Portugal. The Man makes one last indie label hurrah

Portugal. The Man’s newest album “American Ghetto” strays even further from its typical indie-rock style and dabbles more into a psychedelic funk-pop, at times sounding strikingly similar to early Radiohead.

The new album also is the last off its former indie label Equal Vision.

In the beginning of the month, the band signed a deal with industry giant Atlantic Records, but front man John Gourley doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression about the move.

“(They) have no desire to mess with what we’re doing,” Gourley said. “I think that’s a misconception of those labels.”

Actually, if anything, Gourley thinks moving to a larger label will enhance the band’s creative energy, as it now has access to a large selection of producers and skilled personnel that before had to be outsourced. 

“We got to speak with all the producers that we wanted to talk to,” Gourley said. “Where as before there was only a handful of people we could get in touch with — if you don’t have a label, you’re paying with your own money out of pocket.”

Instead of seeing Atlantic as the end of the road for Portugal. The Man’s musical career, the band sees it as a move that will set a new standard of professionalism and work ethic, one of the attributes that they immediately took note of.

“The thing I noticed going in was just how well everybody got along, and the way they got along wasn’t the way you see people interacting,” Gourley said. “It was obviously a work environment and there was a lot of respect, but there’s also a lot of trust.”

Working with new producers requires quite a bit of trust, especially when in-house producers for major record labels have to produce everyone from T.I. to indie rockers like Portugal. The Man.

Gourley said the band’s output will be another interesting aspect to explore as the band begins its venture into the corporate music world. To date, the band has released six studio albums and five EPs in its four years of existence, a relatively large quantity given its rigorous touring schedule.   

“You get so excited when your favorite band is putting out a new record,” Gourley said. “But the thing that we always talk about is that it’s what we do. We have a pretty lucky job, playing music. We should be doing it all the time.”

Gourley said his work ethic and motivation comes from his childhood in Alaska when he would move from town to town as his father built houses.

Growing up in the rural Alaskan communities of Healy, Knik, Glennallen and Wasilla provided inspiration for Gourley’s work in the past and seems to permeate his new album, as well. Gourley draws from smaller community life and what he finds to be a unique brand of freedom and liberty.

“You’re just living there in silence and solitude; you can pick what you want to do,” Gourley said.

Of course, small-town life has issues of its own, as Gourley would be the first to admit. But as long as it can inspire work like “American Ghetto,” residents should be proud. 

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