Much of the year, the horizon in Alaska is awash with shadowy tones. Peeks of light shine through the clouded haze. Alaska-formed band Portugal. The Man have a dark, dreamy psych-rock sound that almost mimics that sweetly somber skyline. Frontman John Baldwin Gourley’s falsetto rings as crystalline as that horizon and as beautifully strange as the art that he creates for their album covers, posters, and the spontaneous art he drew over their spray painted name after Portugal. The Man’s performance at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ.
Despite the other names scrawled across the wall, Gourley’s art left the space differently transformed just as much as Portugal. The Man’s thundering instrumentation shook the rafters so hard that residual confetti from Matt and Kim’s show in the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ floated angelically down over Gourley’s head through the purple, yellow, red, and blue lighting.
A band with such intense attention to artistic detail and with their moody seventh full length studio album, Evil Friends, must have thematic meanings behind their sound, but Gourley asserts that theme is just a product of timing. “When you end up writing all during one period, it’s going to be along similar lines.”
Judging from what host Nicole Alvarez calls the “perfection” of their newest album, the band’s recent work with super-producer Danger Mouse was along similar lines to their aesthetic, too. Portugal. The Man said that Danger Mouse asked to work with them but he ended up being a “classic producer” who brought out the best in them the same way George Martin from Beatles fame would or Tony Viscounti did with David Bowie and Marc Bolan.
“He’s really good at doing that,” explained Gourley about Danger Mouse’s “really supportive recording atmosphere.” “And he can say no whenever he feels like it but it’s always ‘I know you can do better,’” added the frontman.
People that don’t think Portugal. The Man needs to do anything better are their fans. The band is incredibly active on Facebook and Twitter and apparently recruited their social media army to help find their stolen stuff after an awful 2011 Lollapalooza jacking of their trailer. Gourley joked that they “didn’t expect everything to be stolen,” but bassist Zachary Carothers said that the City of Chicago, police, and fans, were really helpful. “They ended up finding almost all of our gear and we’re still recorving some of our pieces a year and half later,” he explained.
Portugal. The Man is used to this kind of chaos. The band has been through many different line-ups, but has been called by some as the “hardest working band ever.” But Gourley stresses that the hard work is because practice makes perfect.
“When this band started the whole point was to play music as much as possible and to record music as much as possible,” explained Gourley. “So, it’s all kind of been out of practice and trying to get better at what we do.”
After a sold-out show at The Wiltern, it’s not just hard work or practice, it’s just plain old talent which multi-faceted artists Portugal. The Man have in enviable excess.
–Nadia Noir, KROQ