With a timely new album on the way, Portugal. The Man plays Aspen
If You Go …
What: Portugal. The Man
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Sunday, March 19, 9 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out.
More info: www.bellyupaspen.com
Responding to the cultural chaos and political upheaval of the past year, Portugal. The Man scrapped an entire new album and recorded another that directly addresses our fraught moment in history.
Now the adventuresome and prolific rock band is on the road, playing new songs from “Woodstock,” the album they’ll release at some point this spring.
“I think this record is the best record we’ve done,” synth player Kyle O’Quin said from home in Portland, Oregon, last week before he and his band mates headed out on a 45-stop tour that that includes a sold-out concert at Belly Up Aspen today. “I think it’s got the best message, the best lyrics. We’re really proud of it. And it’s definitely inspired by the s— that’s been going on in the world. It’s pretty heavy.”
The Alaska-born, Portland, Oregon-based band had recorded an entire album titled “Gloomin + Doomin.” They planned to release it until lead singer and guitarist John Gourley took a trip home to Wasila, Alaska, that changed the band’s plans. Gourley saw his father’s original ticket stub from Woodstock in 1969, talked to his dad about that watershed festival and the impact of music on the social movements of the time. Looking at an America that’s tearing itself apart again, he rethought the kind of music he wanted Portugal. The Man to make right now.
“That was kind of the inspiration for it,” O’Quin said. “It seemed like a time when music, in the culture, couldn’t be more prevalent and important.”
The band has trashed whole albums before, he said. Before the triumph of 2013’s Danger Mouse-produced “Evil Friends,” they discarded another full record.
“Sometimes we have to write 15 good songs to get the five right ones,” he said.
Some scraps from previously abandoned songs also made it into the new project. A lyric the band had tried to work with — “I’m a rebel just for kicks” — had gone through many permutations over the past three years, including a session with the Beastie Boys’ Mike D producing, before landing in the chorus of the new single “Feel It Still.”
“We always have some core ideas and we never know when or how it’s going to come out,” O’Quin said.
The band has released an innovative, interactive video for “Feel It Still,” which links to social justice organizations and allows the viewer to find “tools for resistance.” The video includes clickable Easter eggs that provide a direct phone number to the White House, explanations of the rights protestors, donation sites for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, protest poster designs and stencil kits for protest graffiti.
“We feel strongly about our opinions on things, but we don’t like to overtly push our politics — just like I don’t like it when people push religion on me,” O’Quin said. “I think the stuff in our new video is cool because it’s not in your face and it just lets you find ways to help people if you’re interested.”
The band hasn’t yet announced a release date for “Woodstock,” though it’ll come out at some point during the spring tour. Until it does, O’Quin said, the band will be previewing a handful of new songs in concert while also playing more familiar ones from previous records.
The upbeat and danceable pop of “Feel It Still” is one sound on “Woodstock,” but O’Quin said it contains a much wider constellation of styles than what we’ve heard so far.
“There’s a whole other side of the record — it’s dark and it has a lot of hip-hop influences,” O’Quin said. “It’s nothing the band hasn’t done before, but it’s a completely new sound.”
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