A musical adventurer with past stints playing indie rock in London, gypsy klezmer music with the traveling Berlin Youth Circus and piano in off-Broadway productions, Italian-born New Yorker, Mauro Remiddi, has decided there’s nothing quite as meaningful as effectively capturing the present. His latest musical endeavor – and first as Porcelain Raft – is called Strange Weekend, and it’s surely the most compelling collection of billowing, synth-filled dream-pop ever recorded within the confines of a small, Brooklyn basement. Between tour dates in Europe, Remiddi reflects on the creation of his Porcelain Raft debut, his explorations of musical context, and on his strangest (read: best-ever) weekend spent hunkered down against a hurricane.
Where did the name Porcelain Raft come from?
I just put the two words together and it felt right straight away. It feels like a name that won’t allow cynical people to like it. They’ll see the raft made of porcelain sink in the water. People that use their imagination however, will question themselves: ‘If it’s not floating on water, what’s it floating on?’
Your musical experience is so diverse, how do you begin to whittle down your influences and extract Porcelain Raft?
I think influences are always unconscious and you never really know where an idea has its root, really. That’s the beauty of it: you make music and then it tells you what has remained inside you after all this time.
Where were you at in your life when you wrote Strange Weekend – and did it shape the sound and feel of the record?
I had just moved to Brooklyn deciding that it was my new home. I met the most important woman of my life –Grace – and we were preparing to be married right after the album was recorded. It was a new place and a new chapter of my life with so much going on, but I didn’t really forge or shape the sound. It’s the way it came about and I let it be without touching it too much.
Is it meant to tell a story of any kind?
It’s a snapshot of me at that moment when I wrote it. It doesn’t talk about my life as a whole or anything life changing. All the thoughts I had that ‘weekend,’ and all the feelings that passed through me are all recorded in the album. Sometimes they were silly, light thoughts and sometimes they went way back to the past.
Atmospheric, dreamy and wistful are all words that come to mind listening to your songs – particularly tracks like Drifting In and Out, Shapeless & Gone, Put Me To Sleep and The End of Silence. What kind of headspace do you need to be in to conceive of pieces like these?
I’m interested in that moment in the morning when you open your eyes but you’re still half asleep. For a fraction of a second you maybe don’t remember where you are, or you look at your hands and don’t recognize them as your own...
So what is your writing process like?
I tend to write and record at the same time; I improvise the lyrics and randomly say things that might start a song. I edit a lot – it’s so much fun for me – and so I feel more like a Director and that the themes and parts of the songs are like actors…I like to move them around to see if the scene works better.
Iread something about your penchant for white space…Tell me about that.
To me, sounds are like the lighting of a movie, and that’s where the idea of white space comes about. If you put any given object into a completely white room, that object is stripped of its context and its relation with the world. It’s interesting to put musical material which isn’t new or groundbreaking – something that everybody recognizes – into ‘a white room.’ Suddenly even the most common drum machine, rock and roll beats sound alien.
The last two tracks on the album – Picture and The Way – are much more straightforward in their structure, and your lyrics are significantly more intelligible. Is there a reason why they’re different?
The order of the songs on the album respect the way I composed and recorded them. Those two last songs were actually the last two I recorded. I was tired, and I didn’t really spend time in finding anything more than what I had in front of me. That’s why they sound more straightforward. I put them on the album because they feel very natural to me. Like when you talk to a friend, for example; in the first moments both of you are totally into whatever you’re discussing but slowly the focus of the conversation goes somewhere else until you eventually say, ‘Bye see you later; it was great to see you.’
Are your songs quite different beasts when performed live?
Some songs have a completely different approach. Now I have a drummer with me on stage and we’re having so much fun reinventing some of them. They were composed and recorded purposefully very quickly so as to not let the dust settle on them – like a snapshot of a work in progress. Now they seem to grow in the live setting, and I see them taking shapes I’d never imagined.
The video for Unless You Speak From Your Heart is compelling in its simplicity and its lightheartedness. As Director, what were you imparting about yourself and/or the song?
The idea is rooted in what I saying before about the white room: I just wanted to put myself and my alter ego in a white room and improvise something; I wanted to be joyful with not much planned – just like the song. I composed and recorded it in a day, while a bit tipsy.
So tell me, what’s the strangest weekend you’ve ever had?
There’s so many! The one I loved the most was the hurricane Irene weekend. Everyone in New York was waiting for the Armageddon. The supermarket was full of people buying water; shops were closing up display windows with wooden panels…It was just like a movie. Grace and I were at home with wine and a record player. It was the best two days I’ve had in a long time.
Porcelain Raft is on tour now in Europe with M83. The album can be streamed in full below.
02/16 – London, UK @ Shepherds Bush Empire
02/23 Copenhagen, DK @ Vega
02/24 Oslo, NO @ Rockefeller
02/25 Stockholm, SE @ Berns
02/27 Helsinki, FI @ Tavastia
02/29 Malmo, SE @ KB
03/5 Munich, DE @ Hansa
03/6 Milan, IT @ Magazini Generali
03/9 Barcelona, SP @ Bikini
03/10 Madrid, SP @ Shoko
03/11 Porto, PT @ Hard Club
03/12 Lisbon, PT @ Lux