Band origins can get frustratingly redundant, as almost every band seems to emerge out of Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, and about a handful of other cities whose cultures bleed music. Let’s meet a refreshing outlier, Portugal, The Man. This indie rock band hails all the way from the assumingly beautiful Wasilla, Alaska, the fifth largest city by populace in the largest geographical state in the country. Social Studies snippets aside, the members of this band began playing together in their local high school in a screamo-punk band known as “Anatomy of a Ghost”. Their origins and influences lie heavily in mid-20th century classics like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, as many of them such as lead singer John Gourley lived in incredibly secluded areas of the state where their selection of listening materials was limited to whatever their parents had brought with them out into their respectively seperated cabins.
In an interview with All The Rage TV, Gourley had one of my favorite insightful yet calm monologues about the song writing process within the music industry, stating “To me, you have to be true to yourself; you have to be honest about who you are. Relating all this stuff to music, I see bands all the time go into the studio, friends’ bands go into the studio, and hear changes in their music. You can tell they’re like…they’re trying to write a ‘pop record’ or whatever, you know? Like ‘I want to make something that’s gonna be on the radio!’ You can’t really do that unless that’s who you are. The reason Britney Spears works, and Christina Aguilera, and Rhianna, and Odd Future…the reason that works is because that’s who they are. They grew up in Nashville and they had people trying to pick them up all the time to be on Colombia or Universal or whatever. Like they created pop songs and that’s what they wanna be and that’s what they wanna do. You can’t do that as an outsider. You can’t listen to the radio and go ‘Oh, umbrella (Rhianna song)…that’s it? That’s what I gotta do? Easy.’ That’s stuff’s hard. It’ hard work. You’ve gotta be honest.”
John Gourley and his company in Portugal, The Man may be a overly casual, crunchy Alaskan crew, but that theory of lineage is absolutely correct. Bands need to consistently progress, pivot, change and mold if they are to stay topical, but that doesn’t mean that they should be building their brand using unjustifiably loose extensions. Portugal, The Man has few influences within the realms of “radio quality” genres, but that divergence is understood and accepted. Simply put kids, don’t sell out, you’re the best you their is. Was that life lesson banal and cheesy enough for you on this beautiful Monday? Yeah, I’d assume so.