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Breaking: Portugal. The Man

August 26, 2009 1:11 PM ET

Who: A hard-working, hard-touring indie-soul four-piece whose spotlight-stealing sets at this year's Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza festivals were honed by averaging 250 shows a year. Now stationed in Portland, PTM were the most famous exports of Wasilla, Alaska, until a certain vice-presidential candidate rose to prominence. "It went from having to explain to people where Wasilla is to, 'I saw that place on The Daily Show,' says frontman John Baldwin Gourley.

Sounds Like: Fourth album The Satanic Satanist, released on their own Approaching AIRBallons imprint, is a blast of stripped-down, Motown-inflected, three-minute pop mutated through a scruffy indie-rocker's lens. A psychedelic slurry of influences, a PTM song is as likely to include a hidden Beatles riff as it is an unlicensed sample of a breakbeat.

Vital Stats:
• Despite their pop hooks and sunny dispositions, PTM started out touring alongside the tireless go-getters in the metal and hardcore circuits. "We were on this hardcore tour with Poison the Well," says Gourley. "The people in this audience are mountainous men. Huge, huge people. There's one guy that's towering — he had to be a foot above everybody. Middle finger in the air the second we step on stage. Not even a note to let him know we’re not what he was looking for. It was unavoidable — not only would you see him, he would lock eyes with you. It was such dedication that you had to respect that he completely hated you."
• When Gourley named the band, all he knew about the actual country of Portugal was the capital was Lisbon, they have beautiful beaches and "it just sounded cool." He recently went over there for the first time with Nine Inch Nails and found that the band had been a secret sensation for years, thanks to a sense of national pride. "It was crazy. We found out after we got there that we've been played on the radio since the beginning of the band. If you run a search for 'Portugal' on Google, we come up in Portuguese news. We had no idea. I feel at this point we should just go over there and hang out."
• Songs like "The Woods" and "Guns and Dogs" are written about Gourley's Alaskan upbringing, spending parts of his pre-adolescence living in a cabin his father built on a spot called Icy Lake. "It's literally an icy lake. You only go out there in the winter, because it's all lakes and swamps, so you can't get out there in the summer. It's 24 hours of daylight. I would go out at 2 in the morning sometimes and run out into the woods, climb up trees, run down to the inlet. We had beluga whales that would come up and you could hear the whales singing their songs. We took baths in tin buckets and just listened to the radio. It's like living anywhere else. Anybody can do it. You just have to want to."

Get It Now: Click above to watch the band performing "1989."

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Song Stories

“Promiscuous”

Nelly Furtado with Timbaland | 2006

This club-oriented single featuring Timbaland, who produced Nelly Furtado's third album, Loose, was Furtado’s sexy return after the Canadian singer's exploration of her Portuguese heritage on Folklore. "In the studio, initially I didn’t know if I could do it, 'cause Timbaland wrote that chorus," Furtado said. "I'm like, 'That's cool, but I don't know if I'm ready to do full-out club.'" The flirty lyrics are a dance between a guy and girl, each knowing they will end up in bed together but still playing the game. "Tim and I called it 'The BlackBerry Song,' she said, "because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody."

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