New York has always had a strong powerful musical history, from Tin Pan Alley in the late 19th century, to the proto-punk, punk, and no wave movements of the 70s and 80s, to millennial bands like the Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, and in some ways, Animanaguchi. Porches. are a band that have begun to lend their sound to the great timeline of the New York music scene. Aaron Maine, who has been making music for years under various monikers, has released his second album as Porches. full of gentle synth waves and slow-dance basslines. Recorded (mostly) in the New York apartment he shares with his girlfriend and occasional collaborator (Greta Kline aka Frankie Kosmos), Pool fits nicely in the synth and dream-pop genre but features Maine’s tip-top songwriting and melancholic vocals. It’s a straight up solid pop record that takes the listener through a woozy benzodiazepine-tinged journey of love, loss, and the pursuit of happiness. Set for a tour spanning 4 countries in 3 months, Porches are a textbook example of a band to watch.
I managed to reach Maine right as he was getting into his apartment but before his phone was about to die. His voice is low and gentle and speaks of an honest passion for music. Our conversation is below:
Northern Transmissions: How you doing?
Aaron Maine: I’m just getting back into my apartment so give me one second…
NT: So you live in Manhattan?
NT: Pretty intense place to live?
AM: Yeah, I guess so…. lotta people.
NT: So I hear the new record was inspired by the move New York, but you’ve been in New York for a while now. Spaceghost Cowboys [one of Maine’s earlier projects] were based out of New York.
AM: Well, I grew up in New York State, I didn’t move to the city till like, 4 years ago, but I grew up like 45 minutes north of the city.
NT: So you’d be in and out of the city a lot growing up?
AM: I honestly didn’t come in that often, no. Occasionally for like a show, go shopping or something. Yeah, I was pretty content staying my town skating and making music there.
NT: So what kind of music did you listen growing up? What were some of your influences?
AM: Well, I guess when I really started, what I was listening to when I started making music and what inspired me to start making music was when like the Strokes came out. That was kind of huge for me it seemed kind of simple it on the surface and doable and really cool and special. So the first few bands I was in I feel like we just wanted to sound like the Strokes, probably like most bands that started around that time.
I like the Beatles. I’ve listened to the Beatles all of my life and I’ve been a big Neil Young fan for a long time. All sorts of stuff really.
I definitely remember first hearing that Strokes record…
NT: On to this record, Pool, I’m 80% sure this is a concept album, right?
AM: Um, No. Not really. No. Not at all actually. I feel like there’s some very vague themes present but I’m curious to hear your take.
NT: Well I’d been listening to Slowdance In the Cosmos [Porches first album, which was a concept album] and the first song makes reference to Franklin [Frankie Cosmos aka Greta Kline]. In the video for “Hour” features a lot of the same images: video camera, car, pool, Franklin… Just all these things that seemed to interrelate into one larger story.
I’m mean sure, there’s repeating images…
You’re allowed to tell em I’m wrong.
AM: Well, no I mean, when you say concept album I imagine something a lot more in depth than repeating characters and imagery, but ye. I wanted there to be something tying the album together, kind of making it it’s own world. Can’t find my phone charger… but continue, I’m just wandering around.
NT: Yeah, which makes sense with Porches. You have a lot of characters and worlds in a lot of your work, with characters like Ronald Paris [Maine released a 3 songs under the name Ronald Paris]. Can you tell me more about him or do you like to keep things mysterious?
AM: Oh no, it’s pretty simple. It just seemed like around the time I was writing and demoing a lot of stuff for this album that it just felt like a really different chapter in the Porches. book. I was tempted to change the name and start with a clean slate but I didn’t want to confuse anyone so I just sort of made that for myself just to kind of mark it, and have at least for my own peace of mind, kind of separate myself from the Porches stuff in the past and feel like this is now. What I want to put out there [should be more], representative of Ronald Paris, rather than an “other” me.
