Portugal. The Man on blowing up eight albums in

“When Yeezus came out, I listened to it every day in its entirety for like a year. That album blew my mind.”

For many musicians, writing a hit song is a big deal. For Portugal. The Man, it must be a bit confusing. Eight albums into their career, the band’s psychedelic earworm ‘Feel It Still’ managed to crack the top ten charts in 18 countries around the world, racked up close to half a billion streams globally, and even nabbed a Grammy for Best Pop Performance. So how does the band feel about achieving overnight success nearly 15 years into their career?

“It’s definitely pretty cool – I agree, my mum agrees – but it’s pretty crazy,” admits Zachary Carothers, founding member and bassist of the group. “The song blew up, and now the whole thing’s gotten way out of hand.”

Clocking in at a slight two minutes and 40 seconds, with an infectious groove and an interpolated hook from The Marvelette’s 1961 doo-wop hit ‘Please Mr. Postman,’ it’s simply impossible to deny the universal appeal of ‘Feel It Still’. However, the single is certainly a far cry from Portugal. The Man’s prior work, with the band previously dabbling in everything from bluesy-prog to the dreamy psychedelia of 2011’s In the Mountain in the Cloud.

 “Every time we do an album, we kind of change the style up,” Carothers says. “We’re already working on new stuff, and it’s already sounding wildly different to Woodstock. We all like so much different music, and we want to explore it all within reason. You never want to make the same album twice.”

Although the commercial success of 2017’s Woodstock certainly shocked the group, Carothers seems relatively unfazed about all the extra attention, acknowledging the power of perfect timing as a huge factor to the band’s newfound fame.

“I think, honestly, we just hit at a good time. We hadn’t really done a lot of songs that you can dance to, and that was one of the things we wanted to try. Apparently people like that,” says Carothers, admitting his mild frustration with how easily the smash hit came together for the band. “A lot of our songs we’ve spent sitting there banging our head against a wall for a year. This one, we wrote in 45 minutes, and we won a Grammy for it. It’s so annoying.”

While the lyricism of ‘Feel It Still’ oozes a deft societal cry of rebellion that seems to have struck a chord with many, Portugal. The Man initially had no plans to stir the American political pot. In fact, the group had actually recorded another album, tentatively titled Doomin’ and Gloomin’ and recorded with Beastie Boy’s Mike D before they scrapped the album to write something that would hold up as a sign of the times.

“We had a record done, and we were about to put it out, and then all of a sudden the US primary elections are happening, and we were like ‘Holy shit, Donald Trump? What the fuck?’ And our songs mentioned none of that,” Carothers explains, affirming the importance of messages in music. “I think it’s hugely important. If you’re not saying anything, what are you doing?

“That’s why rock’s had such a hard time recently, because the world moves really fast,” says Carothers. “When we released the album, we had to make a ‘Non-Vinyl Edition’ without a record inside, because we couldn’t wait four months until the records were pressed. You’ve got to be quick, and that’s why hip hop is so good right now – because if something big happens, there’ll be a song about it right away, and that’s so important, especially with social media.”

Despite not prominently featuring in their sound, Carothers establishes a connection between the attitude of underground rap and the ethos of Portugal. The Man, with the group recently linking up with New York trio Flatbush Zombies.

“I would love to work on more hip hop songs. We’ve done a couple of things with rappers, and we’ve got a few things coming up that are pretty cool, but I would love to go and produce or write hip hop tracks,” says Carothers.

If he did head down that track, there is only one person he dreams of collaborating with; the ever-polarizing Kanye West. “That dude’s fucking crazy. When Yeezus came out, I listened to it every day in its entirety for like a year. That album blew my mind.”

With a visit to Australia to play Groovin The Moo and a run of headline dates looming, Carothers expresses his excitement at the prospect of returning to Australia, although the bassist reveals slight anxieties at the thought of making a setlist that’ll please an entire crowd of fans.

“We haven’t been digging too deep into the back catalogue recently, but we want to a little bit more,” says Carothers. “We’ve been trying things like medleys and reworks, but it’s so hard to choose a set that’s going to please everyone – we’ve got so many songs now, it’s insane.”

Portugal. The Man will headline The Forum on Thursday May 3, with special guest Sloan Peterson. They’ll also perform at Groovin The Moo, stopping by Bendigo on Saturday May 5.