John Baldwin Gourley, founder of Portugal. The Man, was so sweet over the phone that I neglected to ask him about the silly period in the middle of their band name.
Made in Alaska, but based in Portland and Seattle as well, the band seems to always be on tour. Gourley says they wrote more songs in this album spontaneously, where ideas drove the songwriting more than anything else. The trio discusses the direction of the songs–will it be groove based? Faster? A sit down and laid back song? “Everything we do is so in the moment,” Gourley explained.
The result is a more rocking, hippie-ish, Zeppelin-esque sound on their second full-length, “Church Mouth.” (More than their debut set, “Waiter: “You Vultures!” anyway.) Gourley says, “we’re still about songs and songwriting, we’re just a lot louder.”
I redeemed myself slightly when I questioned where name Portugal. The Man came from: “It started out with meaning, with the idea that it was creating a character of a solo project…like David Bowie or James Brown, where the icon equals the biggest thing there is,” he said. “In picking the name and creating this characgter — we picked a random country — it became a group of people with our place in the world, with one like mind — the way countries come together,” Gourley explained further.
(Translation: In the beginning, Gourley was a solo artist who wrote songs that everyone jammed to. Now it is more of a real band with a drummer and a rhythm section.)
The beauty of having a set crew playing music together, he said, was being able to expand on the songs. It became, said Gourley, so much easier and so much fun. “We’d opened it up…you have to play songs live get a feeling for them,” he said.
Luckily, Gourley is better with songs than with directions. On tour, “I just get in a van and drive,” he said. “I never know the name of the place we’re playing,” he said. “Especially with GPS, it just says you’re here and you don’t know where here is.”
Since he doesn’t watch football, drinks Mexican beer and loves straight up cheddar, you can understand why what he knows about Milwaukee can be attributed solely to Alice Cooper in “Wayne’s World.” “I watched that every day,” he said.
If you go
Who Portugal. The Man with Rocky Votolato
Where Stonefly Brewery, 735 E. Center St.
When 9 p.m., Friday, Sept. 21