On road again: PTM plans tour, album
On their journey from Alaskan band to a No. 1 hitmaker, Portugal The Man spent most of their time touring and playing shows — while calling Portland home.
Well, in the past 15 months, they called Portland home and stayed home because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutting down of any and all live music.
They'll be heading back out on the road again, like a lot of bands, as Portugal The Man plans a three-month tour that kicks off July 25 at the Wonderstruck Festival in Cleveland, Ohio, and concludes Oct. 23. The tour includes stops at McMenamins Edgefield (Oct. 15) and Eugene's Cuthbert Auditorium (Oct. 16).
They're also in the studio working on a new album and have a new release called "Ulu Selects Vol. #1," which includes versions of such songs as "Feel It Still" — the longest running No. 1 hit on the alternative chart — and "Live in the Moment" from the album "Woodstock."
It's a whirlwind of activity for band leaders John Gourley (the singer) and Zach Carothers (the bass player). The natives of Alaska return to their home state for the Alaska State Fair on the tour.
Oh, and they dropped the period from their odd name. It used to be Portugal. The Man, and it's now Portugal The Man. The alter ego name was based on the idea of David Bowie's "bigger than life" fame; it's a random name of a country that sounded cool and a country features a group of people, band members explain.
Carothers, on a phone call from the band's studio sessions in Los Angeles, said it's an exciting time to be making music and planning for shows.
"We'll be flying around quite a bit, getting our sea legs back, figuring out how to do things and be around a lot of people again," he said. "We adapted so quickly to being hermits. We're excited to see what has changed, from our perspective of solitude, and what we can put into our live show. I think it's a new normal. Maybe backstage will be a little less chaotic. Probably learned some lessons that we'll use."
The band is rehearsing, writing and recording as it works on a new album that could come out next year.
In the past 15 months, "we forgot about how to do anything," Carothers said, half-jokingly. "We didn't practice, but hung out all the time and worked on other things. We did one show, and some other stripped down things.
"We swapped (practice) spaces, getting rid of a warehouse in Southeast and building up a house in Mt. Scott as our band house. We're taking our time, we get in there and practice. We're getting ready for all these shows." Carothers and Gourley own land on the Sandy River in Troutdale, and Gourley's house has been fixed up with a small studio. Carothers hasn't had much work done on his space (because of permit issues), which often serves as a glorified hangout space and river entry spot.
Carothers said being home was good for the band, as "everybody needed that." Carothers, Gourley and fellow members Kyle O'Quin, Eric Howk, Jason Sechrist and Zoe Manville got used to home time.
He added: "It just slowed things down. We got to be at home more than at any time of our lives. I'm not a fan of the pandemic and quarantine, but it was a special time. I look on the bright side of everything."
Band members also were busy on their foundation, which focuses on Indigenous people.
"Ulu Selects Vol. #1" is a collection of some of the band's favorite songs. Meanwhile, work continues on a new album.
"We're writing a lot of songs, just fine-tuning things," Carothers said. "We start songs every day, and finishing them is another story. Finishing songs is the goal."
Meanwhile, it is still "strange" to have such success in their background, he added. "Feel It Still" spent 20 weeks at No. 1 on the alternative chart, and became a universally liked and enjoyed song. Britney Spears danced on Instagram to the song. The band won a Grammy Award for best pop duo/group performance for the song in 2018.
Such success has opened doors for the band, said Carothers, who admittedly feels as comfortable eating a bag of chips and taking a nap on a park bench as he does eating at a Michelin-rated restaurant and staying in a five-star hotel.
"To be fair, it worked out well, but we're not famous, everyone knows that song, not everyone knows who did it or who we are," he said. "We don't get hassled. … I'm going to grab a coffee and people are not going to care about me.
"We've never been a real personality, not 'in your face,' we don't have that thing. Everybody in this band is quite a character; there're no go-getters who say 'I want to be a star.' It's kind of perfect, we're left alone, but that song has opened so many doors in the music industry, we've been allowed in rooms we shouldn't be allowed in. It's pretty cool. We're all about experience."
Carothers said the band feels some pressure to match success from the "Feel It Still" days.
"That song was so big, it takes away pressure — 'Shoot, we can't do that again,'" he said. "But, maybe we'll make a bigger song."
For more: www.portugaltheman.com.
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