By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Zachary Carothers, bassist for the experimental rock band Portugal. The Man, knows that his band has a new album coming out soon. And he's very excited about the record.
He's just not exactly sure of the release date.
"It's coming out late March—I'm pretty sure," says Carothers, sounding a bit befuddled from moving into his recently purchased home in Portland. "We just announced it the other day, but I can't remember the exact date."
Actually, the new album will be released this week—March 2, to be precise. And despite Carothers' faulty memory, the band's sixth record, called American Ghetto, might also be the genre-bending, neo-psychedelic, skewed pop outfit's best offering to date. Led by the falsetto voice and abstract songwriting of John Gourley, Portugal. The Man just keeps getting better as the band reins in its more experimental nature. Earlier releases such as Censored Colors and The Satanic Satanist were impressive efforts that were a bit heavy on the psychedelic side of the spectrum—sometimes at the expense of Gourley's obvious love of pop music.
Carothers says things are different these days.
"John writes all the songs, and he is an incredible songwriter, and we now structure his songs to be a little more accessible," the bassist says. "That's what we're aiming for—because John and I love pop music. We were raised on The Beatles."
Carothers and Gourley probably had a lot of time to listen to the songs of McCartney and Lennon, seeing that the pair grew up in, of all places, the cold weather confines of Wasilla, Alaska. Yes, that Wasilla, home of Sarah Palin, former Republican vice presidential candidate and current Fox News commentator. Carothers had his run-ins with Palin when he was petitioning the Wasilla City Council to build a skate park.
"I had some dealings with her personally," Carothers says with a sigh. "I was a teenager, and I had to go into city council meetings and argue with Palin for two and a half years."
Carothers realizes that coming from the same city as the conservative firebrand has brought the band some attention it may have never received, but the bassist chose not to address Palin's political leanings.
"It's just kind of weird having people know where your hometown is," Carothers says.
And, to be fair, any past contact with Palin is inconsequential when considering Portugal. The Man's fresh take on indie pop. Each new album reveals interesting facets of the band. And, with each tour, the group's fan base continues to grow.
That last point still amazes Carothers.
"I'm surprised that a band that I play in has any kind of following at all," he says.
Hell, if Palin can find some form of mass appeal, why can't Portugal. The Man?