Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man is stuck in the frenzy zone. In half a dozen years it made just as many albums and tours more in a year than most bands do in a lifetime. Though the band signed to a major label years ago, the biggest of its opportunities only recently took shape.
“We were in the middle of recording our new album and John (Gourley) got a call saying that we are going to work with Danger Mouse,” said Zach Carothers, bassist and one of the two founding members of the band. “It kind of threw a wrench in everything.”
In the band’s most recent album, “Evil Friends,” Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, whose omnipresence shines through in the likes of Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells, took the band under his wing. He also aided in the celebrated works of Jack White, Gorillaz and The Black Keys.
“You can’t pass up an opportunity to work with him,” Carothers said. “He’s kind of untouchable,. We never thought we’d get to work with him. It was an amazing experience and we learned … a lot.”
From the start, the act spent its time searching for perfection. Eventually, Portugal learned to slow down and let the creation reveal itself. Each of its previous albums, though unique in its own right, was generally written and recorded with each musician determining his own contributions to the final product. It was a tried-and-true method Portugal had almost completed once again before news broke that Burton signed on to produce the band’s next album.
“It was all a collaboration from the start,” said Carothers. “We’re hands on, but it wasn’t like Danger Mouse did 50 percent and we did this percent. We all did it together. He basically joined our band to do the record.”
Historically, Portugal. The Man relied not on popular styles of music, but on a following of fans who loved its DIY model. The act found nominal success with its early work in a 2009 release of “The Satanic Satanist.” It included the pop-heavy single, “People Say,” which was widely accepted by music lovers and which broadened Portugal’s audience. Thus it transformed from a band beloved in the sacred circles of the super-indie, hip kids to a revolutionary and universally enjoyed sound.
Portugal. The Man promises an odd, yet sometimes beguiling, dynamic with each song. It creates itself anew with every release, yet maintains the same distinctive sound that separates it from other psychedelic ensembles.
Its previous and subsequent album releases fueled its popularity enough that it gets gigs from Bonnaroo to South by Southwest and plenty of places overseas. Prior to this most recent album, however, Portugal lacked familiarity with producer-directed production.
“We didn’t want it to be too thought out or too planned out,” Carothers said. “We like a little bit of slop to our recordings. It’s what makes it rock and roll. It has a lot of that whole personal, human quality to it.”
“Evil Friends” combines the same consciousness-expanding energy with numbing aural effects as previous albums, but withstands definition by being neither dance-a-thon soundtrack nor bedtime melody. On the track “Hip Hop Kids,” the band explores its own brand of hip-hop that superfans always suspected lurked under the band’s psychedelic surface. Danger Mouse made it happen. The group cooked with the same ingredients, but altered the recipe under a new chef to give this album a little extra kick.
Portugal. The man is scheduled to play Red Rocks July 5 in an opening slot for The Avett Brothers.
“Red Rocks is arguably one of the most beautiful venues in the country,” Carothers said. “We had absolutely no idea that we’d ever be playing there. I’ve never seen a show there. I’m really excited.”
Hardly a stranger to the state, Portugal consistently sells out all along the Front Range. It hits Telluride and Aspen at just about the midway point of the ongoing tour the weekend of July 4.
“We have more friends in Colorado than anywhere else,” Carothers said. “On our very first tour, we kind of got stranded in Colorado. ...We were hanging out at the Fear Before The March of Flames house for about a week, and we became really good friends. Everybody is cool there — the fans, everyone. It always seems like people in Colorado just go above and beyond. It’s actually pretty rare.”