By Jordan Reisman
Is the music video as we now know it going the way of the Walkman? Well, some would say the medium is in flux. Porcelain Raft of Brooklyn, NY is doing their part to make their brand of electro-pop a moment in time accompanied by a stimulating visual. The group is the brainchild of Mauro Remiddi, an Italian musician now a transplant in New York with an eye for the aesthetics of his work. Offering much more than just music, Porcelain Raft most recently released the LP entitled Permanent Signal on Secretly Canadian Records, a sound experiment of sorts that, although ethereal and dream-like, Remiddi asserts is a literal depiction of what goes on in his life. BTR had a chance to speak with him and poke around in the Porcelain Raft world.
The way in which Remiddi decided to recruit new members into the band and the reasons he decided to have a proper band at all are each attached to their own anecdotes. Since the core of Porcelain Raft was just Remiddi, in the earlier days of the group he would support major acts like Youth Lagoon and M83.
He recounted a story about when he was supporting the latter in Stockholm and he experienced a moment straight out of This Is Spinal Tap where he got lost after leaving the dressing room. (To paint a picture of the venues he was playing, they were the kinds that had dressing rooms at all).
Because it was just him and a tour manager (who wasn’t always present and reliable, he said that sometimes he would get paired up with the “wrong” tour manager), he would get lost in a Stockholm venue, not unlike a child in a department store, for upwards of thirty minutes. And we all know how frustrating that can be.
“That’s why I wanted to get a band, I didn’t want to get lost anymore,” says Remiddi.
Not wanting to experience such a harrowing half hour again, Remiddi it was time to find some other people to play with.
“As soon as I started playing bigger venues, I just felt the need of having somebody with me to share the energy. And honestly, it’s a lot of fun,” said Remiddi.
After deciding he didn’t want to tour alone, Remiddi found drummer Matt Olsson from Porcelain’s former drummer, Jonny Rogoff of Yuck. Remiddi claims Olsson got in the band because “he has the best tattoos” one of them being a tribute to Tom Waits. Remiddi found the bassist Chris Puidokas just “on tour”, he was from New York.
“None of us played together before like a band so it’s kind of starting from the beginning. It was a nice start, I have to say,” said Remiddi about Porcelain Raft’s reinvention as a three-piece.
Mauro Remiddi is an Italian living in New York, as if you couldn’t tell already from his name which he claims that Starbucks employees get wrong and often just call him “Zorro” instead. He found his way playing music in New York through what he calls “a series of coincendences.” He had been living in London for 12 years when he played a CMJ show here two years ago, before Porcelain Raft even had a release out (to give you a sense of just how new this band is). Remiddi speaks of a revelation when playing his CMJ show which prompted him to make a major life change.
“The energy, the people; there was something that really connected with me and I could tell the music was something that really resonated. I can’t express it, to be honest. There was something that clicked in my head, it was like, ‘This place is something really special,’” he said about New York.
It also didn’t hurt that the same night he met the woman who is now his wife, the elusive Grace. (It’s proof: CMJ is for lovers.)
Remiddi has no ties to geography really, he moved from Italy in 2000, then London, then New York. Moving around seems to act as a way to keep himself on his toes and not too grounded in one specific place.
He says about leaving the Boot, “I escaped from Italy because I felt I touched a limit, I reached a limit with what I was doing personally, emotionally, and with music. I just felt, ‘You know what? There is much more out there, I can sense it.’ I had this chance to go to London and I just moved there without thinking too much. These kinds of things, you can’t really plan them. It just happens. Either you follow your instincts or you don’t. I felt like I was in a cage, it was a small cage. Suddenly there is a hole in the cage, you just run away.”
Though Porcelain Raft is rooted in New York currently, he sees no reason why he wouldn’t get tired of it at some point. Not out of anger or frustration but he describes moving in a different way, “you just move from one small room to a bigger room and that room becomes bigger.”
The way Mauro Remiddi writes songs for Porcelain Raft is a lot like the way he travels: acting on a feeling in the moment. His process works like this: compose “something” and at the same time, record it. At first, he just takes the skeleton of a song with a melody and a guitar behind it, and then improvises lyrics. Afterwards, he listens back and picks out lines that he likes and then work the rest of it out, all in the same day.
”I try not to wait too much,” says Remiddi. “I like to capture things which are on the top of my head.”
Porcelain Raft’s most recent record, Permanent Signal, was a moment in time for Remiddi. Much like the rest of his behavior, he tries to capture and act on whatever is happening at that moment. Such a writing process evolved during a major tour where upon returning home he was “exhausted, confused and all the rest.”
He describes the record as a “moment in transition from touring to normal life.” Sonically, the album sounds like an interpretation of a dream but he says this couldn’t be further from the truth. He goes so far as to say, “Everything I do hasn’t got fiction in it. It’s not fiction. Even though lots of people see this texture which is very dreamy, but what I do has nothing to do with dreams.”
With the album being released in late August, the band has released two “music videos” of the songs “Think of the Ocean” and “The Way Out”, although the term really doesn’t apply. Remiddi does not think of them as videos but instead as visuals, a type of accompaniment with the songs. He admits that he watches “way more movies than I listen to music”. He may be a visual person but “that’s why I like to make music because it’s a fun way to translate certain things that I see.”
“Maybe we don’t need a video; a visual, something you can look and get lost in it more than actually a video with a story.”
Remiddi might be on to something here: less story, more visual.
To get lost in Permanent Signal, click here.
Check out Porcelain Raft’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.