The Brighton quartet proves, once again, that the most desperate songs are also the most beautiful. The opportunity for a tea-time discussion to discuss their excellent second album.
However, this April day presented itself under the best auspices. An appointment was made with Porridge Radio, whose two previous albums had revealed one of the most fascinating female voices in rock. A bright sun sweeps across the elegant living room of a Parisian hotel, where Dana Margolin, composer, guitarist and singer, and Sam Yardley, drummer, curl up on a sofa like lazy cats. The day before, Dana had stirred the hearts of the audience at La Boule Noire, offering them an hour of intense musical catharsis.
Fatigue is quite legitimate, of course, but it is the spleen that suddenly invites itself from the first words of the conversation. Dana fleeing from the outset the simple question of “How are you ?”, so as not to answer in the negative. No, morale is not much better. And one would almost be tempted to say “So much the better”. It’s not to cheer us, but the singer has shown us more than once that she proudly wears her scars, digging into her wounds with her fingertips to check their depth, then showing them off through frontal texts and powerful.
The day had started off so well, however… And now the confusion sets in as we listen to this young woman evoke the existential anguish of life while displaying a smile that is both radiant and tender. What is the part of sincerity in all this? To understand it, you have to look back to realize where the group came from, and how it united its audience around the incandescent exploration of its most violent feelings, its most personal failures. Dana has always said it: “Music helps me a lot to calm my anxieties.” No pose in the end, Dana shows her guts in the studio and on stage, and this, since her debut.
A new album in line with the previous ones
Originally from London, Dana composed her first titles in 2012, then surrounded herself with Georgie Scott (keyboards), Maddie Ryall (bass) and Sam Yardley (drums) in 2015, in Brighton, to strengthen the interpretation of her pieces. The first album, Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers (2016), is a production with a DIY spirit, with a disarmingly sincere lo-fi sound. This is still the time when the group publishes its own models online. Signed to the Secretly Canadian label and recorded in a real studio, the excellent Every Bad (2020) unveils a more refined production and propels the collective to the front of the stage.
Back to the Radiothe opening track of the new album, sets the tone: “Lock all the windows and shut all the doors. And get into the house and lie down on the cold, hard floor. Talk back to the radio, think loud in the car. I miss everything now, we’re worth nothing at all.” Here we are back on familiar ground, on the arid soil of rock mixed with indie-pop, noise and post-punk, which elevates crying and self-flagellation to the rank of art through desperate hymns . This new album was built most naturally in the world, it’s an almost direct sequence that takes place with the compositions of the previous one.
“We had new songs in mind as soon as we finished recordingEvery Bad. These pieces were born spontaneously, almost organically. I’ve always wanted to express my feelings through music, but I never think about a specific theme; I look at what has just erupted from me, then I return to work on this raw material a little later. We regularly exchanged our musical demos with Sam, but also a lot of music, whether it was Deftones, Tom Waits, Charli XCX, Mouse on Mars, among a myriad of DIY punk bands.
A feverish and direct rock
Musically, Porridge Radio’s rock is neither the most revolutionary nor the most virtuoso. Regardless, he carries Dana’s fiery and painful scansion perfectly. It’s unifying music for many of their fans – a Raft of the Medusa improvised on the bed of a teenager’s room where everyone is free to come and wash away their sorrows. Without falling into the pitfall of lachrymal escalation, the demonstrative side of the group will not please everyone. Here, we don’t suffer in silence, we scream our discomfort in the face of the world. It’s hardly discreet, but it has the merit of bringing fever to the heart of concert halls. You have to see the fervor shared by Porridge Radio and its live audience. This angry voice, on the perpetual limit of collapse, ready to set off again to conquer heights of emotion the next moment. This voice, which she never really worked on, was nourished by various influences. “I grew up listening to The Carpenters, The Cranberries or Guns N’ Roses, it must have left its mark on my way of singing, but I never took any lessons. My mother often sang at home, so I always found it natural to use her voice to express her joys and sorrows.”
Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To the Sky now leaves room for titles that dare to be gentle (Flowers Where Splintered): “Thinking back to those wonderful moments spent with the group, I wanted to leave room for more serene, more peaceful compositions. I am much less afraid of being gentle than in the past. Gravity and lightness had to be able to cohabit harmoniously on this new album. Dana Margolin is the heart and soul of Porridge Radio, but she insists it’s not a solo project hidden behind a backing band: “It’s a band, and it’s also me. I may write the songs and be on the front of the stage, Porridge Radio is above all a collaborative project that we do between friends. We are all evolving at the same time, we are more patient and demanding at the same time. We are progressing, but the idea is not to produce more sound, we want to keep our sincerity, our rough and raw approach.”
Dana still writes poetry, as she already did in her childhood notebooks. The poems become words, and conversely, the texts of his pieces are transformed into poems. “The two feed off each other. These texts appear to me as fragments that I recompose to draw a final image, literary scraps that make sense when observed with hindsight.” Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To the Sky is the direct result of this poetic approach. A burning and moving disc, which now dares to mix violence and sweetness. The group is still young, this is the best argument for its victory. Lovers of sad music still have a bright future ahead of them.
Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To the Sky (Secretly Canadian/Modulor). Released May 20.
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Porridge Radio: “I’m much less afraid of being gentle than in the past” – Les Inrocks
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