There are a few common traits that bands who sustain a level of success over a long period of time all seemingly share. Obviously, they must make good music. Bands can fake their way for an album or two, but the truly transcendent bands have legitimate talent. Successful groups must be able to play a good live show, and be willing to showcase that ability by near-constant touring. Especially in this day in age, bands who lack a reputation as hardworking and vibrant live performers won’t last long. Accomplished groups also have a personality, some charm or eccentricity in their collective identity that draws in fans. And (in my opinion) most importantly, for a group to maintain prolonged popularity, they must evolve. I know, we all hate change – but sometimes it’s necessary. The best bands out there have morphed their sound as they grow older, and didn’t worry about losing fickle fans along the way. Take a look at how artists like The Beatles, Radiohead, Kanye West and Pearl Jam have all changed from their first albums to the last. Without that adaptability and desire to reach new heights, a lasting impact cannot be made. Portugal. The Man released their latest and most ambitious album, Woodstock, last week to positive reviews. While not nearly on the same level as the aforementioned groups – Portugal. The Man is just another group proving that musical progression still pays off.
Portugal. The Man has come a long way since releasing their debut album, Waiter: “You Vultures!”, back in 2007. The group formed after several members left their previous group, screamo/hardcore band (you’re not the only one, Skrillex) Anatomy of a Ghost, disbanded despite growing popularity. The group moved from Portland back to their hometown in Alaska(!) and started crafting songs. Utilizing the growing popularity of online streaming sites such as Myspace, the group quickly amassed a widespread audience.
Portugal. The Man’s earliest outputs (especially their second record, Church Mouths) are raw, almost blues-y numbers in the vein of early Black Keys or, dare I say, Led Zeppelin. They were new, they were fun, and they became one of the more recognized indie rock acts of the late 2000s. The band’s prolificacy was evident early, as they released an album every year from 2006-2011. Each record was a little different, their earlier blues sound to a more psychedelic sound by the time they signed to major label Interscope prior to the release of the terrific In the Mountain in the Cloud in 2011. Evil Friends, the seventh album, marked yet another turning point, as legendary Danger Mouse hopped aboard as producer.
Evil Friends and the new Woodstock show what can happen when a band steps up their game and out of their comfort zone. The albums, especially 2013’s Evil Friends, are eclectic, genre-less masterpieces. Each song is a journey within itself, bobbing and weaving from one side to the other under the direction of sensational singer John Gourley. Horns, acoustic guitars, hip-hop rhythms, electronic riffs, loud/heavy guitars – everything is fair game for these guys. And, for real, Gourley has SERIOUS pipes and a knack for creative songwriting to boot. The rest of the band is no joke, either. Gourley once said they could play backing band for any rapper with 0 practice, and I believe him. Not to mention that, like most bands profiled on this site, these guys are just cool, down-to-earth guys. Piece together the tunes, the voice, the attitude and a producer like Danger Mouse together and the result is a fucked up, glorious musical Frankenstein. The band’s latest single “Feel It Still” has been a certified smash on the airwaves the past few months, marking new territory for the group on pop radio. But hey, they deserve the recognition and airplay. Portugal. The Man’s sound has changed drastically over the past ten years. If it hadn’t, we wouldn’t be hearing them on the radio, or seeing them play at cool venues like the Riv in Chicago, or even talking about them at all. Progress, baby!
Suggested Tracks: “Plastic Soldiers” “Tidal Wave” “Evil Friends “Sleep Forever”
Oddities: The group was formed in Wasilla, Alaska, which dips into sub-0 degree temperature several weeks every year.
Photo Credits – Radio.com