Radio Station: KRVE 92.5 FM
: That was SHANGHAI LEAN by Duncan Watt
, I’m your host Peter Canfield here at KRVE 92.5 FM and it’s my great pleasure to welcome into the studio Matt and Barbara from the band North To Port. Welcome you guys.
Barbara: Thanks for having us.
Matt: Thanks Peter.
PC: So let’s get things started. You all are in town to play a show at The National tomorrow night. Are you excited to be back in the Bay Area?
Barbara: We’re very excited Peter…
Barbara: You might not know this but Matt and I actually met right here in San Francisco, so the city has a very special place in our hearts.
Matt: That’s right, we always love coming back here.
PC: I did not know that – How did you kids meet?
Matt: It was pretty lucky actually. Barbara was here taking some time away from home, and we happened to be playing in the same venue at the same time, The Rocket Room right?, and we just struck up a conversation backstage. And the rest is history.
PC: Oh wow – I thought maybe knew each other from Brazil, playing together in Barbara’s band.
Matt: No, not at all. We didn’t meet until way after Barbara was Ba.
PC: So you met here, and hit it off.
Barbara: It wasn’t quite that simple.
PC: Why? You were hitting on her weren’t you Matt.
Matt: What me? Truthfully, I did think she was hot…
PC: Who doesn’t?
Matt: And of course I recognized her from her Pao days, I even had Wide Open. That’s the first album right Barbee?
Barbara: That’s right. There was an EP that got some attention, but Wide Open was the first major release. I’m actually surprised you had it.
Matt: It’s got some fun jams – I mean, if I can hang with Destiny’s Child, of course I’d dig Pao.
PC: Now for our listeners who aren’t hip to Brazilian pop, how about you tell us a little bit about Pao. Wide Open must of been pretty big in Brazil…
Matt: It did pretty well.
Barbara: So Pao was an all girl pop band. There were 5 of us. We all sang, some of us played and sang. It was all big harmonies and a big spectacle.
Matt: She was a pop idol. The looks, the voice, the dance moves. Even though her music wasn’t really my style, I couldn’t help but like it.
PC: Did you have her poster on your wall?
Matt: (chuckles) I didn’t quite take it that far but, let’s just say it was more than a guilty pleasure.
PC: So Wide open was the first recording. You did a few others with Pao, right?
Barbara: I did. It was a 3 album deal. Looking back, I can’t believe I actually signed the deal, but I was pretty young at the time.
Matt: You were a teenager on Wide Open right?
Barbara: Yeah I had just turned 17 when it was released and things got crazy pretty fast.
PC: How so?
Barbara: We basically non stop toured for like 3 years, only breaking to record. After we finished the three albums and their tours, I went home.
PC: Pao only did 3 albums?
Barbara: There were more, but I was only on the first 3.
PC: Wow, what happened, did you guys break up?
Barbara: No, I got pretty burned out and I ended up leaving.
PC: You did.
Barbara: The rest of the girls stayed together and toured for awhile. They even released one more record without me before calling it quits. The first record I’ve done since is the North To Port debut.
PC: Why did you guys split, was it amicable?
Barbara: You know, for the most part it was. There was some sadness but no real anger or anything.
PC: That’s good at least.
Barbara: Yeah, I still love them, but after our record deal ended I wanted to make some changes, and this was the right time to do that.
PC: Why was the timing good?
Barbara: Well, around that time we got approached by two management companies. One was kind of an upstart. They didn’t have much experience but were starting to sign a bunch of groups. Dawn, who was the CEO, met with us and pushed real hard, promising a lot of money, but I knew that if we signed with her we’d be creating a bigger barrier between us and our fans.
Matt: You wanted to break down walls, not build them up.
PC: Why would signing with Dawn build a wall between you and your fans?
Barbara: For one thing, she wanted us to create exclusive content for a select few fans. And for another, Dawn was a reality TV star, and she was known for being extremely brash; a polarizing character. I just didn’t think her persona was a good match for us.
Matt: It’s like she wanted to be the show, even though you guys were the artist.
Barbara: Right. She even has twitter wars. (judgmental)
PC: What about the other group?
Barbara: The other one was an industry veteran, this guy Phil. He’d been doing it forever, but had a reputation of being a liar. He’s the type of guy who knows how to grease the wheels, but he has a ton of skeletons in his closet.
Matt: I remember you said he had a temper too, right?
Barbara: Oh yeah, like he was a bomb waiting to go off. He’d just blow up at anyone who got in his way.
PC: Sounds a bit scary!
Barbara: Yeah, he was, but he represented a bunch of bands.
PC: Why do you think other bands would put up with him?
