In a creative rut, singer and guitarist John Gourley went to visit his father in his home state of Alaska. A conversation with the elder Gourley about his experience at the 1969 Woodstock music festival inspired John to rekindle the way that era’s music interacted with the political landscape so directly.
The band decided that Gloomin + Doomin was not the record for this point in time, and scrapped it.
But although the group was back to square one, there was no lack of inspiration, explains bassist Zach Carothers by phone. There’s no release date for the new record, Woodstock, but its first single has emerged, and the band’s kicked off a six-week tour, which hits Mr. Smalls on March 27.
The band hopes that Woodstock will inspire a return to collective empathy, emulating the unity and desire for action that surrounded the original Woodstock.
“It’s so powerful seeing people uniting for a common cause. Seeing people come together is the most beautiful thing,” says Carothers.
There’s a good chance Portugal. The Man will share parts of Woodstock on this tour, but how much will be revealed is still a mystery, even to the band.
It’s a safe bet show-goers will hear “Feel It Still,” a playful showcase for the stark juxtapositions that make Portugal. The Man’s music so interesting. The groovy bass line and irresistible hook make for a song that oozes coolness, touching on decadent rebellion “just for kicks” as a way to seriously poke at the dangers of apathy.
Although the song’s protagonist might use rebellion as an accessory, the video for the single serves as a subversive rallying cry to push back against the system. Working with ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, the band crafted an interactive video featuring 30 “Easter eggs” that ultimately create a #Resistance toolkit.
When viewed on http://feelitstill.com, the video features clickable pop-up links that take the viewer to, say, donation pages for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, or sites detailing how to stencil and place wheat-paste street art.
At one point in the video, a Sikh man tosses away a burning newspaper titled “Info Wars” in exchange for the “Combat fake news” Easter egg. This prompted Alex Jones, the goblin-disguised-as-a-man who runs Infowars.com, to post a ranting video in which he manically chastised the band for insinuating his outlet was the enemy.
A headline on InfoWars this month referred to the band as “Pro-Soros Rockers.”
“We were definitely expecting backlash, but that escalated so quickly!” says Carothers, laughing. “But it’s good to cause some kind of commotion.”
Still, Carothers says he didn’t expect it to be so polarizing: “Since when is standing up for human rights a radical action?”