In Conversation: Porridge Radio

In Conversation: Porridge Radio

Dana Margolin on their sensational new album...

On a gloomy day in March, Porridge Radio's Dana Margolin is an unequivocally bright ray of sunshine…

Despite spending the day in the studio to complete the tedious task of admin. With the release of their second album on the horizon, she had every reason to be giggling like a little girl.

Clash spoke to the indie spearhead who disclosed emotional escapades, flirted about must-listen-to bands and shared the shivers of cold days on the beach.

Now released into the world for everyone’s listening pleasure, Dana tells us all about ‘Every Bad’ and all the good.

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With the album release coming up, how are you feeling?

I’m really, really excited for it to come out, I’m really proud of it. It has taken a really long time to get to this point. Yeah, I’m so excited for everyone to hear it and for it to be out in the world.

What are you going to do to celebrate?

Haha, I think we’re on tour at the time actually, we’re gonna be in America? Let me look at my calendar, I’m pretty sure we’re in America. Not we’re not! We’re in Brighton for an instore which is actually going to be really nice because we’re a Brighton band and it’ll be good to be back where we formed. Maybe we’ll go out for dinner or something.

You released the first album in 2016, has this album been in the works as soon as you released your debut?

Guess I’m quite a prolific songwriter, so we’ve always got a load of songs in the backlog to go into the next album and the next thing. When we finished the first album, which was kind of like an accidental album that we recorded in a shed, we were going on tour and were like, “We should release something”.

So, we released that album on tape and then it ended up being our debut album somehow, which was a very funny way for it to all turn out. I think as soon as we’d done that, I was thinking about all the ways I wanted to do it next time, all of the songs I wanted to go on it and the ways I wanted to produce it and the ways I wanted to make things sound.

So yeah, I guess I’m always thinking about the next one. As soon as we signed off on this one, I was like, “Okay, I’m ready for the next one now.” I’m always thinking about the next move of things we can make.

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How long did this album actually take you to record?

Um, we started demoing it about two and a half years ago… I think?

So, it’s quite a long time and there was a lot of things to sort out with this one before we could actually release it. We needed to figure out who was gonna put it out, Secretly Canadian are putting it out which is really cool. Everything just took a lot longer than we thought it would.

If the last album was a DIY project, did you record this one in a studio?

Yeah and we actually produced it, we mixed it in London with a guy called Oli Barton-Wood. And it was really fun because we actually got to spend time in his studio and listen to it properly and kind of all give feedback and make it sound the way we wanted it to sound. It was really great, it was really exciting. 

Now you’ve done it both ways, which way do you prefer?

Haha, I always prefer doing things better and more professionally and with more time and with better resources, hands down. Every time. But I will always love writing demos on my own and doing stuff in a really lo-fi way for myself.

But for full band recording, it’s always going to be more fun to do if you spend more time on things and live up to the potential that they have, you know?

Which of the songs was the most fun to record, or which is the most fun to play? I love doing ‘Homecoming Song’ because I get to just put my guitar down and fully let loose and scream. And that feels really, really good.

Are there any songs that you actually prefer to play on your own?

I love playing songs with the band. But I also love playing songs on my own. There’s no one song that I would say “Oh yeah, I love playing that on my own.” When I do play on my own, I have fun. When I play with everyone else it feels bigger, it feels special.

There’s something special about being in a band and working on things together and coming together to be on stage and all be vulnerable in the same space and be working together. They’re both very different experiences but they’re both very special.

Is there a message that you were trying to convey through the album?

There was not one singular message. But I think what I was really trying to do was to just be honest about myself, to be vulnerable and write in a way that was truthful and that would also allow me to figure out what I was feeling. I think I definitely got that out of it. 

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Can we talk about the way that you write songs? The lyricism in the music involves a lot of repetition. Where do you get the inspiration for the lyrics?

For me it just comes from my day to day life, it’s often very stream of consciousness-y. I don’t tend to overthink it. I just try to let what I need to say come out. I write a lot. I have notebooks that I write in and I often get inspiration for lyrics from that. How I figure what I want to say is, I’ll just read through what I’ve been thinking and take it from there. There’s something nice in the simplicity of it…

I always think when you overthink things and overwork them, they may tend to lose their power. Sometimes it’s just about keeping things simple and trying to be honest. That makes something meaningful.

‘Give Take’ sounded quite sinister in some parts despite the buoyant music… what’s the story behind the song?

I don’t think there is a wrong way to hear a song. I think if you’ve heard something one way and that makes sense to you and it works, then that is right. I wouldn’t want to say “here’s the specific stories behind these songs” because I think it takes that magic away and it stops it being something that you can relate to in a more personal way.

So, I’m not going to tell you the specifics behind it…

Is music a big part of the way you express yourself?

Yes, for sure. I think it’s the way I’ve learnt to express myself and the way that I’ve figured out how to talk about that part of myself. Yeah, definitely.

