The story of PORTLAND begins almost a decade ago. Sarah Pepels was new in town, a music student attempting to make some roots. Hearing music coming from down the corridor in her student home, she knocked, and met Jente Pironet for the first time. One conversation led to the next, and within hours they were writing together, playing each other their ideas and sharing some profound secrets.
Portland won the prestigious De Nieuwe Lichting prize – one of Belgium’s top honours for young songwriters – before releasing their precocious debut album ‘Your Colours Will Stain’ in 2019. Word quickly spread on their hazy dream pop – reminiscent of Beach House or School Of Seven Bells – and Portland got invited to play Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop, Eurosonic and The Great Escape. 2020 started with two nominations for the Belgian Music Industry Awards (MIA’s) but then then pandemic pulled the shutters down on their burgeoning careers.
2021’s limited vinyl ‘Besides’ saw the pair channel their fear and doubt. This bruised compilation of B-sides and acoustic tracks illustrate an increasing reliance, and inter-dependence upon one another.
But things had changed. The two fell for one another, the lines of friendship crossing into a relationship. It wasn’t to be, however, and both Jente and Sarah worked to maintain their friendship. Throughout all this PORTLAND remained, a vessel for their emotions and a means for deeper communication.
New album ‘Departures’ was born of this. Put simply, it’s magnificent – all the promise of their earlier work realised, it drifts between the grace of Slowdive and a sense of classic song writing that recalls everyone from Fleetwood Mac, say, to Angus and Julia Stone. Sonically beautifully and emotionally gripping, it’s a profound song cycle, the work of musicians digging deeper than ever before.
Label [PIAS] Recordings invited PORTLAND to spend time in London, introducing them to producer and songwriter Oli Bayston. Lightning struck twice, with the same chemistry that runs through the duo’s friendship infecting this East London creative. Holing up at the labyrinthine Pony Studios, they overhauled their sound and pushed the songs to the limit.
In March 2023 Singer Sarah Pepels announced her leaving the band just weeks before the album’s scheduled release. ‘Departures’ set out to initiate the mending of 2 broken hearts, but in the end, failed to do so.
Great art come from those willing to be vulnerable. ‘Departures’ is just that. The Portland story continues without Sarah. It will be different, but also magical.