Wasilla, Alaska, is known for more than being the hometown of Sarah Palin. The small, arctic town is also home to experimental rock band Portugal. The Man. The group released its latest effort, American Ghetto, on March 2, which was written soon after the band finished recording its previous album, The Satanic Satanist.
"It was done about two weeks after we finished recording," bassist Zachary Scott Carothers said. "(Vocalist) John (Baldwin Gourley) came back home for about a week and a half and then flew back out to Boston to the same studio."
As a band, Portugal. The Man is pretty spontaneous when it comes to writing albums.
For American Ghetto, a lot of material was created on the fly by singer Gourley. This was the process for the band's other albums, with the exception of The Satanic Satanist.
"That was the only album where we actually had the songs written before we went in," Carothers said of The Satanic Satanist.
While on a break, the distance between band members made the production of American Ghetto challenging. The band sent changes to songs back and forth via e-mail.
"The process tends to slow down a lot when you're not just there in the mixing room," Carothers said. "That's probably the most challenging part of it is just that it takes a lot of time, and if you were just there you could get it all done in a couple of days. But it usually ends up taking a few weeks when you're out of town or away from the studio."
Carothers said the new album thematically builds off the old.
"The theme is pretty much an extension of The Satanic Satanist, which is all about John growing up in Alaska and a lot of things his parents taught him and stuff," Carothers said. "(American Ghetto) is primarily about times growing up in Wasilla, but teenage years, bars and party spots."
From the band's sound to how it makes its music, Portugal. The Man could hardly be described as typical. This includes the release of its new album. The band did not release any of its music to members of the industry, press or radio stations, who usually receive an album months before its official debut to fans.
"Honestly, we were just trying it out to see how it would go," Carothers said. "We wanted to release an album, but we kind of wanted to make one of those little weird releases, and we just thought it would be a cool idea for everyone to get it at the same time."
Not surprisingly, Portugal. The Man is already working on its next album, thanks to a short break from touring in December. Carothers said the album should be complete before early summer.
Starting as a band without a drummer and simply jamming off riffs, Portugal. The Man has always had a unique sound and is always evolving and improving.
"I think we're just getting a little bit better at putting songs together and structuring them out and putting a lot more thought into them," Carothers said.
Portugal. The Man will be playing at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Mojo's with Port O'Brien and The Dig. Tickets are $10.