Barbara: I think because that industry breeds a certain type of person, and the ones that succeed probably do despicable things, other people won’t do.
Matt: Some bands want that sort of thing. They think they’ll rise to the top faster.
PC: Neither sound like very good options.
Barbara: No. I definitely didn’t like either one, and either way it was going to be a bit of an upheaval.
PC: So, coming back to the original point, you decided to leave.
Barbara: Well, at first I came out pretty strongly in favor of us representing ourselves. I thought at that point we were pretty savvy about how the industry ran, and I wanted us to determine our own way. You know, rule ourselves.
Barbara: And even though I still think this would have been the best thing, it was too radical for them.
PC: What did they say?
Barbara: We held a vote, and they decided to choose what they considered the lesser of two upheavals.
PC: Which one?
PC: I thought that’s how it was going to work out.
Matt: Everybody did.
PC: So then did they kick you out?
Barbara: No, I just said goodbye. Staying would have felt wrong.
PC: And then what did you do? You came here?
Barbara: Not immediately. I went to school, saw my family and friends. Just tried to live a normal life.
Matt: 9 schools Barbara.
Barbara: (laughing) It took a bit for me to find the right thing.
PC: Well it’s not like you didn’t already have a successful career. Don’t bash, Matt. So then what brought you out to SF?
Barbara: Like Matt said, I was visiting. I hadn’t played music in quite a while, not since my last tour, so I thought I’d come here because there’s such a big music scene.
PC: There is!
Barbara: Yeah, so I played a few shows to see if I could get back into the hang of it.
PC: You hadn’t played since your tour?
PC: That is a long time to be away from something you love. You probably could have had a strong solo career right after.
Barbara: At the time, I honestly didn’t know if I wanted that life. It’s just a huge grind, and I guess I lost my passion. But after awhile I realized it wasn’t playing the shows that burned me out, it was the machine we represented.
Matt: It’s all the auxiliary stuff.
Barbara: Yeah, when you get that big, you start to realize a lot of people count on you. You have management, band members, crew, assistants, and they’re all relying on you to produce, and play well, and keep going.
Matt: And of course the record company knows pop stars come and go as tastes change, so they push you to milk it while it’s good.
Barbara: Yeah, so after my contract was over I just left. But eventually I missed playing music with people I like.
Matt: Like me!
PC: I get it.
Matt: This has been a bit of a thing we’ve had to work through, actually. Of course we want to be successful and play meaningful shows, but because of Barbara’s experience we know it just won’t serve us, the music, or anyone to start that machine up again. That’s why we’ve self released, we keep a small management company, actually manager, Jon – he’s the best. We don’t need a big spectacle. Sometimes we do play with the band, but a lot of times it’s just the two of us playing acoustically. So, It’s a lot more relaxed and we can just concentrate on playing the music we love to play.
PC: So that’s a good transition to the next question. After you met, how did you decide you wanted to work together.
Matt: Well when we talked at The Rocket Room we realized we would both be at the West Coast songwriters conference together, which is a cool organization out this way, and I highly recommend any musician checking it out if you’re from this area. There’s a lot of good networking and industry veterans. Well, we were in the same workshop and the goal of the workshop was to pair up and write a song together, right there on the spot.
PC: Whoa! How did that go?
Barbara: The end result was pretty good, but it took a little give and take. It’s on the record actually.
PCn: Really, which one is it?
Matt: You’ll have to guess! She’s right though, it was a bit of a give and take.
Barbara: Yeah, our styles are pretty different
Matt: I grew up with indie music, and Barbee’s the pop star as you know…
Matt: …so it’s like if Rhianna got together with I don’t know, Grizzly Bear. They should do a duet now that I think of it.
Barbara: So, we worked on a first draft and we both felt strangely comfortable with each other.
PC: It seems like it would be very important to be comfortable. Writing makes you so exposed…
Matt: It is very intimate. It can make you really insecure, because the creative process can just turn up anything. And you’re at risk of the person you’re with thinking it’s stupid. But you just have to give into that rawness, button up your brave pants, and hope the other person will be gentle. Barbara was great.
Barbara: Aww, Matt was great.
PC: That’s an awesome story. You guys definitely sound like you belong together. So tell us about the show tomorrow night.
Barbara: It starts at 8 PM at The National, which is just an awesome venue.
Matt: It’s a pretty good size but feels really intimate. We’re really looking forward to it. One of favorites, The Versa Kyle’s are opening up for us, so don’t be late.
PC: Well thank you both for stopping by, I’m looking forward to the show, it’s going to be awesome. Be sure to stop by the next time you’re in town.
Matt: Will do!
PC: Alright, that was Matt and Barbara from North To Port, and here’s their song Run.
~Matt and Barbee
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