Porridge Radio tick all the right boxes.
The Brighton UK four-piece possesses the aggression of post-punk stalwarts like PJ Harvey and Savages, and an inexplicably Australian grandeur comparable to Cash Savage or the Bad Seeds. The lush shoegazing of certain singles could even justify a comparison to dream pop giants Beach House. But it’s the ways in which they do not fit the mould that is most exhilarating. Frontwoman Dana Margolin has a knack for penning nonsensical lyrics that are somehow more emotive than their logical counterparts. Case in point, their first song to turn heads, ‘Danish Pastry Lyrics’, did so with this bizarre declaration: ‘I stumble out of bed, confused and upset… that’s when I google: Danish Pastry Lyrics!’ They jump straight to the core, all bluntness and forgotten manners—a manifesto of hazy uncertainty that seems truer to the contemporary condition than saying it straight. The fact that their new record is called Every Bad—an ambiguous but succinct phrase evoking associations of endless regrets and dread—only cements this idea. Coming out on the 13th of March, this is a trailblazing international debut.
There’s this little dissonant bit at the end of your song ‘Sweet.’ Did that happen accidentally or did you put it in intentionally?
Oh, the plink plonk? That was always intentional. When I wrote the song, I wrote that bit on a little glockenspiel. I used to play it live a lot, but on my own. I’d plug my keyboard guitar and mic into a mixer, then I would loop things so I could have multiple instruments. I just wanted a really repetitive, simple keyboard part that would run through the whole song that I could just loop and then play along with, almost like a metronome. Then when we did it as a full band, I was like, ‘do you reckon you could just keep it really simple and play that?’ And what was cool is Georgie, our keyboardist, really loves parts that are simple and repetitive. There’s something really magical about them because they kind of wind you around and around. They keep this momentum going, and when we play it it’s like trying to keep up with a galloping horse. It makes it feel really intense.
I thought it might’ve been a Leonard Cohen style ‘crack where the light gets in’ scenario.
I think often that does happen. I’m not a trained musician, so a lot of the time I write in quite a simplistic way, and when I can’t do something and make a mistake, that’s where I find the thing I actually want to write. Or, it’s through playing the wrong thing that I realise what I actually want to do. Like, when I was learning how to play guitar, I learnt Cat Power songs and Neil Young songs, and often I’d be trying to learn their songs and I couldn’t really do it. I would then take little pieces of the songs and write my own songs from them. So that’s cool.
Do you like writing songs?
Yes! It’s the thing that I want to be doing all the time, and it’s like everything else in my life is building up to the next song I’m gonna write. Even when I’m not writing, I like to savour those moments because I’m thinking about how many ideas are forming that I’m not aware of, and I know that even if I don’t write a song for a few months, something’s brewing. A lot of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive, but it’s fine to just not be productive and to think about all those tiny moments that make you feel ready to make something. And I think that’s as much a part of the creative process as sitting down and actually writing. Looking out the window and not doing anything.
So the cup of tea is the most important part of the songwriting process.
Are you trying to appeal to my Britishness?
We drink plenty of tea in Australia. I’ve had five cups today.
I don’t drink that much tea. Yesterday I was like, ‘maybe I don’t even like tea.’ But I do like tea.
You’ve got a knack for coming up with great lines don’t make much sense. Do they occur to you as spontaneously as the thinking patterns they seek to represent?
Parts of it are really thought out and really deliberate, but it tends to come from a very stream of consciousness place and once it’s out, then I’ll look at it and decide whether or not the pattern and the words make sense together. Sometimes I like that things come out wrong, and I want to keep them wrong. Because there’s something about the weird feeling behind it that I really love and really connect to.
In ‘Give/Take’ there’s that line ‘How do I say no without sounding like a little bitch?’ Is that deliberately raw, blunt and to the point, or is it nearly accidental?
Ha! I think it’s kind of both. Like when I first wrote that I think it just came out, and then by the time we’d arranged it to be that way in the song, I was like, ‘Oh, shit, this is really gonna be the bit where all the instruments drop out, ok.’ Again, everything is kinda by accident and then on purpose. I think it’s taking the things that come out by accident and then refining them that makes things good. For me at least.
Have you got any advice for aspiring young songwriters?
Yes. Be earnest and be honest and, like, be vulnerable. Show the parts of yourself that you’re embarrassed to show because that’s how you connect with people. Even though it’s really scary, you just have to do it. And don’t be afraid of making bad things. Just make as many bad things as you can, because they’re for you, and enjoy that, because if you’re not enjoying it, then what is the point? And don’t worry about the best thing, just make all the bad things you want, and then eventually make all the good things that you want, and just play shows, and have fun and love your friends. You know?