An interview with Porches
words by sammy maine
photos by jason nocito
On “Find Me”, one of the introductory tracks of Porches’ new album The House, Aaron Maine wrestles with his sense of self. The uncertainties in facing a mirror, unmasked, shutting out the perceived otherness of the outside world and fumbling through the anxieties of purposeful isolation.
“Think I’ll go
Where I can sink
This poignancy however, is delivered through a gnarly, pulsating dance track that welcomes celebration in our associated apprehension. A cathartic, sweaty absolution where Maine offers a place to proclaim the grief of melancholy with the ecstasy of its acknowledgement. This self examination is perhaps the biggest theme that runs throughout the notably stripped-back album. Maine pushes for a harsher, more aggressive delivery with barely-there instrumentation that prods at us to take note of the narrative. And while it doesn’t necessarily feel sinister or threatening, there’s an unshaken directness that marks The House as Porches most candid work to date.
The internal sincerity is conceivably the product of Maine’s writing process for the record. While there are collaborations on The House – most notably, the album opens with (Sandy) Alex G’s vocals – Maine spent much of his time at home, never interacting with another person until he was under the cover of night. It’s the reflection of these darkened social interactions that ripple throughout the tracks. Alone but tied to the visions of the night before, bleary-eyed with the faint scent of cigarette smoke and flashes of eyes desperate for attention.
Having lived in New York for the past few years, The House also offers a distinct urban canvas. The sonically industrial backdrop is testament to Maine’s continued observations of his surroundings; an eternal bystander that not only notices the tiny crevices in his everyday but ruminates on them in a beautifully existential manner. It’s on the streets of New York that Maine talks to me over the phone, briefly pausing our introductions to put his coat on to combat the city’s icy textures.
Are you a fan of the cold?
I’m definitely more into the cold. I like it more than the heat for sure. I thought I was all about summer and then it happened and I was like ‘fuck, this is crazy, it’s so hot’. I just had my first summer in Chinatown and there’s a lot of food on the street, like fish and stuff, that’s just pretty much baking in the street.
I found “Find Me” to have a sort of desperation that runs throughout it. In the video, it seems like you’re trying to find comfort by doing the things that supposedly make you happier – exercising, getting out in nature, walking at night. Was that the intention behind the visual?
No that wasn’t really the intention but I like reading it that way. All the ideas for the videos were pretty stream of consciousness, I was having a really hard time coming up with concepts thinking about what a music video should be, what it could achieve in that form, so I would listen to the song a bunch and write down any sort of word or thing that came to mind. I’d see metallic sweat dripping and from that we put together a few different scenarios.
The scene with the bed is representative of being restless in the place where you should be getting rest. In the gym scene, it was less the taking care of yourself thing than just the material and the smell and the textures and the physical stress. The underpass dancing thing; it’s up for the viewer to decide. I just thought of that scene as something that would be kind of unsettling in an interesting or strange way.
There’s a lot of red imagery in the “Country” video. Can you tell me about using certain colours in your aesthetic?
Nick [Harwood] and I, the director, had a really long mood board for wardrobe and we went into this really upstate old Navy coals kind of vibe. We worked with this stylist, Emily Schubert, who obviously got the mood board and nailed it so well with all the pieces that she chose. I was imagining the green grass and the trees and the grey sky and I knew that the truck was white and the bed of the pick up truck was black so I just imagined that red would really pop and just create a nice palette.
The House’ is definitely made up of tracks that bring forth the kind of catharsis you feel when you go out dancing at night and forget about everything. “I burn out to be free” on “Leave The House” reminded me of that too. Was that your intention behind the record? To offer catharsis to others through your own experiences?
Writing songs and recording songs always felt a bit cathartic for me, personally, because it addresses a situation or an emotion that is on my mind. By bringing it to life or spending time with it, it becomes a little more tangible; you can capture it or feel like you’ve interacted with it. So that was what’s going on on my end. It’s comforting to know that someone else is maybe experiencing something similar to what you’re experiencing, so I would hope that there’s some kind of relationship that the listener builds that resembles that, but I wasn’t out to make something that you put on and you forget about all your worries.
You seem to examine yourself through your relationships with others throughout the record. Would you say that you discovered anything new about yourself in the process?
I guess so, I would hope so. I don’t think there were any massive epiphanies that were worth noting but it’s an unusual thing that you would hope to see when you examine yourself and just have a better idea of how you operate, and whether you want to operate that way, or you want to change or be more considerate or more honest with yourself or communicate better. That’s what I imagine most people realise about themselves as they have more experiences with other people.
Sonically, the album feels quite industrial and bare. Was that an intentional compliment to the stripped-back vulnerable lyrics?
That was an intention. I wanted to definitely strip it down and feel like the only sounds that I used were completely necessary to accompany the tone of the song. The whole thing was very direct, lyrically, so it just made sense to me to try and translate that directness with how I arranged the songs, and keep it pretty raw. I wanted it to sound harsher and a little more aggressive sonically.
Is that something you try and do as an artist – to go in a different direction with each LP?
Yeah for sure. It’s not about not wanting it to sound like what I’ve done before: there is some truth in that, but I do feel like with each album, at some point during the process, I’ll find the few things that work and maybe they’re the essence of the record. Whether it’s a chord or a sound or moves, I can see myself reverting to that and I try to just avoid repeating stuff that feels too comfortable even if it does work. It’s not very exciting to me, or the listener I guess, to just keep going with the same kind of idea, so I find it (writing) pretty intense. When you’ve finished a record and you start a new one, I feel like those first months you’re just in the dark. It’s exciting when there’s a break-through and you arrive at something that feels new, and like a big step, and the whole thing will slowly come into focus. I’m definitely trying to grow and keep things exciting for me and for whoever’s listening.
