Portugal. The Man started out as a modest indie band with deep roots in Alaska and has since ascended to national, even international, popularity.
The Portland-based group’s music has long been described as “alternative rock,” but their song “Feel It Still” recently earned the band its first Grammy Award nomination — in the pop category.
The single is off their newest album, “Woodstock,” and it has spent weeks at the top of music charts, peaking at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Reached by phone while he was walking around Atlanta before a show, co-founder and bass player Zach Carothers said the attention has been surreal.
“We absolutely don’t belong in that world, which is funny. I don’t have a tan. I’m 36 years old, and I’m from Wasilla, Alaska. And we’re playing next to Selena Gomez and stuff like that. It’s wild,” Carothers said.
The band also includes vocalist and guitar player John Gourley and guitarist Eric Howk, who are joined by Kyle O’Quinn on keyboards and Jason Sechrist on drums. Like Carothers, Gourley and Howk are originally from Alaska.
The experience has been fun, overall, Carothers said. It’s given the band a chance to see the world, and he said their lives are a little easier than the days when they toured in a van and ate out of a rice cooker in random parking lots.
Still, it’s a lot of work.
“Since ‘Feel It Still’ has gotten massive, our day-to-day life hasn’t really changed,” Carothers said. “We still just go out on tour, we’re just still on a bus and on an airplane, and we go and do a show, it’s just those shows are getting bigger. But it’s hard to see what’s really happening when you’re kind of in the eye of the hurricane.”
Gourley has said the band’s work ethic comes from growing up in Alaska and seeing how hard work is necessary for survival.
Carothers said the environment in the North contributes as well.
“Growing up and how you grow up is at least half of what you’re made of,” Carothers said. “Half of it is how you were brought up. And then the other half is what you see along the way as your adult life. I feel like Alaskans really know themselves.”
Carothers knows it’ll be a completely different scene when the band walks the red carpet at the Grammys in January. They’ve been to some awards shows already, and he describes them with one word: “bright.”
Carothers said the Grammys are a whole different level of attention, though.
“It’s a really weird world and it’s something just very strange to see, especially coming from Alaska,” Carothers said. “It’s just things that you saw on movies or on TV and you never expect to be there. But it’s really fun.”
Carothers says the Alaskan members of Portugal. The Man will take a break from touring to head north for Christmas. Then, on Jan. 28, they’ll be in New York for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden.