[EXPERIMENTAL INDIE] On the surface, the history of Portugal. The Man follows the accepted path of band evolution: Start playing music with your friends, get signed, tour the country and then the world. But beneath the formula, the quartet's history is almost as circuitous as the reasoning behind the band's cryptic name.
"We wanted to give it that singular person name without necessarily going by one of our names," says singer/guitarist John Gourley. (Speaking of conundrums, Gourley hardly embodies the frontman archetype—he says he used to be "painfully shy" and still hides onstage in a hoodie and hat with his back to the audience.) P.TM says it chose a country to represent a group of people and tacked "The Man" on to represent the individual, with a period in the middle to keep the two pieces separate. Lost? While the band's explanation may not bear any resemblance to actual logic, Gourley says the name's meaning is lost to antiquity at this point: "It's just the name of the band."
Antiquity for Gourley and bassist Zach Carothers dates back to 2004, when the two started P.TM in their home state of Alaska along with founding member Wes Hubbard. Gourley and Carothers had moved home after their first, Portland-based band, the less confusingly titled Anatomy of a Ghost, broke up. Though they intended to stay in AK upon returning, the longtime friends ran into a strange problem: Despite the fact that AOAG played the Vans Warped Tour and had toured the country, its members didn't know how to book shows in their own hometown. (P.TM is finally playing its first shows in Alaska this weekend, only days before the release of its second album, Church Mouth, on prominent California indie Fearless Records.)
And things didn't get any more normal after Gourley and Carothers moved back to Portland later in '04. They were saving up to record P.TM's debut, Waiter: "You Vultures!" (note the similarly punctuation-happy name), and between writing, playing locally and P.TM's first national tour, "We just never found time or reason to get a place," Gourley says. Instead, the indie-prog outfit ended up couch-surfing for a year and playing in other bands' practice spaces. "We didn't plan on being homeless as long as we were," says Gourley. But it was enough of a strain that Hubbard left the band; he was replaced by drummer Jason Sechrist (formerly of Konami Defense System).
In hindsight, Gourley says, "It was really surreal the way it all came together." Hard to argue with that. .
Portugal. The Man plays Monday, July 23, with PlayRadioPlay!, The Photo Atlas and Shepherds of Ontario at Satyricon. 7:30 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. All ages.