Indie pop group Portugal. The Man hit up the Majestic over spring break, and those of us who weren’t around to see it should be hella sad. Madison was only a quick stop on Portugal’s current tour, one to show off their upcoming album release.
Fans have already heard one song off the new album, Woodstock, called “Feel It Still.” Those who have heard the song can attest to its greatness, giving fans a sure clue as to the rest of the album. This is where our sadness comes in — those of us who missed the Madison concert can’t say, “Ya heard it here first, folks.”
In any case, the new album is something to look forward to. Their last album, Evil Friends, came out in 2013, so it’s about time the band came out with something new, especially after their trend of having something new out roughly every year.
According to their website, Portugal. The Man believes “the world continues to burn like an avalanche of flaming biohazard material sliding down a mountain of used needles into a canyon full of rat feces,” and Woodstock is meant to acknowledge it.
The Badger Herald got to speak with Zach Carothers, the band’s bassist/backing vocalist, about their new album, tour and what it took to get there.
Carothers said the band doesn’t really have a set creative process. For them, it’s always changing, but they try to play every day to get ideas flowing.
“Feel It Still” came out of a day in the studio working on other stuff, Carothers said. John Gourley, the band’s lead vocalist/writer, sat in a side room and came up with it, and the song was recorded that day.
“You never really know, you have to be ready for anything,” Carothers said.
This process must work well for Portugal, as they’ve released seven albums since the formation of their band in 2006, landing them an impressive list of songs. Since their beginning, Portugal. The Man has put much more thought into their music — probably too much, Carothers said.
“We overthink ourselves constantly,” Carothers said. “All day, everyday.”
Spending time in the studio or working with a producer allows the band to look at their work in new ways.
“We always learn a lot about ourselves, about music, about songwriting,” Carothers said. “We learn what to do, we learn what not to do.”
This outlook has allowed the band to approach each new album with more knowledge than the last, and each new album teaches them something new, Woodstock included, Carothers said.
Sometimes, however, not every idea works out. Before Woodstock came along, the band was working on a collection called Gloomin + Doomin. In the end, they decided to trash it, despite the fact they worked on it for about three years.
“It was a little scary, but also felt really good,” Carothers said. “We put too much into it and we had too many layers in it. We completely lost perspective on the songs.”
They decided that because their perspective in the album was lost, as well as their emotion and connection to it, they had to drop it and move on, Carothers said. They also saw destruction in the world around them, and thought that starting fresh and finding an outlet for their music in that would be the best idea.
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Inspired by finding an old ticket stub from the original Woodstock and the memory of all the culture that came out of it, Woodstock was born. Talking about how Woodstock was a way for music and art to stand up to something, Portugal. The Man was driven to use that same mindset about their new album, to stand up to everything that is now our current reality, Carothers said.
“A lot of our music has always dealt with our interpretation of social climates or just whatever is going on in the world right now,” Carothers said.
The band finds themselves writing music to acknowledge and stand up for equality and how everybody deserves basic human rights, though their music isn’t inherently political, Carothers said. Although their content may sound political, Carothers said he doesn’t know why things like clean water and equality should be considered that way.
“Being treated equally is very, very important to us,” Carothers said.
This mentality is something that fans can look forward to with their new album, though its release date is still unknown. Madison’s show was sure to be a good distraction from the tease of its release, and an entertaining one at that.