porches has always been an intense concert experience.
A project that relies on songwriter Aaron Maine, the way he inhabits each song seems to add stunning intensity to every note.
This is true now, more than ever. A force unleashed, Porches headlined the Clash stage at The Great Escape, a performance imbued with radiant energy and a transformative sense of emotion.
Helping to bring down the curtain on the festival’s return, Porches reminded us of the palpable impact music can have on our lives.
Clash caught up with Porches just before the show, to discuss how the lockdown recalibrated his creative instincts.
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There’s a lot to sort out since our last conversation. Obviously, “Ricky Music” came out at the start of the pandemic, so you weren’t able to tour as much as you wanted – was that a frustration for you at the time?
Yeah, that was definitely a tough pill to swallow, actually. Literally, it was released on New York City’s closing day. But at the same time, you know, EVERY plan that everyone had, or was looking forward to, or dreaming of was sort of stopped. So it was hard to feel too bad for myself. I had, like, a little depression and I cried to my friend a little bit, and then I kind of took the same position as everyone else and sat down. I did this virtual tour, which was really positive, and I did an Instagram Live every night we were supposed to be on tour.
I also ended up making another record which honestly was the most enjoyable Porches record to play live. And I don’t think it would have done that if I hadn’t dreamed of playing live music again during lockdown. I was making these songs while fantasizing about playing them in a room full of people – thinking “what would be the most festive music to play?” So I think that was a blessing in a way.
That’s one of the really interesting things about containment – that energy had to go somewhere! Did you find that with ‘All Day Gentle Hold!’? Is that where this energy came from, this restricted performance energy?
Yes, I think I had to ask myself a lot of questions about why I was making music and how it served me. I feel like I’ve had a lot more space to think, and just rebuild my relationship with the music. I wasn’t sure what would happen, or if live music would ever happen again, and I always felt inclined to create stuff and record stuff, which I think it didn’t. for everyone. I feel like I’m making music from a very positive and pure place with nothing surrounding it. It was rather… very happy. I was, like, if I keep doing this, then there’s no reason on Earth it shouldn’t be the happiest thing ever. ‘Cause, like, nobody’s forcing me to, you know? I didn’t know if it would turn into a financial gain, so it comes from a really special place, and that’s why it was received the way it was received. And it was really, really special to play him. I know it sounds a little corny, but it’s like ecstasy – it’s better than ever to play live music.
One of the notable aspects of your catalog is that you’ve worked incredibly hard over these two-year cycles of recording, mastering, releasing, touring – you’ve done ‘Pool’, ‘The House’, ‘ Ricky Music’ on top of each other. Did you feel like maybe you needed a break after that, that you needed to take a step back?
I mean, the record wouldn’t exist if I had been on tour for a year with ‘Ricky Music’. So I think I wasn’t necessarily exhausted from touring, and making music was never a pain for me – in fact, I make more music than my labels can produce. But I think the time I spent alone in my apartment, rebuilding, remembering a bit about why I’m doing it… it was important. It was like when I started making music, when I was 16 or 17; I didn’t think about who listened to it, how relevant it was in the musical landscape of the time.
I mean, it also became very apparent how crucial touring and performing is in the cycle – sitting in my room for a year recording stuff. And then it really gets real when you see the human response to that – you can get as many writes or comments as you want, but I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything until that I see people, that I can play it for them. Admittedly, maybe I took that for granted in the last five years of touring, or whatever…I expected that to happen and I would complain a bit about it. But now I feel like it’s really not something to take for granted anymore. It’s a gift to be allowed to do that, and to have people coming out and making it possible. So I think it was also very positive to be retired for two years to really realize how much I love it.
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Does it feel more intense on the stages now, is the energy different than the crowds? Is this connection a bit more extreme, do you think?
Yeah, this past month was the busiest tour ever. I think the audience is super excited to go to a live performance, and then we were just thrilled to be there performing… it was like we were struck by lightning or something that. So, yeah, it’s been really energized, and it’s been pretty positive so far.
You are going to land in Brighton and as you say it is the first visit to the UK for a while. What did you miss the most in the UK? When you start thinking about coming back to London and Brighton, what goes through your mind?
A lot of things. I mean, I remember shopping in Brighton the first time we went to The Great Escape and eating fish and chips at this really weird hotel we stayed at. In London, I just like to walk around. I have friends…but just being there, hanging out, that’s what I like to do most places. It’s not about restaurants or a specific destination. It’s just a kind of absorption.
One of the things about the lockdown was that we were left with things like Zoom, and that opened things up in a lot of ways – it sort of normalized remote conversations and creative relationships. Previously in your work you collaborated with a lot of different people – have you done anything like that in the last couple of years? Are there any duets and collaborations waiting to be released?
I tried to. I liked some sort of virtual session – it wasn’t even like on Zoom I just emailed someone, some stems were like “do you have any ideas? “, Which I have never done before. And even that was because I had heard about these type of sessions and I found myself, you know, with all this stuff that this producer, Yves Rothman, put on the song, and it ended up sticking in the song. I think with this next album, alternatively, I’m really excited to get out of my bedroom and make live music with other people in other people’s studios, to try to open a bit more the process. You know, I made the last four records in my room, 95% alone. So I think maybe I’ve reached a threshold where it’s exciting to open the process, whether in person or with someone else in another country.
You’re referring to an upcoming album – is that all pandemic material as well?
It’s post-‘All Day Gentle Hold!’ stuff. You could say we’re still in a pandemic, or post-pandemic, or something like that… but I took a significant break from writing and recording once I picked up the masters of this last album, just because I felt like I was so head down, deep down, and just needed to get some air and enjoy the rollout of this record and push it and lend it Warning. But before this last tour, I started writing like a maniac – I had a bunch of material that I can’t wait to get back to after this trip.
We played a new song which is really fun to play. I wrote it a few months ago. And we play nine out of ten songs on ‘All Day Gentle Hold!’, which is really fun. And then, you know, we’ve sprinkled some further down the catalog… This is my favorite set of Porches to play. There’s no filler, there’s no songs that I’m just trying to pass off for the sake of making it into an hour-long set. So it’s fun, I can’t wait to do it again. I’ve been waiting to do this since the day I came back from that last trip. So that should be pretty fun.
You are a performer whose emotional commitment to the song cannot be questioned.
I think I decided to give MORE – trying to break down my body and sweat as much as possible. It’s just not taking it for granted. Why wouldn’t I put in the absolute best performance I could put in? Even if no one showed up, I would do the same. So I just try to be healthy and save everything for performance. Stretch, exercise and eat well, so I can be like a total psychopath on stage.
What has having your own space taught you over the past two years? Where to put the limits?
Yeah I guess. It’s like my priorities have become a little clearer. I don’t want to get too fucked up before the show, because what’s the point of flying across the ocean and sitting in a van for eight hours and then throwing a wrench in the thing. Maybe it’s just me getting older – you know, in the past I stayed up all night and was fine, I did a show the next day. But I think it feels good to be clear and pissed off. NShows now seem more valuable than ever. So I’ve taken some steps to treat it that way, I’m doing everything in my power to make it something memorable, something that people can’t not tell their friends about, or pass on the word about the show or record. It can be totally grueling and a little miserable at times, but I’m emotionally well placed now about this record. I don’t want to spoil anything but I’m lucky to be able to.
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Photo credit: Jason Nocito
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