NT: Yeah, there’s a huge contrast between Slowdance and Pool albums. The opening tracks, “Headsgiving” and “Underwater” are two completely different songs, sonically speaking. I noticed that’s more of the sound that you did on that split tape as Ronald Paris. What made you want to go for a more hi-fi sound?
AM: It wasn’t really…It was less about hi-fi than just wanting to have different instrumentation and different arrangements. I think synths and drum machines are easier to get a higher definition sound just in their nature because they’re computers going into computers. It’ll sound a little crisper, I guess. At the same time I never intended my music to be sloppy or grungy but it often of came out that way. I really focused on making something chic and crisp for the first time cause I didn’t want to make something like that [sloppy and grungy]. At the end of the day it still sounds kind of like home-recorded and has some interesting humanity and flaws to it which I like in the midst of a more polished electronic thing.
NT: You recorded the whole album in your apartment right?
AM: Yeah most of it, we did live drums at our friend’s studio because I have no idea how to record live drums; it’s like a whole other art. We did some guitars up there and some vocals at a friends place in New Paltz [NY] just to have someone tell me everything was going to be alright and coach me through, but I probably did 90% of it here in this apartment.
NT: So you produced this record, do you see yourself continuing to do that?
AM: Yeah, I truly am deeply excited by recording music and I kind of discovered that thought this whole process making this album. From the first demo I made, I wasn’t like “I’m gonna make this myself” [but] I really got into recording these pretty elaborate demos making them sound as good as I could. By the time it got to recording-album-time I felt like I could pull it off myself if I pushed. So I really like recording music and making sounds and arranging and layers and fucking around with drum machines. I’m interested in working on other peoples music too, so I’m having a ball with that.
NT: So you might be producing for some other bands in the future, but nothing set yet.
AM: Yeah, nothing set yet. I did a thing with Greta, the Fit Me In EP. I recorded and I would say produced that which came out a couple months ago. I’m not lined up with anyone now, but I think in the future we’ll do something like that.
NT: Do you think with you and Greta that there would be another channel you’d want to record under? If you were to keep doing stuff together would it be under Porches. or would this be something else entirely?
AM: What do you mean?
NT: So, you’re the key songwriter of Porches, but if you were to collaborate with Greta, write with her, would you continue to do that under Porches., or would that be another thing?
AM: Oh yeah, it would be different. Well, we thought it would be fun -since we left each others bands since it got too crazy- to start a project, like another one just for fun. We haven’t thrown any names around or anything but eventually that’ll be a thing to do.
I’ve personally never been in this situation, but is it ever weird or awkward to be really creative and exposed around a partner, or does it come naturally to make music with someone that you’re in a relationship with?
Pretty natural, not too scary. When we started dating we were always writing poems together reading them and sharing stuff so it’s always been open. Even like sharing a space and apartment with another musician, you kinda have to be respectful. Just the noise, and when someone’s working on a song or recording there’s that. Overall, it’s always been pretty organic.
NT: The sound of your record, I feel that with the technology that’s available dance music is evolving from being club bangers to headphone music. Instead of it being in a live venue like a nightclub now you can listen to these things on headphones. Pool is very danceable, but has a real emotional core, is this something you’re trying to develop?
AM: Yeah, I really like the idea of making something that, in a live environment people can get enjoy themselves and get lost and dance, you know feel good. Also something that you can put on headphones and get really lost in that way. Something that’s emotional and also you know, fun in a live setting.
This always comes up but someone that did that for me is Arthur Russell. Really just so warm and beautiful and full of love and humanity and also like so so fun to just put on and jump around to. I like how it occupies both of those worlds.
NT: I’ve actually been trying to get into Russell. Can you recommend anything before you go?
AM: My introduction to him was Love is Overtaking Me which came out later, in 2010 maybe? I think they discovered a lot of tapes of his that and his whole team kind of went in and put together these songs that hadn’t been released before and the first have has some of the most amazing, like, they’re not country, but like folk songs that he wrote and they’re just like perfect pop songs. Sort of weird, but I would definitely recommend that album.
NT: Rad man, thanks so much for your time. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Toronto.
AM: Nice, see you there!