Around August 2001, the band Anatomy of a Ghost was formed by John Gourley, Joe Simon, Dewey Halpaus, Nick Simon and Zach Carothers. Gourley fronted the band having had no previous singing experience. Anatomy of A Ghost quickly gained popularity, but before long, the group broke up. Portugal. The Man was originally started as John Gourley’s side project, with Carothers playing bass. Before they had a drummer, they used drum machines and synth-loops as the backing beat. Gourley and Carothers teamed up with Wesley Hubbard, Nick Klein (former guitar tech for Anatomy of a Ghost) and Harvey Tumbleson, and formed Portugal. The Man. The band left Alaska and went to Portland with the intent of recording and touring. The band recorded demos in the summer of 2004, followed by a US tour that fall. In spring 2005, Klein and Tumbleson left and soon after Jason Sechrist joined the band. Portugal. The Man’s debut record Waiter: “You Vultures!” was released by Fearless Records on January 24, 2006. The album was produced by Casey Bates.
Independent years (2007–10)
On June 22, 2007, they released their second full-length, Church Mouth, again produced by Casey Bates, and set out on a full U.S. headline tour with support from The Photo Atlas, Play Radio Play, Tera Melos, and The Only Children among others. They then toured Europe, and followed it up with another US headlining tour with support from Rocky Votolato and Great Depression during September and October. Following this tour, they joined Thursday on a short east coast tour in November alongside Circle Takes The Square.
In 2008, the band left their label, Fearless Records, and added Ryan Neighbors, their touring keyboardist, as an official member and the replacement for Wes Hubbard.
On July 30, 2008, it was announced that Portugal. The Man was releasing Censored Colors under its independent record label, Approaching AIRballoons, in partnership with Equal Vision Records. It was released September 16, Zoe Manville was involved from this album.2008. John Gourley was also chosen as the recipient of the 2008 AP Magazine’s ‘Best Vocalist of the Year’.
On April 9, Portugal. The Man announced The Satanic Satanist, which was released on July 21, 2009. The Satanic Satanist is themed around memories and stories from singer John Gourley’s growing up in the state of Alaska. The album was recorded with the help of record producer Paul Q. Kolderie of Pixies and Radiohead fame.
On February 11, 2010, Gourley announced that American Ghetto, the band’s fifth studio album, would be released on March 2. In order to avoid another leak, no copies of the album were solicited until the release date.