I’ve read that you cite honesty as an integral part of your work. How do you ensure a sincerity within your alter-egos?
I don’t think I’ve really succeeded in that. I’m not trying hold myself up like that. I mean, I’d like to be. I think I’m pretty good at fooling myself or beating around the bush when it comes to certain things. But I do think it helps, after the fact, to listen back and try and understand what headspace you were in when you wrote a song or what kind of headspace you were in during the time you were working on a body of work.
I’m always trying to be real and not fake, I guess. That’s the goal. I think that’s what resonates with me the most, when I’m listening to something, or reading something, or looking at something. I kind of like the ugly details that aren’t inherently poetic, or beautiful to say, but I think there’s something exciting about letting people in, to a voyeuristic point; sharing an uncomfortable moment.
There’s a lot of imagery of night and darkness despite you doing a lot of writing in the morning. What’s your relationship with night time like?
I feel like most of my interactions are at night anyway so, naturally, that’s what I would write about. I’m not going to be writing about being home with my headphones on during the day. I’m not wild at night, necessarily, but I do really enjoy socialising sometimes and having a drink or coffee or dancing; seeing people. It’s exciting to be in New York and step out at night and see people and there’s five million options of things to do. It’s romantic I think, the night. Even when I was living in Pleasentville; it’s just a different vibe.
You’ve been in New York for a while now. Do you feel a disconnect with your hometown at all? What’s it like going back there now?
Neither of my parents live there anymore so I have much less of a reason to go up but it’s a forty-five-minute train ride from Grand Central and occasionally I’ll just go up and get a coffee at the one coffee shop I grew up at, and sit outside and see some of the high school kids that work there. It’s strange to see it with more and more perspective as I get older.
I guess it’s just like anything; you realise your parents are people, that it’s just another town. I mean it’s magical and rooted with memories but when it comes down to it, you get to imagine how other people see it. You take someone up and show them and they’re like ‘oh this is just a suburban town’. I like it though, it’s beautiful. I’ve got one friend left that lives there – it’s nice to see him when I go up. It’s a bubble for sure. I don’t feel that attached to it and I don’t really feel as cosy as I did there when I was younger.
You wrote a lot of the record alone at home. What was it like to bring your collaborators into the process?
It was really exciting. It was something I hadn’t really done so much before. I’ve always had a strange relationship with collaborating and I’m a real control freak when it comes to writing songs – and recording them and performing them – but there are obviously certain things that people can offer that are so exciting. I feel like it’s just obscene to hear one person’s voice for fifteen songs. I found out that bringing people in, that I found interesting, later in the process, was exciting for me; to have them come over and sing a harmony, and see if they had any other ideas. I feel really good about the guests on the record. I really like that it opens up with Alex G’s voice and not mine – I feel like that’s exciting. I’ve always been heavily inspired by Dev Hynes and his record Freetown Sound, it just has so many guests. A lot of rappers will have like three singers on a track. I just think it’s cool – it helps paint a picture of who you hang out with and who you associate with. I find it to be way more immersive.
You worked with your Dad too. Have you worked with him creatively before? Was he a big influence on you growing up?
When I was younger, we went into a studio a few times and messed around. He played drums on an old song. He sang some harmonies on a really old record of mine that I really like but not like this. He has a little digital 8-track thing at his house in the country and he showed me this song when I was up there over the holidays and I just stopped. It was just beautiful. It had a whole arrangement with other chords and drums and stuff and I was like ‘Can you just send me the vocal take?’ So he emailed me the vocal take and I wrote those new chords and put autotune on his voice and pitched it up. It was really fun to work like that with raw material. That’s one of my favourite songs on the album. I think it’s a pretty exciting one even though it’s just a minute long.
What was the intention behind the the ending of the album and the faint background noise of chatter?
I recorded the street sounds from the apartment that I was living at when I wrote and recorded most of this record, in Greenwich Village, and that’s how the album started originally. The sounds are out of my window of the apartment that I moved into last year, where I finished up the record, and was living by myself. So it was just a little personal nod to where I was. I think it’s a nice breath at the end of it. I like how the last words are “love you” on the album and then the street sounds come in and you take your headphones off and you’re in the city and it sounds kind of similar and it brings you back to reality, I hope.
To me, the artwork compliments the references to water in the album. Especially the typography and the blue curtain that could look like waves maybe. What was your process in designing it?
I did want to have my face on the cover in some capacity. It just felt like the record to do that with. I’ve never really done that before, so it’s trying to take a risk. It’s a little over the top in my opinion, but I think it’s also kind of good to put yourself in situations like that and to just go with it. Naturally, the colours that I’m drawn to relate to the mood of the songs that I’m writing. I was fucking around with it in Photoshop for months. The album was not done yet but I put some weird distorted filter on The House and just saved it for like a year and was hell bent on using that as the text on the cover. I think it’s really wacky and Halloween almost. It’s a little out of place and it’s kind of confusing – sort of like a horror film kind of thing, but I like how it turned out a lot.
How would you like people to feel after listening to The House?
Happy, thoughtful, melancholy, inspired. I just want people to feel good.
‘The House’ is out on January 19th, via Domino Records
Pre-order it here