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Home / Articles / Music / Music Articles /  Rainbow Caribou & Lucky Charms: Portugal. The Man uses every censored color in the rainbow.
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Rainbow Caribou & Lucky Charms: Portugal. The Man uses every censored color in the rainbow.

By Randy Harward
Posted // November 12,2008 - Portugal. The Man is from the wilds of Alaska. Wasilla, to be precise. To paraphrase the sage Sean “Diddy” Combs’ infamous Diddy Blog No. 16 (the original version that he’s since tried to cover up): I didn’t even know they had music up there. Secessionist fanatics, sure—but a unique, socially conscious rock band? Especially after all the crazy Alaskans we’ve seen on TV since Sarah Palin was nominated? Seems more likely that we’d spot a rainbow caribou from a Lucky Charms-powered helicopter. n

“Fair enough,” says P.TM nucleus John Baldwin Gourley. “To be honest, even living there, I wouldn’t assume there would be people playing music in Alaska.” He says his home state is a “pretty fantastic place” with tight communities and families, but “it is also full of some very confusingly uneducated politicians in the area of ethics and world knowledge.”

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P.TM made news recently after Gourley posted a passionate screed opposing Palin’s candidacy to PortugaltheMan.net. “God, I am glad she didn’t slither into that position,” he says, relieved, but still lamenting Alaska’s disproportionate ratio of ignorant, moneyed, power-mad McCain-Palin/Ted Stevens supporters to the down-to-Earth “true Alaskans.” Prior to this, however, Portugal. The Man was building hype based on their 2007 album, Church Mouth.

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The record was a sleeper hit due in part to the band’s past association with emo label Fearless Records and current affiliation with hardcore/screamo boutique Equal Vision. Having existed in this world, so alien to the indie rock planet P.tM may come to dominate, no one saw them coming. Gourley doesn’t hear the hype, but acknowledges the band’s ’tweener status. “We have been very lucky in walking that thin line. Shit, we have Latino gangster fans in the West. It’s pretty hilarious.”

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Gourley’s modesty and hype-blindness is a stark counterpoint to the band’s vast, dramatic, all-inclusive sound. Like P.TM’s name, their music is as big as it is small, meek as it is grandiose, solitary as it is communal. On their newly minted third LP, Censored Colors (out now on P.TM’s own label Approaching AIRballoons via Equal Vision), the four-piece band—Gourley, bassist Zachary Scott Carothers, drummer Jason Sechrist, keyboardist Ryan Neighbors—quilts together patches of delta blues, folk, soul, gospel and rocks indie, progressive, classic and glam. It’s Teflon for music: Just when you think you’ve got a label, you realize it won’t stick.

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“[P.TM] is more of an alter-ego, like Ziggy Stardust or Sgt. Pepper,” Gourley says. “The band is everything but what it set out to be. What I mean by that is we have a really great time with words and with sounds. Lyrically, the album is about love and respect and community and work.

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“The world, both musically and not, has had some very amazing moments that seem to have been forgotten. This is such a huge moment in the world, especially now, and I feel like there should be more people in the streets shouting ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!’”

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So now that the Palin bubble has burst, Obama has won, how does Gourley feel?

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“I don’t think my gun-toting brothers in Alaska are very happy with me over that Palin blog. Probably less happy now that Obama took it. I just hope he runs with it. But hell, this is America. Of course I’m scared. I would be better off in Sierra Leone.”

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Portugal. The Man
nGraywhale, 208 S. 1300 East, Saturday, Nov. 15 @ 2 p.m.
nStudio 600, 26 E. 600 South, 6 p.m.
nAll-ages
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