There has to be some credit given for this band’s name alone — co-founder John Gourley once explained it as an attempt to create a demi-mythic entity bigger than the individual members. Formed in Wasilla, Alaska, experimental indie pop group Portugal. The Man grew out of the ashes of Anatomy of a Ghost, a post-hardcore band whose vocalist and guitarist — Gourley and Zach Carothers, respectively — opted to continue working together. Rounding out the new band’s lineup was keyboardist/singer Wes Hubbard, himself a veteran of other Alaskan groups, and the trio eventually relocated from Alaska to Portland, Oregon. Their initial existence in the Pacific Northwest was the typical hardscrabble life of a band with few resources, but drummer Jason Sechrist (formerly of Konmai Defense System) joined to form a more stable lineup. The band’s profile received a boost from the Internet (the musicians made heavy use of MySpace and PureVolume for promotional purposes), and Portugal. The Man released an EP in 2005 before issuing their debut album, Waiter: You Vultures!, in early 2006.
In 2007, the group (whose lineup had once again reverted to three members, as Hubbard had left and was replaced by touring keyboardist Ryan Neighbors) issued Church Mouth, whose aggressive sound bore traces of Led Zeppelin and Jane’s Addiction. The bandmates then opted to finance their third record themselves, drawing upon a wealth of guest musicians — including trombonists, trumpeters, and violinists — to create the eclectic Censored Colors. In 2009 the group released The Satanic Satanist, which became their first record to chart on the Billboard 200. They quickly followed it with the mellower and more electronic American Ghetto, and the band signed with Atlantic Records later in 2010.
Guitarist Noah Gersh joined the lineup for Portugal. The Man’s 2011 summer tour, and the group recorded its major-label debut album, In the Mountain in the Cloud, in late 2011. Produced by John Hill and mixed by Andy Wallace, it was released in July of 2012. Around that time, Sleep Forever, a 13-minute short directed by Michael Ragen and shot entirely in Gourley’s hometown, premiered on the Independent Film Channel. It would be the last recording for members Sechrist and Neighbors, who were replaced by drummer Kane Ritchotte and keyboardist Kyle O’Quin. Portugal. The Man enlisted Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) as producer for 2013’s Evil Friends, which was released in June of 2013. They returned to the studio in 2014 with the Beastie Boys’ Mike D for their eighth studio album. The recordings were eventually scrapped, however, and the band emerged in 2017 with fresh material via the self-produced Woodstock. Led by the single “Feel It Still,” it was named in honor of the 1969 festival and their attempt to “say something that mattered” in a context of sociopolitical unrest. ~ Ned Raggett