Porcelain Raft first leapt to our collective attention back in 2010, when his track ‘Tip of Your Tongue‘ went…well, viral. In no time at all, the tantalising tones of the hazy, heady song were rattling around blogs and sites as far as search engines could reach. Made from the hands of the then London, now Brooklyn-based Italian Mauro Remeddi, ‘Tip of Your Tongue’ succeeded in engaging everybody that was lulled into its path, and went on to spawn some great remixes too.
Fast forward to the early days of 2012, and Remeddi is driving up to Scotland, excitedly awaiting the imminent release of Porcelain Raft’s first album Strange Weekend. “We just played two shows [with M83] and it’s been so much fun. On stage I’m joined by Michael on drums, so now that we’re two, the sound is way richer, there are more details – I’m having so much fun!”
‘Hype’ can be a contentious creature, and the resulting pressure can often entice artists to travel in all of the wrong directions. So with the attention generated by ‘Tip of Your Tongue’ following Remiddi around, was there any sense of pressure to speed along and strike while the iron was hot, so to speak? “No, I didn’t feel pressure” he states. “We say that about that song now but back then, it didn’t feel like it was anything special. But I also think that in my case, momentum is not what I’m looking for. After that track came out, I had a lot of interest in the sense of ‘how would you like to support it?’ so I started playing live. That’s what I wanted to do, more than recording an album. So basically, instead of recording and signing a deal, we started to play live and did that for a year and it was amazing. So I just took my time and then when I felt like making a record, I just did it.”
Whenever Porcelain Raft is described or discussed, the manner in which the music is made is always a subject that comes to the forefront. Remiddi has made no secret of his recording habits, and of the fact that the early Porcelain Raft tracks that garnered him so much attention were recorded alone in his London bedroom. “I had to use headphones, and I couldn’t really sing loud, and I couldn’t use drums – I was in a flat – so sometimes, my music had this feeling of intimacy just because of that. Because it couldn’t be otherwise” says Remiddi of the process. “I just decided to stick with [that method], to play in a room, to not have any producers – just me by myself having fun with my music. But instead of being in my bedroom, I thought ‘let’s go somewhere where I can actually play drums and sing loud’. Then I could go more into details about things. I wasn’t just forced to be intimate or quiet, I could’ve been loud if I wanted to. So it just meant freedom.”
Having created each minute element of the music himself, the project must feel like such a personal thing, so how does Remiddi feel about opening the music up to another participant on stage? ”Even if something is personal, the important thing is to leave space for somebody else to come in and feel what he wants to feel as well” he replies. “So you’re telling a story, but you’re not dictating the feelings – you might feel one way about the story, but someone else might feel differently. So the important thing is to leave that space for somebody else to project his own feelings and in that sense, it’s been great.” The location of of the creation of Strange Weekend may have differed from that used for the making of 2011′s Gone Blind EP, but did time led to any other major changes? ”The process was still exactly the same,” Remeddi states, “the idea of composing and recording a song in the same day, and trying to not over-produce it, not over-think it. The approach was very similar, I didn’t want to change that. My next album probably won’t be like that, I’ll do what I feel like. It’s not like I’ll stick with this just for the sake of it, but right now, it really represents me.”
“I sit down recording, and then maybe improvise some lyrics and a melody, and then I’ll listen back to it. Sometimes, when you just say random things for the sake of finding a melody, actually those things that you’re singing randomly start to make sense. So I’ll start to listen to what I just sang and a sentence can start a feeling, and a sentence can start a story. I create the image that the sound will follow.”
Strange Weekend comprises a refined collection of glimmering, lovelorn, swooning melodies. It’s an album full of tender tunes, while remaining bright, vibrant and lively. It’s a body of work that could in no way have been created by a novice, but who’s saying that Porcelain Raft is indeed a novice? In fact, Remiddi boasts an eclectic music CV, to say the least. Playing piano for a New York tap show, composing film scores and playing gypsy klezmer music with the Berlin Youth Circus are all listed as previous professions, implying that Remiddi’s musical training has been far from ordinary. “I wanted to experiment and see if I really liked it. And then I’d move on and do something else. So they all make sense in my life, because I’m doing what I’m doing now because of those things. They made me understand what I really like and what wasn’t a very good fit for me.”
With Remiddi currently in the process of creating a number of videos to accompany the album’s tracks, it’s easy to spot the fact that each song harbours a distinct personality and message, with each song telling a story and some inciting a certain sense of nostalgia, especially for the composer. ”I like ‘Unless Speak From Your Heart’. I had so much fun with every song but I remember that one because it was summer and I was finishing the album, so it was just adding details – I didn’t have to record anymore, it was more about editing. And I remember that all of my friends were out having beers, it was such a beautiful day and I thought ‘argh, I really have to finish this!’ So I thought ‘ah, fuck it’ and I got some beers and I recorded the track in one day, just because I wanted to. I was drunk and singing and composing this song, and it was fun! That was the last track I recorded for the album.”
Thankfully, the anticipation roused by those first whisperings of ‘Tip of Your Tongue’ have amounted to something which very much lives up to expectations. As a first album, Strange Weekend is accomplished and as an antidote to that dull, wintery sensation that seems to thrive in these January days, it’s perfectly fitting. As Mauro Remiddi prepares to climb back into his tour van to complete his journey to Glasgow, he offers an insight into what the year will hold for Porcelain Raft: “I have my laptop with me and I’m going to make a video for most of the songs while I’m on tour” he explains. “Then I have so many songs that I didn’t actually release, that were recorded for this album. I recorded maybe 20 songs for this album, and then decided to just use 10 but there are these ten songs that I love, so I think I want to do something with them. There’s lots of material to work on.” Prolific as ever and completely unphased by the kind of attention that would’ve melted someone with less experience and drive, Porcelain Raft is sure to make 2012 into whatever he wants it to be, and while we’re waiting to see what that is, we’ve got a great record to be listening to.
Strange Weekend is available now through Secretly Canadian.