The New York singer, songwriter and musician Porches, aka Aaron Maine, may still be known as a cult blog act. But that should change with his third album The House – one of 2018’s first key drops. Though Maine originally made indie, The House reveals gleaming synth-pop with its bops and ballads – some Auto-Tuned. The current single ‘Find Me’ is a ’90s house banger that could be played in a club – despite its theme of (social) anxiety and seeking solitude. And Maine has collaborated with Blood Orange’s Devonté “Dev” Hynes, who sings on the previously aired ‘Country’. Other input comes from the nearly-as-cult (Sandy) Alex G and Maine’s songwriter dad, Peter Maine.
Hailing from Pleasantville, in New York state, Maine picked up guitar in his youth and started pursuing music. He studied visual art (painting) at the State University Of New York in Purchase while gigging with the band Space Ghost Cowboys. In 2013 Maine issued his debut Porches album, Slow Dance In The Cosmos, which he’d brand “bummer pop”. Maine also released music as Ronald Paris on Brooklyn’s Terrible Records – onetime home of Hynes. He then signed to Domino Records and offered 2016’s Pool – his breakthrough (meaning no more daytime construction jobs!).
Along the way, Maine relocated to NY to join his girlfriend Greta Kline – who has her own project, Frankie Cosmos. Maine played drums for Frankie Cosmos, and Kline bass in the Porches band. They became countercultural darlings. Curiously, few tweaked that Kline is the daughter of Hollywood royalty in the Oscar-winning Kevin Kline and Gremlins star Phoebe Cates. Alas, post-Pool, Maine and Kline split.
Maine has spoken of approaching The House with “a sense of urgency”. Yet today he denies that this was anything to do with the political volatility in the US. “Shit has been a disaster here forever – honestly,” Maine sighs. In fact, he commenced The House prior to Trump’s election. Rather, that urgency came from Maine finally being a full-time artist while adjusting to constant touring and feeling “uprooted”. As such, he resolved to make creative use of any “free time” at home. “I was feeling a very selfish urgency!”
Music Feeds: They’re calling The House your third album, even though your overall output is quite extensive. How do you see it in relation to your other work? It seems very compact and precise, this record.
Porches: Cool. Yeah, it feels really good. I suppose the newest thing should feel like the best work you’ve done – if you’re lucky! I think I learned a lot with Pool – that was a big stride for me artistically in a lot of ways. I felt like I found some version of myself that felt the most poignant or deliberate or something than any other iteration of my music in the past. This, again, I think it’s quite different from Pool. But I am just interested in growing. I’m interested in making music that is exciting to me. I don’t think making shit that sounds like stuff you’ve already made is exciting when it comes to the listener or the person making it. So I’m psyched with how it came out – and that feels good. It feels like I’m onto something new. I guess that’s how it’s always been. I’m just trying to outdo myself somehow. I’m glad that you call it “precise”, though…
Music Feeds: How have your life experiences fed into this work? Because the last few years have been quite eventful. You signed to Domino for the last record, so you have the security of that, but also heightened expectations. And you went through relationship stuff…
Porches: Well, it’s just kind of like it’s always been for me – it was like a diary thing. So whatever experiences I have one or way or another usually end up in some sort of song or lyric or something like that. When I was writing this, we had just gotten back from our first real album cycle with Pool. The touring was crazy and exhausting and kind of a shocking thing to do. I got back and just took a breath. I was just so happy to be home and felt a severe urge to buckle down and take advantage of having signed a record deal and it really being my fucking job to make music. I don’t think it ever really felt [like] so much pressure to deliver – it felt natural. I’ve always pushed myself to try and make something that’s really special to me. You get the best results when you try and make something that’s your vision – or, at least for me, that’s what I’ve always done. I think that staying true to your vision is ultimately creating something that is completely unique to you and that only you can make. So I was back home, really determined to just work and write and not take for granted that I didn’t have to have a day job or whatever. I just threw myself into it more than I ever had, because I was afforded the time to do that. I wanted to take full advantage of my situation and just make stuff, ’cause that’s always what I’ve been most excited about doing – whether it’s a song or painting or anything, really. But, yeah, I guess it’s like, in between the whirlwind of my life, I’ve found peace and satisfaction in sitting down and writing and documenting what was going on. It was kind of a way to slow everything down and have something to show for it at the end of the day.
