On the heels of new music released for the first time since 2013’s Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man frontman/guitarist John Gourley stopped by Reddit this past week for an AMA.
As expected, many fans were clambering to pick Gourley’s brain on PTM’s forthcoming album – Gloomin + Doomin. While the album doesn’t have a release date yet, the Portland-based psych-rockers debuted a new single this week, “Noise Pollution,” along with a music video. The video kicks off with Gourley doing push-ups in a frigid Alaskan river and wraps up as he kicks out a windshield while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. It’s been a long few years since we were last blessed with new music from PTM. It’s reassuring to know that Gourley is still a stone-cold badass.
Reactions so far from fans on Noise Pollution have been mixed. It seems to indicate that Gloomin + Doomin will take the band’s sound in a new direction. The new track is synth-heavy and poppier than much of PTM’s catalogue. I wouldn’t be surprised if it snuck its way onto some EDM playlists somewhere.
Gourley gave plenty of insight on PTM’s recent musical influences and where their sound is heading during the AMA. Here are seven takeaways:
1. The band is not afraid to go in a different direction
I would feel trapped if I was just writing rock or pop or electronic music. It’s all about drawing from all influences. It’s like [an] ever changing playlist. When we you tire of the old playlist you make a new one. Every record is treated as our first. Like it’s our first ever. That’s how we approach studio recordings.
I, for one, can’t stand when a band’s fan base gives them shit for sounding different than they have in the past. I don’t wear the same clothes or eat the same food or interact with all of the same people that I did a couple of years ago. You should expect and encourage your favorite artists to grow and change.
2. There are some clear influences driving the new record
90’s radio. Across the board. Maybe not even radio. It’s like a class of 2000 CD binder.
The thing I am most proud of with the album is the pairing of new ideas with the music we grew up on. It was too much fun sitting down to try and write a Beasties meets Outkast meets Rage Against The Machine meets Motown meets Brit Pop meets Missy Elliott meets Dead Kennedys meets Wu Tang… we shot for 90’s radio, but not in the sense that we were trying to write hits necessarily. We’ve made a record that sounds like EVERYTHING we listened to growing up while finding a clear theme lyrically. I don’t know anyone, outside of metal heads, that listen to just one genre of music. It’s all about that genre bending.
I don’t hear much of the 90s in the new single. Gourley did, however, also mention that Noise Pollution is just one piece of the puzzle, and we should expect an album full of twists and turns.
As far as what we’ll hear lyrically, it sounds as if we’ll get more of the pensive social commentary we’re used to hearing:
Theme: I just gotta be me. Lyrically it’s pretty clear. Political. Fun. Depression. Joy. Indifference.
3. Gourley’s current musical taste is all over the place
HD BeenDope, Flatbush Zombies, Sunflower Bean, Boone Howard, Minden, Hustle and Drone, Ice Queens, Electric Guest, Twin Peaks
Naturally, I dove into his recommendations. Here’s a quick sampling of the above artists:
4. Psychedelics only improve Gourley’s singing voice
Ate a bunch of mushrooms right before doing the vocal for Got It All. Couldn’t hear my voice at all. Kept asking for my vocal to be turned up in the headphones, still couldn’t hear it. That’s the performance on the record.
Got It All is one of my favorite songs off In the Mountain in the Cloud – the album that made me fall head over heels for the band.
The last time I substantially tripped on shrooms, I nearly lost my sense of being during a sweltering Vampire Weekend set at Bonnaroo in 2014. I still can’t listen to Modern Vampires of the City without flashes of PTSD. Hats off to you, John.
5. Gourley still battles stage fright and anxiety
Man, I’ve been there for sure. Even in this band. There have been times when I’ve walked off stage during shows or just done things completely out of character. I’ve made a serious effort to break out of that but it’s a part of me and always will be. It’s why I don’t speak much from stage. Just not my thing. Always been indifferent of the spotlight. You can work through that stuff though.
Gourley has been open about this over the years. The first time I saw them live was at the TLA in Philly during the summer of 2013. The TLA is a cramped, sweaty shoebox of a music venue. Gourley donned a rain jacket zipped all the way up, a hood hanging over his head and a hat pulled down low on top of his sunglasses. I admittedly found his guarded appearance off-putting at first. He didn’t say much of anything to the crowd as the band ripped through a roaring set.
I occasionally find myself trapped by my own social anxiety, though. It’s cool to know even your favorite rockstars deal with it, too. Actually not just battle the stress, but beat it.
6. Gourley’s favorite PTM songs are Sea of Air and Sleep Forever
Great picks, John. I won’t fight you on these.
It’s worth noting that the music video for Sleep Forever is incredible in its own right. Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers hail from Wasilla, Alaska. The video follows Gourley as he leads a team of sled dogs through Alaska’s breathtaking landscape.
7. While the band hasn’t grown to hate any of their old tunes, there are still regrets
If it were to come down to one for me it would be Hard Times. Never thought we should’ve recorded that one.
Hard Times appears on 2008’s Censored Colors. It opens with an ominous guitar riff as a high frequency whine leaks in and out. Gourley’s earnest, distressed falsetto rises above a frantic composition of sound. Frankly, it’s about as aggressive as PTM gets. But I’m glad they shared it with us.