In the spotlight – Portobello Express

In the spotlight – Portobello Express

In the spotlight – Portobello Express are a Vienna (Austria) based band inspired by the golden age of the psychedelic heavy blues rock, exploring a sound that has its roots in the late 60s and early 70s and harnessing that era’s unique, raw energy whilst paying homage to their multicultural roots. The band was initially formed in 2010.

Introduce us all to the members and your musical history. How did the band come together?

“We are Betty and Patrick, vocals and guitar, and the original founding members of Portobello Express, psychedelic rock band from Vienna.”

“We actually started the band as a one off birthday party act with a set full of 60s cover songs that we liked and that we could easily pull off. Unexpectedly, we started to get some offers to play, as well as some of our own original songs. So off we went…”

Tell me a little bit about your background. Where did your interest in music come from? Was it something that you always knew you wanted to pursue?

“We both started playing instruments at a young age. As we both came out of the sixties scene, our background from the beginning was somewhere between blues, soul, beat and psychedelic rock. Once in the band we were able to find our own style by combining all these directions in our compositions. The songs come as they come, but we always end up sounding vintage and that’s what we’ve always wanted to achieve. Being professional musicians was never really our goal. But we both always knew that we wanted to get on stage and play rock and roll!”

What music inspired you guys growing up? How does that compare to what you’ve been listening lately?

“After gospel, soul and R&B, our first influences were bands like The Who, Small Faces and later on harder bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and the West Coast sound. Currently, however, we are eagerly observing stoner rock and other contemporary indie sounds.”

When did you first fall in love with making music?

Betty: “I was already singing in a gospel choir as a teenager, so it was clear that I had a certain vocal range and power, which was soon put to the test in the first bands. I am also classically trained and studied piano for many years and I’m a bassist!”

“Patrick started playing in a band when he was 17. He toured all over Europe. He’s a kind of V.I.P., you know? He was also the opening act for the Rolling Stones!”

Was it hard to think of a band name that you could all agree on?

Patrick: “I came up with the name relatively quickly. We needed a name that would fit the style of the Swinging London era of 1967. We didn’t discuss it for a long time and just took the idea…”

What appeals to you about the sound of the 60s and 70s?

“It’s probably the most natural kind of music, spontaneous, powerful and groovy, but it’s also very multifaceted. In addition, the musicians at that time were very good and you can learn a little bit more from them every day.”

What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

Patrick: “There is always a strong guitar presence in our music, it is very guitar driven – be it heavy, bluesy or rocky. Even in the heavier songs, Betty’s voice is always soulful and melodic, and that often appeals to listeners who don’t necessarily come from heavier genres.”

What inspires you to write songs and what is your creative process?

Betty: “I usually dream up my songs and then “just” have to put my thoughts into music. Sometimes it takes me a while to come up with the lyrics, but sometimes they are just there and I just have to write them down. It usually starts with a bass line, followed by the guitars. As soon as the backbone of the song is there, then we add all the rest of it. In some cases, such as ‘The Sea Rises’, I have the lyrics, the music, the arrangements, the backing vocals and even a drum riff!”

Do you take inspiration from other art mediums?

“If we do, then only from our extensive vinyl collection…”

What can you tell me about your song ‘William and Emily’ that’s currently in our chart?

Betty: “The song is based on a poem I stumbled upon while leafing through one of my favourite books, ‘Spoon River Anthology’ by Edgar Lee Masters. The piano melody was a spontaneous inspiration. The music just bubbled out of me in an hour or so. In order to bring out the beauty of the lyrics, we decided to keep the song in a very simple way.”

What are you hoping to achieve when you sit down and write a song?

Betty: “For me it is a healing process. Maybe someone can find comfort through my lyrics. My lyrics are just a way of communicating emotions – whether good or bad, never mind.”

Do you enjoy the process of creating?

“Not always – when it’s easy, yeah, sometimes it can take a long time to finish a song. And we don’t use AI – we’re old school!”

When it comes to making music versus playing live, which part of the music process do you like the most?

Patrick: “It depends on the situation. There are periods where the live gigs are a lot of fun. Then there is a studio phase and you retreat a bit to be creative. Sometimes this way, sometimes that way…”

Betty: “Hey, speak for yourself! (laughs) I love being on stage and I wish someone else would write songs for me…”

What’s your favourite song to play live and why?

“Our sets change all the time. Usually we like to play the most recently recorded songs and leave the older ones out of the setlist. But one of our favourite songs is ‘Highly Sensitive’, which we always use as a song to close the show.”

If you could sit down and have a conversation with someone who has guided you through your journey as an artist, who would you choose and why? What did you learn from them?

Patrick: “As I said before, we have grown up in the Mod scene. This was our inspiration; it was very much a part of our upbringing and the way we were mentally and artistically. We were never mainstream and that made us not afraid to be different.”

What’s your motto or some good advice that you live by?

“We all have idols. Play like anyone you care about but try to be yourself while you’re doing so. – B.B. King”

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

“For the promotion of our new album we have two shows planned at the moment. But we also have some studio dates and collaborations with other musicians coming up. Let’s see what happens.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

Betty: “All of the artists in the top 20 are incredible and excellent songwriters. But I have a special bond with Sparralimb aka Rick Whitehead and his song ‘Shapes’ is gorgeous. I sang on one of Rick’s songs some time ago and will be on another soon. Rick is the metal brother I never had!”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“Our bonus track is ‘Drifting Away’ by Storm of Crows. Because it’s a touching song, with beautifully played instruments, vocals and backing vocals that are simply gorgeous and it’s a song that even unplugged sounds perfect.”

More about Portobello Express: Linktree, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram, Mastodon, Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple, Deezer.


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