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The Meaning of Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still”

Portugal. The Man live at the Hollywood Palladium, July 2017. Photo by Michael Zshornack.

While Portugal. The Man had enjoyed a steadily rising level of success prior to the release of their 2017 earworm hit “Feel It Still”, this was the song that transformed them from indie darlings into superstars. The track was released in March of 2017 as the lead single from their album Woodstock, and by November the song had reached its peak in the charts, topping out at number 4 in the Billboard Hot 100.

This peak followed Portugal. The Man’s busy summer of 2017 spent touring and hitting festivals across the country, including Bonnaroo where I was lucky enough to catch them myself. The festival tour ties in perfectly with the meaning of “Feel It Still”, harkening back to the psychedelic rumblings of the underground in the 1960s.

These rumblings are what initially led to the occurrence of the legendary Woodstock Festival, which is of course what inspired the name of the album. This was a time when being a “rebel just for kicks” was quite popular, and with “Feel It Still” Portugal. The Man show us how they’ve caught that same psychedelic wave.

Written by Portugal. The Man frontman and lead singer John Gourley along with the rest of the band and producers John Hill and Asa Taccone, “Feel It Still” borrows its infectious melody from the 1961 doo wop hit “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvellettes.

Portugal. The Man live at Bonnaroo 2017. Photo by Mary-Beth Blankenship.

According to a 2017 interview that Gourley did with Time, “Feel It Still” came out of the desire within the band to get back to basics after spending three years obsessing over Woodstock in the studio. It was recorded at the tail end of their studio sessions and it’s the song that helped the whole thing finally come together.

It was a talk with my dad that actually brought us back down to earth. We’re three years into this album, and we have 60 songs, ten versions of everything. Zach and I are hanging out with my dad in Alaska, having a beer. And he says, “Hey guys, what’s taking so long? Don’t you just pick up some instruments and go into a studio and record the songs?” And we looked at each other like, “What an a–hole. Did you think our job was that easy?” But he was looking at it from the angle of a carpenter. You have a bag of tools, and you’re going to build a house. It’s that simple. And you know what? It is that simple. That’s all the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were doing. They were going in and recording a bunch of songs every six months.

John Gourley in an interview with Time in 2017.

“Feel It Still” came together after 45 minutes of working with that “Please Mr. Postman” melody, which Gourley cites as one of his favorite songs. Gourley says that he initially used the melody as a placeholder, but it turned out to be such gold that they couldn’t possibly change it.

“I love the idea of a kid hearing ‘Mr. Postman’ for the first time because they know ‘Feel It Still,'” Gourley says.

Portugal. The Man live on NPR’s World Cafe in 2017. Photo by Tiana Timmerberg

The lyrics to “Feel It Still” draw a long line from the beginning of the scene that formed festivals like Woodstock, saying that it “Might be over now, but I feel it still”. In this way, Gourley is connecting Portugal. The Man and the greater music community of today with that same scene, suggesting that it’s still alive and well.

Portugal. The Man do this in a way that is undeniably catchy, which explains the fact that the song was a smash hit. “Feel It Still” is one that you bump with your windows down on your way to the beach, or while grooving the night away under the summer sky. It was the festival hit of the summer of 2017 and it brought some well-deserved recognition to a band that has become one of the most influential rock bands active today.

Watch the music video for “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man below.