Interview: How New York Helped Inform the Sound of the Excellent New Porcelain Raft Album

01/30/2012 10:00 AM |

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Strange Weekend, the full-length debut from Mauro Remiddi’s project Porcelain Raft, hits a blissful sweet spot with its airy vocals, densely produced music, and cascading melodies. But there’s also a surprising depth here, a willingness to take that sound in unexpected directions. It doesn’t hurt that Remiddi has been making music since the mid-1990s, or that he has a wider range of influences to draw from than one might expect from a one-man dreampop outfit. What makes Strange Weekend stand out is its attention to detail: touches like Remiddi’s use of a range of vocal approaches on “Drifting In and Out,” or the bits of glam-rock swagger, such as on “Unless You Speak From Your Heart.” Though there’s a clear shoegaze influence here, it’s elements like these that help differentiate Porcelain Raft from many of Remiddi’s peers.

I checked in with Remiddi in advance of his stop at Webster Hall tomorrow night to talk about the making of the album, his use of layered vocals, and more.

Especially on “Drifting In and Out,” you use a number of distinct vocal styles within the same song. How much of that do you arrange in advance?
I try not to arrange at all but I it seams I just can’t help it, that’s why I try to compose and record the song in the same day, I don’t have time to over think and make it too ‘orchestral’. Those vocals were recorded in three, four hours, I lay down as much as I can and then afterwards I edit and choose what I like.

You’ve mentioned in interviews that you’re touring with a drummer for the first time. Do you ever see Porcelain Raft as a project that will incorporate a full band?
I may see that in the future but I don’t want to play as a band. This is my project and I can expand or make it solo any time I feel like, changing the dimension of what I do, using the size of what I do as an instrument.

Where does the songwriting process begin for you: with a beat, with a riff, or with a section of lyrics?
I need to start with a beat just because naturally I’m more keen in the melody side of a song. I want the rhythm to dictate the melody, I want the thing that I know the less to lead me somewhere I don’t know yet.

Has the experience of relocating to New York led you to write any specific songs?
When you go away from a place you have been living in for so long the first thing that happens to you is to look back (maybe subconsciously) to certain feelings which were connected to the place you just left.
New York dictated the sound of these album and the tone of my voice, the rest comes from a place which I couldn’t see when I was in London and once in New York got a spot light on it.

Do you find that you’re dealing with different themes in your lyrics since moving here?
I like to think that the themes I’m dealing with in the album are superficial at times and go deep when they have to. Like skipping a stone across the water, it bounces, it touches just the surface several times, but finally stops and goes down.

Some of the press for the album has mentioned the fact that you’ve played music in North Korea; how did that come about?
Just by chance my band, when I was in Italy, got noticed by a company that worked with North Korea. To celebrate Kim Ill Sung’s birthday they have a national holiday called Spring Festival. We were invited there representing Italy, together with other nations, all bringing some type of entertainment to the ‘great leader’. Little I knew about the all thing, I was just 23 or so and North Korea wasn’t in really the news in the 90s.

It was terrifying, interesting and deeply paranoid experience. I will write something and go more in detail about it, maybe on my blog.

Has that experience informed any of the music you’ve written?
If I think about it all their national music is very very happy. Like hysterical happy and they are a starving nation, there so much suffering but everyone is cheering under a military state. That sense of happiness transmitted and portrayed by their folk song, in a place like that, made a big impact on me.