Portrait People’s first full-length album ruminates on its progress as a band | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Portrait People’s first full-length album ruminates on its progress as a band

click to enlarge Portrait People - PHOTO: ANDREW SUCHIN
Photo: Andrew Suchin
Portrait People
Last month, Pittsburgh band Portrait People released its first full-length album, Hallow, carrying the same title the pop-emo band gave to its very first EP, released three years ago when the lead singer was still in high school.

What started as an EP in 2017 flourished into a new, stronger album. As artists grow, their reflections and opinions grow as well, and lead vocalist and songwriter Nic Temple wanted to use the album to show how he matured since he put out that initial release.

Portrait People started as a solo project in high school by Temple. From there, it continued to grow in members and musicality with the addition of David Beck on bass, Mike Law on drums, and David Pawlowski on lead guitar.

“The EP was written at a very low point mentally in my high school career,” says Temple. “I was caught up on the negatives and thinking things couldn’t possibly be worse. By the time the songs had been finished, I was well past the mindset I was in when writing them. I wanted to make a sort of journal update with Hallow, a way to write back to myself and say that I’ll be OK.”

Hallow has been a triumph for the band in many ways. Not only have they been able to release their first full album, but for Temple, this album has really been backed up by the growing closeness of the band.

“At the beginning of playing music together, we were working off of a set of songs that would become our first EP,” says Temple. “I already had a fleshed-out vision for these songs, so there wasn’t much room for crafting the music from an early stage. When it came time to write our first full-length, things became much more open-ended, and it gave us all more room to form and shape our music from scratch, as well as get closer as a band.”

The album can be seen as a safety net for the listener. It’s filled with lyrics, singing reassurance throughout the tracks. Through the band’s own reflection, it gives listeners an invitation to explore one’s mind and truly reflect on one’s own thoughts as well. That’s part of what makes Hallow so personal.

“I wanted to make something to serve as a bookmark to be able to flip back to and recount becoming an adult and the feelings that came along with it,” says Temple. “At the time I was developing my outlook on spirituality and reflecting on how I found my mindset changing throughout the process. I never wanted the album to come off as a ‘Christian album’ and be one dimensional. I wanted the themes to be an open-ended interpretation.”

The main themes of the album deal a lot with letting go and moving on from those rough points, something Temple has learned to cope with in life. These songs can be used as a guide to finding peace. They’re charged with deep emotion yet energized with self-confidence and motivation.

“‘Exit Through The Sun’ has been a favorite of mine since we wrote it,” says Temple. “It started when I was playing a String Machine show at an old school building in the dead of winter. After we played, I was walking outside to smoke and noticed how awesome the reverb was in the stairwell on the way out. I checked to make sure nobody else was there and started singing, ‘When the sun frees my skin from this cold I’ve been dwelling in …’ Looking back I was really just projecting how much I didn’t want to go outside in the cold, but after writing it down and expanding on the words it sort of turned into a main metaphorical theme of the album.”
click to enlarge Portrait People - PHOTO: ANDREW SUCHIN
Photo: Andrew Suchin
Portrait People
Thankfully, unlike many artists right now, coronavirus didn’t have a huge effect on the release of this heartfelt album. Everything was sorted out songwriting-wise, and from there it was a matter of determining the timeline and adapting.

“Luckily we had everything tracked and mixed/mastered before coronavirus, so the actual recording wasn’t stunted at all,” says Temple. “The difference came when deciding the layout of the release. We weren’t sure how an album release would go without live shows to back it up, but we decided to use it as an experiment. We recorded a few songs as a live session to try and emulate going to a Portrait People show, and so far the response has been amazing.”

Even with a few bumps in the road, Portrait People have been able to put its new album out there for the world and be heard by those who need the support.

“As an artist of any kind, I think the goal is simple — to relate to someone,” says Temple. “My favorite moments as a listener are when you hear someone express a feeling that you’ve convinced yourself nobody else has felt but you. It’s the simple reminders that we aren’t islands and that we share our experiences, at least in some form. At the same time, to be the backing band to a drum sesh on a steering wheel or the soundtrack to a late-night drive are great honors as well.”

Even after the new album has been released, there are no breaks for this band. Portrait People have already started working on a new EP, which is yet to be titled. In the meantime, the band will be releasing their live session videos throughout the next two months on the Earthwalk Collective YouTube page.

Portrait People

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