The Devil

Album: The Pines & The Devil (2006)
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Songfacts®:

  • John Gourley of Portugal. The Man has a fascination with the Devil, and with organized religion as a whole. This early song from the band is an abstract look at Satan, hinting at his belief that there is no such thing. The group revisited this topic throughout their career, naming their 2009 album The Satanic Satanist and releasing a more lyrically lucid song on the subject called "Modern Jesus" in 2013.
  • The song started with a riff the band would play at live shows. They worked on the song when recording their first album, Waiter: "You Vultures!" released in 2006. It didn't make the cut, but they included it as the B-side of "The Pines," released later that year.

    They didn't think much of it until they went to Germany for a tour and found out the first night they would be playing to a packed house and needed to stay on stage for at least an hour. They had only 35-minutes of material, so they played many of the same songs twice. That was embarrassing, so for the next show they played "The Devil," segueing it into a cover of "Helter Skelter" by The Beatles. This became a popular feature of their live shows, and "The Devil" entered Portugal. The Man lore.

    In a Songfacts interview with John Gourley, he said: "I think it's just a great representation of what this band is. We're a 'f--k it band' – you're on stage, people are here to see you, just do whatever feels good. You don't need to work within the structure and the confines of what it sounds like on the album."

    "That song to me represents the freedom of this band: Go out and play a B-side," he added. "Throw in 'Helter Skelter.' Do your thing with it. Make it fun. Let it breathe. Wear your influences on your sleeve and show people where all of this music comes from."
  • This was one of the first songs Gourley wrote with Portugal. The Man. "The thumping riff that happens in it was something that I would just play messing around, trying to learn how to fingerpick," he told Songfacts. "It got to the album's completion, I tagged it on at the end, and it became a 7-inch B-side for that album."
  • Portugal. The Man are from Alaska, which is a tough place to be a touring band. In the three years from 2006-2008, they were extremely prolific, recording three albums and playing hundreds of shows. In 2008, they went to Portland, Oregon and recorded their live set (including "The Devil" at a small studio called Supernatural Sound, with friends taking video with hand-held cameras. Instead of packaging the set, they moved on to their next album, The Satanic Satanist, and stayed busy until the pandemic hit in 2020. During the break from touring, they decided to finally release that 2008 recording as Oregon City Sessions, which was issued in April 2021.

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