Gentle Hold: Porches Interviewed

Aaron Maine on his urgent need to create...

Porches has always been an intense concert experience.

A project that hinges on songwriter Aaron Maine, the manner in which he inhabits each song seems to add stunning intensity to every single note.

That's 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 chat about the manner in which lockdown re-calibrated his creative instincts.

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There's a lot to unpick since we last spoke. Obviously, 'Ricky Music' came out basically as the pandemic was first starting, so you weren't able to tour that as much as you wanted – was that a frustration for you at the time?

Yeah, it definitely was a hard pill to swallow, actually. Literally, it was released on the day that New York City locked down. But at the same time, you know, EVERY plan that everyone had, or was looking forward to, or dreaming about was kind of shut down. So it was hard to feel too bad for myself. I had, like, a little breakdown and cried a little bit to my friend, and then just kind of assumed the same position as everyone else and sat tight. I did that virtual tour, which felt really positive, and I did an Instagram Live each night we were meant to be on tour.

I also ended up making another record which, honestly, has been the most enjoyable Porches record to perform live. And I don't think it would have made that if I weren't kind of dreaming about playing live music again in the lockdown. I was making these songs while fantasizing about playing them in a room full of people – thinking "what would be the most celebratory music to play?" So I think it was a blessing in a way.

That's one of the very interesting things about lockdown – that energy had to go somewhere! Did you find that with 'All Day Gentle Hold !'? Is that where that energy was coming from, that restrained performance energy?

Yeah, I do think I was forced to ask myself a lot of questions about why I was making music and how it served me. I feel like I had a lot more space to think, and just kind of rebuild my relationship with music. I wasn't sure what would happen, or if live music would ever happen again, and I still felt inclined to create stuff and record stuff, which I think wasn't the case for everyone. I feel like I was making music from a very positive and pure place with nothing surrounding it. It was kind of… very joyful. I was, like, if I'm gonna keep doing this, then there's no reason on Earth why it shouldn't be the most joyful thing ever. Because, like, no one's forcing me to do it, you know? I didn't know if it would turn into any financial gain, so it just came from a really special place, and that's why it's been received the way it's been received. And it's been really, really special to perform it. I know it sounds kind of tacky, but it's like ecstasy – it feels better than it's ever felt to play live music.

One of the notable aspects of your catalogue is that you've worked incredibly hard in those two year cycles of recording, mastering, releasing, touring – you've done 'Pool', 'The House', 'Ricky Music' all on top of one another. Did you feel like you maybe needed a break after that, that you needed to step back?

I mean, the record wouldn't exist if I had gone on tour for a year with 'Ricky Music'. So I think I wasn't necessarily exhausted from touring, and making music has never been a pain for me – if anything, I make more music than my labels can keep up with putting out. But I do think the time by myself in my apartment, just rebuilding, getting a little closer to remembering why I do it… that's been important. It felt like when I first started making music, when I was 16, or 17; I wasn't thinking about who was listening to it, how relevant it was to the landscape of music at 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 to record stuff. And then it truly becomes real when you see the human response to it – you can get as many write ups or comments as you want, but it doesn't really feel like I've done anything until I see people, get to play it to them. I admittedly maybe took that for granted over the last five, or whatever, years of touring… I expected it to happen and I would kind of whine about it. But now I feel it's truly not something to be taken for granted ever again. It's a gift to get to be allowed to do it, and have people come out and make it possible. So I think that was really positive, too, being taken away for two years to really realise how much I love it.

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Does it feel more intense on stages now, is the energy different from crowds? Is that connection a bit more extreme, do you think?

Yeah, this last month was like the most like charged-up tour ever. I think the audience is super thrilled to be going to a live performance, and then we were just thrilled to be out there performing… it felt like we were struck by a bolt of lightning or something. So, yeah, it's been really energised, and it's so been pretty positive so far.

You're going to be touching down in Brighton and, as you say, it's the first visit to the UK in a while. What have you missed most about the UK? When you start thinking about coming back to London and Brighton, what goes through your mind?

A bunch of things. I mean, I remember shopping in Brighton the first time we went to The Great Escape and getting fish and chips in this really strange hotel we stayed at. In London, I just like walking around. I've got some friends… but just being there, walking around, that's what I like to do in most places. It's not about the restaurants or any specific destination. It's just kind of soaking it up.

One of the things about lockdown was that we were left with things like Zoom, and that did in many ways open up things – it kind of normalised long distance conversations and creative relationships. Previously, in your work you've collaborated with a bunch of different people – have you done anything like that, in the past couple of years? Are there duets and collaborations waiting to be released?

I tried to. I did like one sort of virtual session – it wasn't even like, on Zoom, I just mailed someone, some stems was like "do you have any ideas?", which I've never done before. And even that was because I'd heard about these types of sessions and ended up you know, with all this stuff that this producer, Yves Rothman, put on the song, and it ended up staying in the song. I think with this next record, alternatively, I'm really excited to get out of my room and make music in the flesh with other people in other people's studios, try to open up the process a little more. Y'know, I've made the last four records in my room, 95% alone. So I think I just maybe reached a threshold where it feels exciting to open up the process, whether it's in person or someone else in another country.

You reference an album upcoming – is that all pandemic material as well?

It's stuff post-'All Day Gentle Hold !'. Arguably we're still in a pandemic, or post pandemic, or something… but I took a significant break from writing and recording once I got the masters back from this last record, just because I felt like I was so head-down, deep in it, and just needed to come up for some air and enjoy this record's rollout, push it and pay attention to it. But before this last tour, I started writing like a maniac – got a bunch of material I'm excited to get back to after this trip.

We've been playing one new song which is really fun to play. I wrote it a couple of months ago. And we play nine out of ten songs on 'All Day Gentle Hold !', which is really fun. And then, you know, we sprinkled in some from further back in the catalogue… It's my favorite Porches set to play. There's no filler, there are no songs that I'm kind of just trying to get through for the sake of making it an hour long set. So it's fun, I can't wait to do it again. I've been waiting to do it since the day I got back from this last trip. So should be pretty fun.

You’re a performer whose emotional commitment to the song can't be questioned.

I think if anything, I've decided to give MORE – trying to break my body and sweat as much as possible. It's just not taking it for granted. Why wouldn't I put on the absolute best performance I could put on? Even if no one showed up – I would do the same thing. So I'm just trying to be healthy and save up everything for the performance. Stretch and exercise and eat well, so I can just go be like a total psychopath on stage.

Is that what having your own space in the past couple of years has taught you? Where to put the boundaries again?

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 to then throw a wrench in the thing. It might just be me getting older – you know,, in the past I stayed up all night and I've been fine, done a show the next day. But I think it feels good to be clear and riled up. NShows now just seem more precious than ever. So I've taken certain steps to treat it that way, just do everything in my power to make it something memorable, something people can't not talk to their friends about it, or spread the word about the show or record. It can be totally grueling and kind of miserable out there at times, but I'm in a pretty good place emotionally now about this record. I don't wanna jinx anything but I feel lucky to get to do it.

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Photo Credit: Jason Nocito

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