Porcelain Raft no longer interested in going it alone
Imagine finally realizing a lifelong dream, and then slowly coming to the realization that you were hoping for something more. That’s the situation Mauro Remiddi—who performs as Porcelain Raft—found himself in with his critically lauded debut disc Strange Weekend.
The New York–based songwriter and producer wasn’t exactly a neophyte when he began attracting attention with the album. Born and raised in Italy, and later located in London, England, for a while, he has a résumé that includes projects ranging from travelling circus bands to alt-rock acts. Porcelain Raft, however, marked the first time that he was completely satisfied as an artist. Until, that is, he ended up on the road, where he discovered that touring as a solo artist can lead to plenty of self-doubt.
One of the most gracious and thoughtful interview subjects in pop music, Remiddi is more than willing to discuss the dark side of his emergence when he’s reached just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. He’s on the line to discuss Porcelain Raft’s excellent new outing, Permanent Signal, but starts by flashing back to his surfacing on the scene last year with the equally impressive Strange Weekend, released on Secretly Canadian.
“It was always a dream of mine to travel and tour with my music,” the 40-year-old says in charmingly accented English. “Finally, I signed with Secretly Canadian, and I had a chance to do that. Even two months before I recorded Strange Weekend, I was out touring with Blonde Redhead, and I loved it. It was like ‘Mauro—do you want to record, or tour?’ I was like, ‘I want to tour.’
“But while I was so much in love with the idea of touring, I didn’t have any experience with it,” he continues. “When I released Strange Weekend, the touring of it was very hard because I never stopped. Honestly, it was nine, 10 months in a row, Europe and America. And you can’t go, ‘Let’s stop for a month,’ because the tour is booked. It was very stressful.”
Strange Weekend was recorded as a largely solitary project, with Mauro holing up in a home studio and working on the songs after moving to New York from London to be with the woman who is now his wife. Making things more difficult was the challenge of translating the album live.
“I was supporting big bands like M83 on big stages with Strange Weekend, and I felt a little bit lost,” Remiddi admits. “It would be just me on-stage, or me and a drummer. It was interesting, don’t get me wrong, but it was like it wasn’t right for the songs.”
That experience would inform the songwriter’s approach to business on Permanent Signal, which finds him working with a full backing band that includes Yuck drummer Jonny Rogoff, Antlers bassist Darby Cicci, and cello-playing Sufjan Stevens collaborator Gaspar Claus.
“I realized that I had the freedom to make the songs as large as I wanted, which is something that I’ve never done before,” he says.
What you get is a record that isn’t without the melancholic moments of Strange Weekend, with “Think of the Ocean” a meditative mix of glitched-out electronica, scraping violins, and soft-focus piano. But Porcelain Raft also goes for something bombastic and grand. The majestic “Cluster” is all cloudbursting guitar and break-of-dawn trumpet, and “Minor Pleasure” transcendently works church organ into its ’70s-pop mix.
Remiddi admits that, after going it alone last time, he wanted to be around people in the studio, and on the road with a full band. And by doing just that for Permanent Signal, he’s now realizing a dream. One, fortunately, with no downside.