It’s almost unprecedented that a band nabs its biggest and only commercially charting single more than a decade into the career. That’s what happened to Portugal. The Man though. ‘Feel It Still’, the first single off their eighth album Woodstock, blew up in a big way and took them from a cult favourite to a band mentioned in the same breath as giants like Coldplay.
The song nabbed them a Grammy and cracked the top 10 both here and in the US, but if you think you’re going to see a totally different band when they come down here for Groovin The Moo, you’re wrong. Portugal The Man are the same groovy, adventurous band they’ve always been and they’re about to prove it to you on the GTM tour.
The band will be back in the country from April playing the festival plus a few sideshows. It will be their first shows in the country since the release of Woodstock.
Ahead of the visit, Music Feeds spoke to drummer Jason Sechrist about whether a huge hit changes everything, and how the old material fits into a new set.
Music Feeds: It’s been a bit of a crazy few months of touring for you guys, yeah?
Jason Sechrist: Yeah, we’ve got a lot of shows locked in for 2018, that’s for sure.
MF: How has it been touring this time around? The success you’ve had with this album is totally different to the past albums?
JC: We’ve definitely had a bigger crowd come in and enjoy the shows so that’s kind of a neat thing to be playing big, sold-out shows and having a good amount of new audience members to come and check us out and see if they like us or not.
MF: Often huge commercial success by an alternative band is the result of a band purposefully entering the pop sphere, but for you guys it happened very organically and the original fans are still totally on board. Does that feel good to have both new and old crowds enjoying the music?
JC: Yeah, I think each record kind of caters to…you know, it might reach out the young, might reach out the old. We’ve always done a good job of that but this time around the audience has gotten some broader radio hits to latch onto and see if they like those. It’s a great experience to have that happen organically. All the ads and everything are working for us. Those are all a lot of fun.
MF: Congratulations on the Grammy Award a few weeks ago and all the chart success. What’s the most gratifying thing to you guys?
JC: My favourite part of it personally is a lot of hard work and different forms of recognition are always a nice thing. They’re an extra nice touch. It’s nice to see the end results, that makes it real special.
MF: Do you feel like when it comes to following up Woodstock there will be a bit of pressure? Or are you a band that are really good at blocking out those external pressures?
JC: The pressure is always there really if you’re touring and trying to be a relevant band and always having something to say. In terms of how the charts work, that part of it might be a little more of a stresser but we try not to think about those type of things. Let it happen.
MF: Was there ever a point in your career when you started monitoring how your records were performing on the charts?
JC: If something is charting people are going to tell you about it and you’re going to take notice but you’ve gotta be yourself and we’re pretty good at that. We’re pretty relaxed dudes. I don’t think we’re very dramatic about the charts. It definitely feels weird to be involved with these groups that are really big names like Coldplay and such. That’s kinda weird. We kinda always feel like that in a way. Maybe we’re a little more pop than we think.
MF: You’ve got such a huge back catalogue to draw from now in your live shows. Are you a band that gets sick of playing the old stuff?
JC: Some songs that are old hold up. Once they hit 10,12,15 years, sometimes it might not be the right time or place the play that song. I would say the best way to attack that is, we figure we at least give it an instrumental go. Maybe the lyrical content doesn’t hold up or maybe we don’t like the way the verse sounds 10 years later. The good news is we can still throw the musical side of it in to a modern set. We kinda do that. We take some of the old music or some of the old jams that we’ve always liked and we meld them and mash them up into our current setlist. That makes new and old happen.
MF: When you start playing a new record, can you tell which songs are going to hang around in your setlist for a long time?
JC: I think that’s a yes and no answer. With ‘Feel It Still’, we knew that it was going to be a catchy song on our end. We knew that the song was going to have some popularity. We just figured it was our catchy tune on the record. Where it took itself was a completely different animal, that was crazy. With all the other songs, we’re still working on the angles of getting them out there live. Also pushing them and releasing them. We’ve kinda gotta push the one song at a time and see how the record goes. In terms of what fan favourites are, that’s always the raw thing you can’t control. That’s awesome. I generally, for some reason, love track seven. It seems to be the track that always attracts me. Those songs always end up being, in the placement of a record, the fan favourite, deep cut. I’ve noticed that happens for me. We actually can always have a look on the internet and see which songs are really hitting but I don’t know what that does for you. What do you do if one of your favourite songs on the record isn’t doing well with the fanbase? I guess nothing, you don’t really do anything.
MF: One place that has always been really responsive to you guys is Australia. Are you excited to head down here for the first time since Woodstock?
JC: Oh absolutely. We’ve played so many shows since we’ve been there last and I feel like we’ve definitely improved as a band live and we have some more exciting new material out. That’s super cool to come back there with the record. Obviously, we’re big, big fans of Australia because the nature is incredible and the waves in the ocean are amazing. It’s not a hard place to be, man. My little brother lives in Hawaii and I think it kinda beats Hawaii.