Name: Porches aka Aaron Maine
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, producer
Current release: The new Porches album All Day Gentle Hold ! is out via Domino.
If you enjoyed this interview with Porches and would like to find out more about his work, visit the official Porches homepage. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and bandcamp.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I was thinking about this the other day. About how different artists must be moved by different emotions to create. I imagine some people feel the impulse when they experience happiness, some when they feel sorrow, some when they’re confused, some when they feel clarity, anger, etc.
It’s hard to say for me because I try to write regularly, more as a practice than as a “when inspiration strikes” kind of thing. I will sit down and write regardless of my mood a lot of the time. It all seems kind of out of my control, one day I could be inspired by some intense emotion, and another day like a shoe.
I think for me it’s about looking out for this subconscious momentum where your brain kind of enters into auto-pilot. I can identify the feeling of being inspired more than what creates it.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
More often than not I do not set out with an idea for what kind of song I want to make. Again it’s sort of just trying to get into this sort of flow state thing, making sounds, singing, writing words, etc. and essentially waiting around until I hopefully catch a wave where it just starts to pour out. The best songs I’ve made are the least belabored ones, the ones that feel like they wrote themselves.
I remember writing and recording “comedown song (gunk)” from front to back, almost exactly as it appears on the album, in like 20 minutes. I was totally taken away with whatever that spirit that was. it can be an intensely beautiful and overwhelming feeling.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
My preparation for writing is typically getting up on around 8 or 9, getting a coffee, writing in my notebook for an hour or so, just kind of stream of conscious stuff, or anything on my mind, dreams, fragments, and then going home picking up guitar or keyboard making some sounds. I’ll sing while scanning through my notebook to try and find some words or sentiments that feel right. I’ll try to find a melody and chords simultaneously usually, playing and singing at the same time. I’m usually recording as I’m writing, and I do my best to capture all the elements with the best quality that I can. A lot of the time those are where the most inspired moments happen, when the song is being born.
In ‘watergetsinisde’ I remember getting that fuzzed out guitar part, looping it, and just singing pouring out lyrics. I think all of the vocals, harmonies, guitars and drums on the recording of that song are from the day that I wrote it.
I definitely will go back and edit/ replay/ perform certain parts in other cases, but it’s good to have good recordings of the first performances because you might never be able to recreate the excitement of them.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I do the bulk of my recording/writing during the day.
I like to be fresh in the morning sitting down and seeing what I can come up with/ kind of fuzzy headed and half awake. During the recording of All Day Gentle Hold ! I would also invite friends over to kind of hang out/work at the same time. see what they thought, if they have any ideas, how they responded to certain parts, even if it was just like a “that’s cool”, it would help to keep it moving.
It’s good for me when it feels a little less precious, and lighter. My brain is more relaxed with someone else in the room and it can make for some better decision making.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
For me I have the most luck if I’m starting with like a sentence, or a few words that I really want to sing. I need some sort of anchor or something I can “believe” in when I’m starting a song.
I find it nearly impossible to “put lyrics to a song” after the fact if I don’t at least have some reference point of what I’m trying to say sounds like.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
The lyrics are usually the first thing more me, typically starting from a line or two that I write in my notebook, something that for whatever reason feels right to sing. Sometimes they’ll come from making things up on the spot, if I’m singing over a guitar or keyboard idea and something pops out that feels substantial. It could be something that makes me laugh, something that I overhear on the street, some weird string of words that’s satisfying to sing.
I like playing with the physical feeling of the words to see what kind of emotions they can drum up. It’s less about what they mean literally (I wouldn’t say these songs tell much of a linear story), but they definitely do tell an abstract one. I look for the feeling I get when I sing something that just feels right, like it can’t be any other combination of words, and I like it even more when those words don’t make “sense”.
On All Day Gentle Hold ! I used a lot of repetition because I liked the way it felt to sing a line over and over again, as if I was searching for the meaning as well.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I think what makes lyrics good depends on who’s singing them and what their intention is.
For me there is a perspective that I try to sing from that is kind of like half out of my body and half deep inside my brain.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I’ll try and do what the song tells me to do, going down any path that it seems to want to go. That feeling of getting carried away is important to me.
Of course not nearly everything makes the cut, but it feels important to give myself over to whatever strange creative whims I might be feeling that day. I'll try and follow the song through til the end, put it in the folder, and listen back and to see if it seems worth revisiting or not.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
It comes back to this auto-pilot feeling for me, at least when I feel my creativity is at its best. It feels like something else is carrying me away that’s out of my control and I’m just a vessel. It’s not for an audience, it’s not for me, it’s just for the sake of making something.
It seems impossible to explain where the desire to make art comes from. I guess it doesn’t even feel like a desire most of the time, it just feels like a necessity.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practise?
I think the more time I have to sit with a piece the better. My feelings can change a lot as time passes. I find it helpful to let things breathe, come back with fresh ears, or a different attitude, and see how the song holds up.
A lot of times I’ll come back to listen and be like “what the hell was I thinking”. Other times I’ll come back to a song that I thought was trash and get super excited about it.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I just try to keep creating. There never feels like much of a beginning or an end. It serves me in so many more ways than just having a final product.
Making music for me is like therapy, drugs, meditation, breating, mania, diary, mental exercise, physical exercise, you know? For whatever reason I just need to keep doing it.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I think it’s all the same. The way I interact with the people and things around me, my sense of humour, sensuality, anxieties, all inform my creativity, and my creativity informs all of those things back.
My goal is to sort of have the creative process feel like an appendage, where it could be put into a cup of coffee, a joke, a song, or a whatever, you know? Where everything applies to everything.