk about this new record you just tracked. What was the writing process like and what new elements (if any) were you guys trying to bring into the equation?
We practice almost weekly when we're home, which is when we're writing. That's basically how it goes. After we released the first EP, our friend Rick joined the band doing samples and electronics. I work on a lot of that stuff when I'm home, as does he and we've been slowly introducing it into our music.
I was of course very stoked to notice that you've been working with Matt from Majority Rule on the recording. Maybe I've been sleeping over the years but I've never known him to be someone who works as an engineer. What was it like to work with him and what sort of things has he been bringing to the table?
At the last show of two with Majority Rule on our most recent tour, Matt had mentioned that he recorded out of his basement and that it'd be cool to record some demos. We didn't really have any confirmed plans to record our album yet, but knew we needed to as soon as possible, so I mentioned that we could potentially make it happen when we passed through the D.C. area on that same tour, so we did.
The demos we recorded with him came out insanely well, so after we got home we set up some time to fly out and do the album there. Working with him was great. We bounced ideas off of each other throughout the process and we're more than happy with the result. Everything came together so naturally that we ended up recording the entire thing in two days.
Europe with Centuries is coming up of course...how did you guys connect with them and what are you most excited/nervous about as you get ready to embark on crossing the pond? Have any of you guys ever toured Europe before or will this be a first?
A few months ago or so we received an e-mail from Joe of Stateless Society about touring in Europe in 2018. After a few e-mails back and forth, he mentioned he was also looking to book a tour for Centuries and asked if we would be interested in doing a tour together.
I had actually booked Centuries in Austin years ago and at this point I've known a couple of those guys for quite a while, so when the opportunity was presented, it just felt right.
I don't think we're nervous, just excited about being able to play for people who haven't seen us before, like any other tour. I've toured in Europe before in other bands and the experience was amazing, so I'm eager to get back there.
What sort of lyrical/conceptual themes can people expect to see in the new material and what people/events/circumstances may have inspired that content?
A lot has happened in the past year and the lyrics are a personal reflection of that.
I know you mentioned you wanted to keep options open in terms of who might be releasing the next record...are you guys talking to/hoping for anyone in particular or are you considering self-releasing again?
We have a few things in mind, but we're never opposed to self-releasing our own music. We prefer to work with our friends and people who truly believe in what we're doing.
Last question: what's one thing you're bummed about in punk/hardcore today, and one thing that's inspiring to you in punk/hardcore today?
That's a good question. I'm bummed about a few things, but I'll address one.
In the punk and hardcore scene, especially where we're from, it's very cliquey. (Most) people and bands seem to shut out others if they aren't cut from the same cloth. I've seen this happen far too often and that's something I have a problem with. I feel like the scene needs to be more open-minded to other styles of music and interests aside from their own. We should all be able to coexist.
What's inspiring to me is to see more bands doing what they want to do, answering to no one but themselves and being successful while doing it. That's the dream.
All photos by Thom Carney.