Portugal. The Man, the Grammy Award-winning band with Alaska roots, has released a new single in honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 12.
The music video for “Who’s Gonna Stop Me” stars world champion jingle dress dancer Acosia Red Elk, from the Umatilla tribe in Oregon, and features “Weird Al” Yankovic, a musician known for his pop music parodies.
The video begins with vocalist John Gourley outdoors in the dark, with band members and Indigenous artists coming into frame and flashing phrases like “oppose imperialism,” “resist the doctrine of discovery,” “decolonize," “represent Alaska” and “heal through education.” An animated coyote leaps across the screen atop Yankovic.
Gourley sings, “Who’s gonna stop me when there’s no one there to stop me but me? / A copy of a copy of a hero that you want me to be / Sneaking out, jumping over backyard fences / Sneaking out, jumping over backyard fences / We’re all just lookin' for freedom.”
The quiet melody slowly builds into a crescendo with Gourley, Yankovic and Red Elk. What begins as a simple drum beat builds into a chorus featuring dozens of people falling to the ground, singing in unison, “Gravity don’t work anymore.” The video ends with a black screen and text: “We are all related.”
Bass guitarist Zach Carothers said the music video was created in collaboration among a number of friends and Indigenous artists and organizations. Earlier this year, the band also launched PTM Foundation, aimed at advocating for human rights and Indigenous rights issues.
“We’re just very focused on elevating Indigenous voices and spreading Indigenous knowledge,” Carothers said. “We really think it’s the way forward when it comes to environmental concerns in particular, and just the sense of community.”
Yankovic might seem like an unlikely collaborator for the song. But Carothers says as an artist, Yankovic never takes his work too seriously and is unafraid to cross boundaries.
“In the tradition of the Indigenous cultures of the western North American territories, the Coyote represents the trickster and the maker of new worlds,” the band wrote in a message accompanying the video. “The trickster not only is playful and a comedian but through their playfulness, they connect people.”
Carothers and the band didn’t know who could embody that better than Yankovic.
“There was just something that it was missing,” Carothers said. “It was a really good song, it just wasn’t quite fitting in. It kind of needed somebody else. Honestly, we kept hearing Weird Al’s voice on it. I don’t know what it was — something about the delivery, we kept hearing that.”
The band met Yankovic in 2013 while shooting a Bonnaroo festival promotional video, and since then has commissioned Yankovic to remix some of their songs. In an October interview with Rolling Stone, Yankovic said, “I approached (”Who’s Gonna Stop Me") exactly the same way I approached every song I’ve ever recorded — the only difference being that the words aren’t funny."
Guitarist Eric Howk, Gourley and Carothers grew up in Wasilla, and the band is currently based in Portland, Oregon. Their hit “Feel It Still” was No. 1 in October 2017 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and won a Grammy for best pop duo/group performance in 2018.
[Read more: Portugal. The Man: Alaska-grown band on the rise]
In the midst of COVID-19, Carothers said he is keeping busy working on his home in Oregon.
“I just chop wood, I move lots of lumber and I’m feeling pretty Alaskan lately,” Carothers said. “I’m dressed in some thermals and I’m outside all day in the rain, I’m head-to-toe Carhartt. This pandemic has really gotten me back to my roots — focusing on Indigenous issues and wearing a lot of Carhartt.”
He says the band’s experience traveling around the world has influenced their work, both musically and with the PTM Foundation.
“A lot of places you go, you see the names of rivers and the names of towns and stuff, but the people and the stories were harder to see,” Carothers said.
“You really had to look, and even when we were really looking — when we started doing land acknowledgments at all of our shows, sometimes it was really hard to find how to get a hold of people, representatives from tribes of that area ... We love making music and that’s why we do what we do, but you have to have some purpose behind what you do.”