MF: This is one of your most collaborative projects. I was intrigued when I read that you were working with Dev Hynes. I also read that you loved his Freetown Sound. But how did your paths actually cross – and how did you come to work with each other?
Porches: I had been a fan for a long time and, through being a fan, I had heard about Terrible Records, which Ethan Silverman runs [and which issued a Ronald Paris single]. He’d put out, I think, the first Blood Orange seven inch… I guess it was through Ethan, who’s been friends with Dev for a long time, that we met and played ping-pong and whatever; slowly started the relationship. Yeah, we’ve become quite close. He’s a really special person. I really admire him so much as an artist. I feel lucky to get to work with him on stuff sometimes.
MF: You have said that you realised one day that you don’t actually listen to rock. How come? Because you grew up in the suburbs. I’m not quite sure what Pleasantville is like. But what were you listening to?
Porches: Well, that’s the thing. I did grow up listening mainly to rock music until I was about 24 or something. I grew up on The Strokes and The Beatles and Arcade Fire and Velvet Underground and Neil Young – like all guitar music. So, of course, that’s the kind of music I was making when I was younger – and that felt right. That was how I knew how to do it. Those were the instruments I knew how to play; those were the sounds that were ingrained in my head long past when I had really stopped listening to that. So my skills and voice had to catch up to my taste. It was a conscious thing to be like, “Oh, shit – actually listen to what you’re making and ask yourself if you would put this on in your headphones today if someone else had put it out.” And I decided I wouldn’t so much. I enjoyed it for what it was. But, when I moved to the city, I got a computer and Spotify and iTunes and just was more thirsty for music in general – and a lot of it was not guitar music. So it seemed natural to try and not make guitar music, as that’s not what I was listening to so much.
MF: You’ve expressed ambivalence towards touring – not so much performing, but just the grind of touring. I wondered how you are finding a balance between tour and recording life now – if it’s become any easier?
Porches: No, it hasn’t become easier – like there’s no way, you can’t just invent time. It’s literally the amount of time it takes. I know I go on about this. I just wanna say that I am so, so blessed to be able to do this (laughs). I wouldn’t do anything else – and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I wouldn’t trade my situation for anything. But it is crazy to be away for so long and travelling. It’s not really cosy for us, which is fine. It’s been worse. I’ve lost weight. I’ve been broke on the road – and that’s fucking crazy. Now we’re all right. We’re still in a van and we still do the driving. So you can’t really do anything but sit in the van. You’re shoulder-to-shoulder. You can read, you can write maybe, but I find it hard to be as productive as I would like to be for all these months of being away. We had a pretty easy year [in 2017]. I’m still scheming, like, how to feel productive on the road – because that’s one thing I miss. I miss being able to work and I miss, more than that, the people in my life that live in New York and being able to see them and taking part in the narrative of leading a remotely regular social life – romantic life. All that stuff suffers. There’s no way to get around that unless you bring everyone on tour with you, which is not possible. And then there’s the productivity. I’m gonna try to record and write [on the road] – which is a pain in the ass, to carry all that stuff around. But I think maybe I’ll feel better if I do and [I] am making stuff, instead of just burning eight hours sitting in a van on Instagram or something like that.
MF: Is there any talk of you coming to Australia – because the fact that you’re doing interviews suggests we’re on your radar? Have you actually been?
Porches: No, I’ve never been there. I’ve heard really good things about it. Our manager mentioned trying to hit up Australia and that part of the world at the end of the year, which would be incredible. A lot of my fellow musician friends have been there and had really great things to say about it. So I would love to have the opportunity to go and perform and see what’s up. Nothing, as far as I know, is set in stone, but I would hope before the end of the year we’d go there for the first time, to see.
‘The House’ is out now. Grab a copy here.