Portugal. The Man Explain How Bernie Sanders Inspired Surprise Hit 'Feel It Still'

(L-R) John Gourley, Eric Howk and Zach Carothers of the band Portugal. The Man attend Build to discuss their eighth studio album 'Woodstock' at Build Studio on June 20, 2017 in New York City.
Desiree Navarro/WireImage

The Portland, Ore.-by-way-of-Alaska band also landed its first chart-topper on Alternative Songs.

After four years of silence, Portugal. The Man returned with its long-awaited eighth album, Woodstock. Though the album itself took longer than anticipated, the lead single "Feel It Still" came together rather quickly while messing around in a side session with Electric Guest's Asa Taccone. 

The relaxed mentality proved to work well for vocalist John Gourley, who soon had strung the song together. The funk-filled "Feel It Still" landed the Portland, Ore.-by-way-of-Alaska band on a handful of charts: Hot Rock Songs, Adult Alternative Songs, Top TV Commercials and Alternative Songs -- its first No. 1.

Most notably of all, though, is the song's appearance on the Billboard Hot 100, where it currently sits at No. 80. Gourley spoke with Billboard about the song's unexpected success, selling out and more.

Portugal. The Man released its debut album in 2006. Why do you think “Feel It Still” is its first hit on the Billboard Hot 100?

John Gourley: Anytime you borrow — or, should I say, buy — the melody from [The Marvelettes’] “Please Mr. Postman,” I feel like it should work. Usually our compositions are very full, and we’ll pile in everything we can. [This song] came about so naturally, just a bass and a vocal. You can’t plan that stuff though, I’d like to think I could sit down and say ‘Hey guys, let’s write a hit,’ but there’s something really natural about this song and the way it came about. It reflects every aspect of who we are. It’s not hiding behind anything.

How did you hear that the song cracked the chart?

I saw it on Twitter. If I’m being honest, I had no idea what it meant, because we’ve never been near [the Hot 100]. It’s cool it connects with so many people. We just came here to fuck shit up. That’s why we started to play music — get in a van, go play and have a good time.

What inspired the line “I’m a rebel just for kicks now?”

I think the lyric reflects the way a lot of us feel. It came out of this George Carlin quote, which was something we had talked about quite a bit within our circle of friends. George Carlin would talk about politics and religion but in the same breath he’d also mention he doesn’t vote, doesn’t trust politicians or religion… It comes down to the way our political parties work where it’s basically football teams. If you’re not on Team Trump, you’re on Team Hillary and it’s such a ridiculous way to look at politics and to look at the way we’re voting. I’ll talk shit all day long but at the end of the day I don’t want to vote for anybody. I don’t feel strongly for either one of those people. So many of my friends were for Bernie all the way and said, ‘If he doesn’t get it, I’m not voting.’ It’s a ridiculous process. The fact at all that Bernie had to run as a Democrat is kind of what the song is about.

The band is now selling shirts that say “I liked Portugal. The Man before they sold out.” Do you think you’ve sold out?

We’re just nerds that play music. Because we get played on the radio and have a Vitaminwater ad with Aaron Paul dancing on a treadmill, people are going to say we sold out. I don’t write music for that. I write music for me. 

This article originally appeared in the July 22 issue of Billboard