Gimme a Break: Portage & Main
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, comes Portage & Main. Band Member’s John Sponarski and Harold Donnelly formed the band accidentally. Sponarski had just purchased a new guitar pedal and invited Donnelly over to check it out and thus began what is known as Portage & Main. The band has since released their self-titled debut, which tells the story of two lonely wanderers navigating through life: reminiscent of CSNY’s Déjà Vu. The band has big plans for the coming year. You can expect their sophomore release in the beginning of 2013. Portage & Main are also hitting the road for a Canadian tour in March. The band hopes to make it to the states as well. I know my fingers are crossed for a Detroit date. So please, take some time to check out their song “What Have I Done”, I promise that it’s a keeper! And read on for a mini interview with John Sponarski.
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Harold Donnelly (Guitar and Lead Vocals)
John Sponarski (Guitar and Lead Vocals)
Georges Couling (Keyboards Background Vocals)
Ben Appenheimer (Bass)
Dave Gens (Drums)
Album: Portage and Main
For Fans of: Folk Rock, The Band, Neil Young, Ryan Adams, Dawes
Can you tell me how the band Portage & Main came to be?
The band came to be quite by accident really. Harold and I were playing together in another group at the time and I had invited him over after rehearsal to check out a new guitar pedal I had purchased. He came over and we goofed around with this pedal for a bit then got to playing and all of a sudden a song started to emerge. Harold started making up words on the spot and I sang harmony. Before we even realized it we had written a tune. We laid it down on Harold's pocket recorder and called it a night. A week later Harold called me up and said he couldn't get the tune out of his head and proposed we get together to do some more writing. I had not been doing much writing at the time and thought it would be good for me to get back into the saddle so I agreed and we began to meet every week in his basement to hash out tunes. Before long we had twenty or so songs on the go and decided we should likely record them. We hadn't really intended on being a 'band' rather we just thought it would fun to record the tunes. Since we released the album we have just been putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying every minute.
What’s in a name? Is there any special meaning behind the bands?
Nothing, or everything really. Take for instance The Beatles. When you take a close look at that name it is pretty silly. The 'Beat' les, like a musical beat? Are you kidding? But the fact remains that The Beatles are one of the most iconic and insanely prolific bands ever. When you think of that name your perception of it is informed not only by the music they made but also by the bands image and the impact they have had on the world, as we know it. You almost have to strip it right down and forget everything you know about the band and just look at the name itself to think for just a second that is isn't cool. I think in a sense even if you put a lot of thought into naming a group it doesn't matter much in the end as people will all have their own perception of what a name means to them.
Our name pays tribute to a great Canadian landmark. Portage and Main is a sprawling intersection in Winnipeg that is thought to be the coldest street corner in Canada. Both Harold and I were born and raised in suburbs outside of Vancouver and we chose this name because we both have roots in a small rural town in Manitoba called Portage la Prairie. Furthermore, we wanted to pay homage to our only 'country roots.' The name was also chosen as we felt there was an interesting juxtaposition in it. Portage being in reference to Portage la Prairie and Main being a street you would find in any urban area. So in essence this juxtaposition of something rural and something urban kind of poked fun at the fact that we were two city kids writing country tunes.
Can you describe your sound?
This is always a hard question to answer and often I find that what I may think the band sounds like is not at all what someone else might think. I would just say that the music is not intrusive, it is easy to listen to, and I think that people of all ages could get into it. The songs were meant to be accessible and were written to inspire people to sing along. It’s a little bit country and it’s a little bit rock and roll.
Where did you gather the inspiration for the intrepid travelers you write about on your self-titled debut?
Something we played with quite a bit on this album was the use of metaphor and external characters to better describe personal experiences. All the talk of travel was inspired by the great deal of change that was going on in both of our lives at the time and more literally by the fact that I had just come home from backpacking through South East Asia.
Outside of music, how do you fill the hours of a day? Do you have any fun hobbies?
To be completely honest there isn't much outside of music for any of us. We all went to college for music and pursue it pretty full time. George and I play hockey and we all have lives but when we aren't playing together we are playing with other people, or teaching, or writing, or taking care of all of the millions of different things that need to be done to keep the band moving along.
Beard or no beard? Why?
Beard. Always beard. Harold as you may know has a beard of epic proportions and it has almost become our calling card. In the span of the existence of this band I have had beards large and small but one thing I am never is clean-shaven. I just don't feel like myself without a little grizzle.
If you could be any superhero, who would you be? Why?
Batman because he is hard as nails and he has the most toys.