Is there something quite scary about being so emotional and vulnerable and having that door open to the rest of the world?

Yes. It’s terrifying. Hahaha…

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been on stage and you’ve got really emotional? Have you ever cried on stage, because the way that you sing is so poignant?

Yeah, thank you. I mean, I’ve been very close to it. But I think on the whole, I try to create a barrier between the space in which I’m writing a song and how emotional that can be and actually performing it and trying to create a boundary and trying to retain something for myself. So yes... 

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Let’s talk inspiration. There seems to be a lot of 90s female-fronted rock going on, like PJ Harvey and The Cranberries…

Yeah… they’re definitely in there. We’re kind of influenced from all over the place but like, for me personally, those bands are really important to me. I’ve been inspired a lot by 90s female rock but I’m also inspired by pop music and by punk.

I love PJ Harvey a lot. Cat Power as well, is a big one.

Are there any artists from the current music scene that inspire you?

Umm.. yes! There are loads of them! There’s a band, Garden Centre, that I used to play in that I really love. Max writes really good songs that I just find really amazing and the way that he plays guitar. I would play guitar in his band and he taught me how to play his songs, and I think it made such a big difference to the way that I play guitar. It was such a helpful experience.

There’s a band in London called Great Dad, who are really amazing and like really emotional and intense and great. I really, really love seeing them. There’s so many bands, I can make you a playlist.

You often mention the importance of the beach, what is that all about?

Yes, I loved it. I loved going to the beach. When you’re in Brighton anyway, it’s like the easiest and best place to go hang out. In the Summer, it’s just so beautiful and fun. The sea is this great, overwhelming, powerful force of nature that is terrifying but also calming and beautiful and ugly and dangerous and fun. It’s all these things in one.

I think living in Brighton and going to the beach all the time I ended up just writing a lot of songs about the sea without really thinking about it. Then I look back and I notice that loads of the songs on this album are about the sea.

Was that the inspiration behind the video for ‘Lilac’?

I’m trying to think. Yeah, I guess so, it was. Where is that beach, is that in Brighton as well? No, that was in Margate in Botany Bay. It’s a really beautiful beach.

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What was it like recording the video because the weather doesn’t look too great on it?

It was November and so it was freezing. I remember just like all day being in a coat, and then being like “I’m ready for a take” and going for it. It was a really, really cold day, even though it was quite bright, which was lucky because it had been raining all week.

Was the idea behind the video all his creative direction or did you input in it?

I had a lot of input into it. He kind of said that he wanted to do a one take shot and we knew that we wanted it to be performance based. Then I sat down with him for a few hours and we had a load of ideas. Me and Maddy had a load of ideas, Maddy’s in the band. I went and sat with Sam and we talked about it and then he kind of choreographed something.

Was this the case with all the videos you’ve done?

No. So for ‘Lilac’, that was by El Hardwick. El kind of came up with that idea and planned the whole thing. I just showed up and performed it. So that was theirs, but ‘Sweet’ was much more collaborative.

I mean, before then, we did a video for ‘Give Take’ with Bella from Dreamwife. Me and Bella just sat down at a pub and talked about all of our ideas and put them together. And then Bella creatively put it together. She directed it and made it all come together.

You’re an artist as well, did you create the art for the album?

Yes. Yes, I did. There was a lot of thinking. I spent hours doing loads of paintings for the artwork. I remember seeing this picture of some snakes and being like “I want to use that imagery”. It just instantly clicked, and I ended up painting snakes for a few months until I got that painting that I was happy with. And we went with that.

It might be a little soon to ask… or even to think about. But what is next?

We’re gonna be on tour pretty much all year. We’ve got UK, EU and some US gigs announced. There’ll be loads of festivals, that’ll be announced soon as well. There’ll be more tours and hopefully we’ll be able to get back into the studio at some point, but I doubt that’ll be soon because I think we’re just planning on touring pretty much nonstop.

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Do you always like to be on the go or do you think you’ll have a break once you’ve finished touring?

We will definitely need a break. I think that I always want to be on the go, but then I crash because I don’t realise I need to rest.

Which stop on the tour are you most looking forward to?

Oooh.. I don’t know. I’m really, really excited to go to LA. We’re only going to be there for like two days, I’m going to be so jet lagged but I’m really excited to be there. I think the American dates are just really exciting for us because it’s so far away. That’ll be the furthest away that we’ve ever played. It feels very special.

What has been, or what do you think will be when you’re like “shit, yeah I’ve made it”?

What do people even say to that? That’s really hard. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that because I don’t know if that has any kind of meaning to me. I think it’s important for me to get to the places I need to be.

But I think it’s just being able to do this as my day-to-day life. Success is being able to think of this as my full time job.

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Porridge Radio's new album 'Every Bad' is out now.

Words: Megan Berridge
Photography: Rachel Lipsitz

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