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Byron Shire
April 10, 2021

From Alaska to Oz: PortUGAL the Man

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Prolific on stage and in the studio, Portugal. The Man have to released seven albums while keeping a pace of 200 shows each year since the band’s formation.

They have developed a reputation as a must-see set at every major festival across the globe, including Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, SXSW, Austin City Limits and Australia’s own Laneway, Big Day Out and Splendour In The Grass festivals.

Emerging from post-hardcore beginnings, across seven albums their sound has slowly developed into the chorus-driven, harmonic, psychedelic indie-pop that festival crowds love. Tracks like Got It All and So American have won them a league of fans around the world.

portual-the-manFrontman John Gourley spoke briefly from the US about the upcoming tour. For Portugal the Man, it seems being on the road is a way of life.

‘We have kind of always toured since the band started, pretty well non-stop. We were born and raised in Alaska – the whole band; we moved to Portland, Oregon, in a mini-van and travelled for three months.’

There’s a sense of space in Alaska that allows a person to find their own groove.

‘I guess everybody that writes or does anything creative,’ says Gourley, ‘is influenced by where they were born and raised and how they were raised. For us our major musical influence comes from the Beatles. There is something about Alaskans: we are very individual people, I guess, owing to the isolation – a lot like Australians!’

The band have just come out of studio sessions recording with Mike D from the Beastie Boys. Recording is a process that Gourley believes is a lot like making art.

‘I compare it to painting a picture: you never know when you should stop – you just stop. You know that when it’s too much you just stop. I think that’s the way my mind works and its terrible short-term memory. It’s good in music. I don’t remember playing something so it’s that much easier to get rid of it.’

So what is it about the music of the Beatles that influences a band that could be their grandchildren?

‘So many things were happening at that time of social change. It was inspiring and I guess there’s not so much of that left any more. There have been Occupy events; I went to a handful and there were these moments; and guys in a tent with beards looking like 60s Vietnam. I said stop wearing the costume!’

Gourley admits being impressed by Mike D and his amicably pissed-off approach to life.

‘He’s still punk rock; nothing fazes him at all. He’s pissed off all the time, mainly about complacency, and how frustrating it is, and in the end it’s what this new album is about – it’s about anger and the lack of interest.’

Portugal the Man play two local shows: Hotel Brunswick on Saturday at 3pm. Beach Hotel on Saturday at 7.30pm.



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