Coachella Band Preview: Portugal. The Man

It’s been over a week since Coachella released their 2018 lineup. Tickets went on sale last Friday and sold out in just over 3 1/2 hours. Preparations have officially begun. So if you’re headed to the desert this April, I hope you’ve been listening to one of Coachella’s Spotify playlists or curating your own. I’ve checked out Coachella’s (which are so good by the way!) and already found 1 or 2 new bands to listen to. They might even get previewed leading up to the festival.

First thing’s first though, it’s time to get into the first band preview of the year. I bought this group’s latest album while in NYC a few weeks ago. I decided to buy it at random too, only knowing two songs from the album. It was a great decision and understandably so as it’s already been nominated for a Grammy. Although this blog post is a few weeks overdue, let me tell you a little something about Portugal. The Man.

Portugal. The Man has been around for quite a while before their latest album, Woodstock, and hit single “Feel It Still” invaded music charts over the last year. Hailing from Wasilla, Alaska, they formed in 2004 as a side project band of lead singer John Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers. The band has gone through several lineup changes but Gourley and Carothers have been the true mainstays. Currently they’re joined by Kyle O’Quin on keyboards/synth, Jason Sechrist on drums, and Eric Howk on guitar. I would try to explain their band name, but it’s a bit complicated so I’ll let this 2009 interview description by John Gourley do it, “It’s hard to explain, but it made perfect sense at the time. Over the 5 years that we’ve had the band name it’s just kind of gotten lost, but the idea was that we wanted to back somebody up. I guess in choosing Portugal, it was just kind of a random choice. We really wanted a country to be the name of our person because a country is a group of people. The man just states that Portugal is a person. So really Portugal is the band’s name and the man is just stating that he is the man.” They released demos in the summer of 2004 and embarked on a U.S. tour that fall. They released their debut album Waiter: “You Vultures!” on January 24, 2006.

In June 2007, they released their sophomore album Church Mouth and toured for the following year both in the U.S. and Europe in support of it. In 2008, the band released yet another record, Censored Colors, their third full length album. 2009 brought the band festival spots at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza as well as a fourth album, The Satanic Satanist, and  The Majestic Majesty, an acoustic album of The Satanic Satanist. The band released another new album, American Ghetto, in 2010 marking the band’s fifth album in five years. 2010 also marked Portugal. The Man’s first Coachella appearance. Following suit of the previous years, their sixth album came out in July of 2011 after the band signed with record label, Atlantic Records in April 2010 (they had previously been a part of Fearless Records as well as a partnership with Equal Vision Records). The album, In the Mountain in the Cloud, brought the band another two years of touring and two more stops at Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

In 2012, Portugal. The Man did not release a new album, but in 2013, they did. They released their seventh full length album, Evil Friends. The album featured backing vocals by Danielle and Este Haim of fellow Coachella 2018 act, Haim. They announced an eighth album in 2016, but said album “failed to complete” and was scrapped after 3 years of work. After the lead single “Feel It Still” was released in March, the band dropped, Woodstock on June 16, 2017. With the success of “Feel It Still”, which has topped music charts nationwide, Woodstock has become the band’s most successful album to date after 13 years and seven previous albums.

Portugal. The Man plays an alternative rock style of music with a somewhat psychedelic/jam band flavor as well. At times their music even sounds a bit experimental. Their sound has definitely progressed and changed throughout the years and through each album. Gourley’s vocals have been a defining factor in their sound though.

I found out about Portugal. The Man while working as a radio DJ during college on my school’s radio station. Our station specialized in alternative, rap, and metal, and I had a weekly alternative radio show in which I would play a mix of my own songs combined with the music on our system. One of the songs I used to play during my show was the Portugal. The Man song “People Say”. I remember when the alternative director and her boyfriend introduced me to the band one time while we were in the studio together.  There may have been one or two other Portugal. The Man songs available on our rotation but I routinely played and enjoyed “People Say”.

I partially kept up with Portugal. The Man after I graduated and ended my radio show. I was into and downloaded the songs “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue” and “Modern Jesus” after Evil Friends came out. However, I was never fully into Portugal. The Man. The first time I heard “Feel It Still” was this past summer in August (I know I was so late) on a fellow Coachella coworker’s Snapchat story. I was into it immediately upon first listen. I didn’t know whose song it was either and I thought it might be by the band Electric Guest. The song sounded similar to their song “This Head I Hold”. All I knew was I was hooked no matter what. I was surprised to find out it was Portugal. The Man because it just didn’t fit the sound I was used to from them. It was and still is an absolute banger though.

Like I’ve said in my last two blogs, as well as earlier in this one, I purchased Woodstock a few weeks ago just because of my interest in “Feel It Still” and “Live in the Moment” (another great track from that record). I don’t own any other Portugal. The Man records either, despite knowing about them and having a slight interest in their music for several years now. Within the first few days of owning the record, I had it spinning on repeat. It’s great. I even put it on my list of favorite albums from 2017 after owning it for only two weeks prior to writing that blog.

Portugal. The Man plays Sunday night this year at Coachella. My guess is they play the main stage prior to Eminem. This is Portugal. The Man’s third Coachella. They played in 2010, as I mentioned, and 2013. If I was attending this year, I’d definitely have them on my must see list. My only concern is that they have such a large discography that I’m not sure what they’d play or what I’d know. Hence listening prep is key here. I wouldn’t spend hours listening to all 8 albums they’ve released. I would just get a few of their older hits and focus on the last 2-3 albums. Their most recent stuff is what’s given them the spotlight anyway, making it the obvious choice for set list selection. At least at this point you have plenty of time regardless. 3 months is so far, yet so so close that you can taste that sunshine and those good vibes.

Edit: I’m sorry everyone! Totally messed this up and forgot to put song recommendations to listen to so here they are (better late than never!):

1. Feel It Still

2. Live in the Moment

3. Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue

4. People Say

5. Modern Jesus

6. So Young

7. Noise Pollution

8. Rich Friends

9. Easy Tiger

10. So American

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