Porcelain Raft Strange Weekend
Published Jan 24, 2012Mauro Remiddi is a world traveller who's performed in everything from the Berlin Youth Circus and a tap dance show on Off-Broadway to the Spring Festival in North Korea and London, UK-bred indie pop act Sunny Day Sets Fire. In his mid-30s, he formed Porcelain Raft, an intimate, solo outlet for his quixotic visions. After a few EPs, this lo-fi practitioner has delivered his debut album, Strange Weekend, in a grander style, despite recording it in a Brooklyn, NY basement. There is an undeniable twinkle to the production on Strange Weekend, exposing his songs as a running testimonial to the 4AD catalogue. But Remiddi has all sorts of devices at his disposal to take his amiable dream pop beyond the usual reverb and delay worship. Most specifically is his androgyny as a vocalist, which is both deceptive and alluring. As well, there's an array of contrast to float alongside his voice, mixing up textures through the interchanging of acoustics and electronics, the iridescent synthesizers and the loose, programmed drums. However, Strange Weekend wouldn't be such a crucial step forward for Remiddi were it not for the sharpening of his songwriting, which is apparent from the warm, syrupy high of single "Put Me To Sleep" through to the chilled psychedelia of "Unless You Speak From Your Heart." Like an old box of Polaroids, Porcelain Raft's debut evokes a strong sense of emotion, pleasure and nostalgia.
You impose a 24-hour time limit on making songs. What have you learned from doing this?
For the album, sometimes it wasn't 24 hours but 48 hours. I really wanted to focus on the details more. The idea works for me; I tend to overproduce, to focus too much on the arrangements. I have fun in doing so, but the point isn't really being an artisan that can build a chair with the most amazing ornaments. I'm recording a song, imprinting a feeling on a tape. I want to record the moment before the aura of what I do disappears. That's a very quick moment so I better be fast.
What would you say are the biggest differences between your EPs and the LP?
Maybe sonically they have a different approach. For the EP, I was in my little room; I couldn't make much noise, I couldn't use amps, sing loud or use the drums. That's why those recording are, in a way, intimate. The space I was in dictated their sound and the approach I had, which is the main point of what I do: the space has to be part of the recording. The space is an instrument. For the album, I was in a basement and I could play as loud as I wanted to with no time restriction, day and night.
You're originally from Rome. What made you leave that city for London?
So many reasons ― Rome is amazing for holidays, but if you want to achieve something you need to look somewhere else. Also, I think the more a place is familiar to you the more you become lazy, and I was so lazy before. Once I was in London, I couldn't stop working on my things with a different spirit ― things weren't taken for granted anymore. It was the best decision ever. Anyway, if there's an epic element in my music, that's Rome.
The press release speaks of all of these tapes, mini-Discs and CDs full of your music. How much is there you're planning on releasing?
I have a fairly big suitcase full of tapes, recordings of me when I was ten until I was 27. Right now, that suitcase is in London ― I live in NYC currently. I'm going to get it soon and once I have time, maybe after the tour, towards the summer, I really want to create a mixtape with the best-of. It's going to be fun.
You recorded and performed the album by yourself. Why is your music such a personal experience?
I like to work with a team of people, but I realized I didn't have much time to create what I had in mind. I don't want to go back and forth with a band about this or that idea. I don't want to search for middle ways; I don't want to convince anybody. I just want to paint what I see without justifying myself.
I remember your previous band, Sunny Day Sets Fire. What happened with that? Was Porcelain Raft the result of you going on your own?
Yes it was. I just decided I had to move on. The demos of the songs I made for the band started to make much more sense than the "official" recordings. I still love them and we see each other time to time. They have been very supportive, in a way.
You're familiar with both proper studio and bedroom recordings. What was the genesis of Strange Weekend? Was it one or the other? And what made you decide to take that route?
I just decided not to change the way I was working because there were already too many changes in my life. I moved from London to NYC ― I recorded the album in Brooklyn ― and that was a big step, plus I got married in NYC. I wanted to record a moment in my life, a snapshot of me moving to NYC and starting a new life. The album is a small detail of a big painting.
You're collaborating with Michael Wallace, who played in Women. What led to this partnership?
Oh, man, Michael is a mine full of diamonds. He's a dear friend of Grace ― my wife ― and I met him at my wedding. He's a photographer and, I mean, a very good one. Michael can draw, sing, play guitar and compose. His voice sounds like Joey Ramone's; he's also good looking. Michael plays drums with a unique style. He went to India to learn Tablas for one year. And he likes grapefruit juice, which is my favourite. (Secretly Canadian)