Exposure: Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man is not the most conventional name for a band. But it’s one that suits this Alaskan quartet of unrestricted imagination more than most. Now based in Portland, the group revel in an Animal Collective-inspired delirium of musical chaos, yet somehow retain a melody in there somewhere, adding pop comforts to more manic accompaniment. Four albums in, it’s time they were exposed. Zachary Scott Carothers did the honours.
Can you give us a bit of background about the band? Who’s involved and how did you get together?
Portugal started pretty much right after our old band broke up. John (Gourley – vocals/guitar/organ) and I played together for a couple years and he had talked about doing Portugal. The Man as a side project, but when everyone decided to call it quits, he asked me to join. We moved back to Alaska to write some material with a few boys from Wasilla and shortly later moved back down to Portland, Oregon. At the time we were a more electronic band using sequencers and drum machines for the beats. When we got the chance to go in and record our first record we add Jason Sechrist on the drums. For the next couple years we were always adding touring musicians for fun until we brought Ryan Neighbors out. He did a really amazing job and was just a good guy all around. We asked him to join the band a little before recording Censored Colors. We've had the same line up ever since.
You’re originally from Alaska – what was the music scene like when you growing up there?
There wasn't much of one when I was growing up. I started a shitty band with my friends, and we were one of two bands that played in town at that time. It was rough being a fan of music then. Hardly anyone came up to Alaska to play. It was so bad that, even if I hated a band, I would usually still go see them just because it was live music and I didn't get a chance to see that often.
What’s the best thing about Alaska?
Well for me, it's friends and family. But it's a beautiful place. So disconnected from the rest of the world. It's a really amazing escape.
You’re now based in Portland. What was the motivation for the move? And how do those two styles of life compare?
We knew we couldn't get much done in Alaska. We wanted to tour and it's far too expensive to tour back and forth from Alaska. We had spent time in Portland before and had a lot of friends there so we took the chance. It's a really amazing city that is relatively close to home.
How have your homes affected your music - has your sound change since your move?
Living in Portland really opened our eyes to music and art. It is a very artist friendly city and pretty cheap to live in. We found a whole world of underground music that we never even knew was around and it really put perspective on everything we learned growing up in Alaska.
Portland is seen as a great creative hub now for music minded people. How true is that, and is there a great sense of support and friendship amongst all these acts?
There really is. For the most part. There will always be those assholes that think they're cooler than everyone else, but generally it's pretty nice. It took us a while for Portland to really catch on. They are very supportive of home town bands, but since we're not technically from there, and we don't claim Portland as our home 100%, it took us a little longer.
Is it still important for new bands to move to a really influential, music minded place like Portland, Nashville or New York to make it in music?
Because of the internet I don't think it matters as much any more. It's nice to live in a place where there are an awesome selection of good venues to play. But it's not needed.
Is there an idea behind what you want your music to do, and how it makes people feel?
Well, we obviously want people to like it... ha. As far as the feeling it's supposed to invoke, we'll let the individual decide that. John's lyrics can be a little vague, so it can mean different things to different people. I like that.
Your fourth album, The Satanic Satanist was recently released. How would you describe it?
It's our most thought out record for sure. This was the first one that we didn't record with friends. We were a little intimidated about going in with some big names. But it made us work hard in pre production. I guess it was good because we've never really worked out songs before we went in the studio. We were very happy with how it turned out. It's our most straightforward album as far as structure goes, but our most experimental record regarding production and synths.
You released an acoustic accompaniment too. What was the motivation behind that?
We always have a lot of fun playing acoustic and we love putting extra things in our albums. It was all a pretty last minute decision though. We recorded that up in Seattle on my birthday. We love working with Casey Bates. He's one of our favourite people.
What’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about your music?
One guy told me we were better than The Beatles. But i think he was drunk.
Portugal. The Man play Captain’s Rest, Glasgow on 29 Oct.