April 18, 2014 by Michelle Laggan
At this point, we’ve all heard ambient synthesizers and ethereal reverberation in indie music. Archetypal male lead singers with unrefined vocals predictably dominate mic stands, and lofty female harmonies aren’t exactly difficult to come by either. By incorporating all of these things, Porches. could seem like a band with little new content to offer, but they’ve somehow combined these ordinary things into a uniquely authentic sound and message that will make you feel like you’re hearing music for the first time again.
Perfectly translating their spacey, lo-fi masterpiece “Slow Dance in the Cosmos” to a more rock-based version of itself, Porches., a New York band on the rise, played Golden Tea House March 30. On guitar and vocals, Aaron Maine swallowed the audience with the profound honesty of his autobiographical and straight-shooting lyrics. Bassist Greta Kline picked up harmonies with impeccable timing and digression, never allowing needlessness to soil the celestial juxtaposition of her airy vocals and Maine’s scratchy but inviting timbre. Maine later commented on the calculated and all-encompassing simplicity of their style, “I want it to sound clean and tight and powerful. … I don’t like stuff that’s too flashy. … I’m really into breaking stuff down and dissecting what I think of as a pop song and making it minimal; just having each part do exactly what it’s supposed to do, and no more, and no less.”
No one guitar part stands out significantly, and there are no impressive drum solos to be heard in the Porches. set. Rather, Maine incorporates every color of paint on his musical palette in order to meticulously create a picture that is neither abstract nor still-life. Even the perfect amount of silence seems to be incorporated throughout each wall of sound. “Headsgiving,” for example, includes a simple but catchy bass intro whose minimalism is the perfect counterpart to the enveloping synth effect that follows, making this song a definite crowd-pleaser.
Maine, the founder of Porches., released the band’s first EP in January 2011 after wading through a few token first-attempt bands such as Aaron Maine and the Reilly Brothers and Space Ghost Cowboys. Porches. settled on their current roster after the addition of Kline, whose project Frankie Cosmos features Maine on the drums. Their most recent album includes constant allusions to Frankie and Ronnie, the somewhat removed alter egos of Kline and Maine, whose story provide snapshots in time that weave the theme for “Slow Dance in The Cosmos.” With a unique continuity and interrelatedness that reinforces the personal but engaging lyrics, many of the songs on the album narrate Maine’s personal experiences, frequently inspired by New York City and Kline.
Maine commented on the characters of Frankie and Ronnie that live within his music, “We’ve been calling each other Frank and Ron for, like, two years now. It’s just nice to separate your personal life and your music even if it’s just by not calling each other our actual names. It’s just like a little piece of glass that makes it not too personal, or fictional to the point where you can exaggerate stuff for the sake of the narrative of the song. I don’t think either of us really pays too much attention to the story as a whole. I don’t know. It’s just kind of fun to have a moniker to remove your art from your personal life.”
He later said, “A lot of it I did write when me and Greta were first starting to hang out and first dating and stuff, so I think a lot of it is inspired by being in love or falling in love and the trials, and from my experience, the bad. It was written over a long period of time, too. There’s a vague narrative. I don’t really think you could put it into words. But to me it feels, symbolism-wise, like there’s a line that runs through the record. It’s not so tangible but … I don’t know.”
The band played some unreleased songs at their Golden Tea House show, which seemed to maintain Porches.’ dark undertones and calculated balance in color while also incorporating some more energetic ‘80s sounds.
As the primary songwriter of the group, Maine commented on this stylistic progression, “I’m definitely attracted to [‘80s music]; I do want to try to steer clear from having [the new album] sound like, you know, ‘80s revivalist kind of record because that’s really popular these days. But I have been listening to some more, like, ‘90s, R&B and house music stuff too. … It’s stuff that I’m really drawn to that I’ve had no experience with before, so I’ve just been experimenting with using different drum machines. Blood Orange has been a huge inspiration lately as well in terms of song writing and production. I’m attracted to electronic music and the ‘80s vibe and sound but I’m going to try and keep it fresh and unique as well.”
This new material was received with open arms by Philadelphia fans, who seemed to have reacted in a way that the artist would have wanted. “I’m thinking about this new stuff we’ve been working on and I want people to feel cool when they listen to it, and I want people to dance to it and just not feel angsty and start a mosh pit. … I want people to get down,” Maine said.
When asked what he sees for the future, Maine said, with an outlook reflective of his balanced and focused musical style, that “A lot of great records and good art is all I can hope for”. With seeds of artistic progression in place through Porches.’ new material, and an arsenal of poignantly undefinable songs on which the band has built their rock-solid base, all the pieces are in motion for something big. Now all we have to do is stay tuned and wait for the next move.