Buckle up because after a decade making music under the Porches moniker, Aaron Maine, shot for Notion 87, is ready to unleash his inner Ricky!
Aaron Maine—better known as Porches—is calling from an astroturfed field near his second-floor walkup in New York’s Chinatown. It’s February, the sun is out, which is nice because it’s been grey, and, despite being surrounded by NYC’s hectic sights and sounds, he’s chillin’.
In fact, chillin’ in NYC is what Maine’s been trying to do for the past year and half, more or less. After touring the last Porches album, 2018’s The House, Maine dropped anchor back home in NYC. “It’s the first time I’ve really settled my ass down.” he exclaims, “Been single for the first time in my adult life—which is crazy. So that, mixed with not being on tour, I was like ‘I can do whatever I want—I can work all day’.”
Since making music is Maine’s happy place, he began work on what would become the fourth Porches album: Ricky Music. But after a decade of making music under the Porches umbrella, existential crisis hit Maine and, for seven strong months, he was determined to ditch the moniker that he’d built his name on.
“No one could tell me different,” says Maine, laughing while reliving the defiant drama. “I was like ‘it’s over, I’m starting from scratch’ [laughs]. I was gonna call the project ‘Ricky Music’, this new music was mostly recorded under the impression that my name would be ‘Ricky Music’.” Thankfully Maine relented and came to his senses, accepting that the only thing people would probably say to the name change is: ‘why isn’t this Porches?’.
With his signature goldenrod curtains now dyed red, Maine is ready to embrace playing the “sad clown”. The Ricky Music era finds him retaining all of his sad boy credentials—as well as regular collaborators like Dev Hynes and Mitski—only this time around the Porches brand of intimacy finds Maine opening himself up and being vulnerable enough to also laugh at himself.
The signature sensuality and fluidity of the Porches sound is still there, but it’s taken to new levels with stream of consciousness lyrics that are some of the best Maine’s has ever penned. “In these songs I hear myself sometimes desperate for clarity, and other times, having enough perspective to laugh at myself in some of my darkest moments,” Maine explains. And isn’t that really what life is? Just a constant ultimatum: Laugh or cry.
Hi Aaron! Are you ready to talk about your new record?
I’m excited to talk about it. It’s been done for mad long and I’ve had to sit on it and make my peace with it. It’ll be done for a year by the time it comes out—so I’ve listened to it once or twice a month for the past 11 months and then I spent a year and a half before that writing it. So I’ve been wanting to talk about it for a while.
What happens in that year between finishing a record and us sitting here now talking about it?
I’ve written like 70 songs! I kind of exploded with inspiration after this record was done and just kept going because I was home—I’ve been in New York for a year and a half more or less, I’ve left to do a couple of shows but there’s been no serious touring since two falls ago. So I’ve been here in my apartment.
It’s the first time I’ve really settled my ass down, been single for the first time in my adult life—which is crazy. So that, mixed with not being on tour, I was like ‘I can do whatever the fuck I want’—work all day. That’s kind of what I’m happiest doing, is making music and recording music. I’ve just had triple the time I’ve had in the past—and I’ve had a lot of time even in the past [laughs]. It’s kind of the only thing I know how to do or that I like doing—so I’ve been doing a lot of that, keeping it low key, staying in the neighbourhood and trying to expand my interests and my hobbies. I’ve been trying to paint a little more. I’ve been doing a bunch of yoga, because you can only work on music so much without feeling like a crazy person.
What have you got out of doing yoga?
Yoga changed my life. More than anything it just helps me arrange my thoughts and I feel a lot more equipped, mentally at least, to face anything that day. It just puts everything into perspective, kind of like a little more in focus. I’ll wake up sometimes just spinning for no reason. I’ll feel like I have 50 things to do and I’ll have two things to do [laughs] so it just slows me down.
Do you meditate?
No, I don’t meditate. I’ve tried, but I feel like yoga does something similar—I’m sure it’s not exactly the same. Just taking that hour to focus on breathing and your body. It’s nice to have something concrete to focus on, it brings me down to earth. And then shit will get crazy and I’ll be like ‘why do I feel like so fucked up!?’ and usually it correlates to having fallen off my practice, and I haven’t done yoga in a week or five days or something.
Do you still love New York?
I don’t know where else I would be. I love it 95% of the time.
What is going in that other 5% of the time?
It can be a little overwhelming at times, just like, your senses I guess. It’s loud, it’s fast, it smells sometimes, there’s a lot of energy—which is why it’s so special—but some days I wake up and there’s no buffer. I hear it all in my room. The particular bit where I live in is a pretty busy neighbourhood, on a pretty busy street—which again is kind of necessary for me to know that at any given second I could go distract myself or interact with someone—but sometimes I imagine it would be nice to start the day a bit slower, decide whether you want to enter into the whirlwind.
So, what made you nearly throw away the name Porches?
I’ve been making music as Poches since I was 21, that’s 10 years. It’s a lot to look back on under the same blanket. In general, I’m obsessed with the idea of a clean slate, or a fresh palette, or that feeling of a blank canvas. Even within the Porches arc, there’s been different chapters that for me help separate me from my past work. But I decided that, rather than shooting myself in the foot and confusing the small fanbase that I have, that the adult thing to do would be to suck it up and own that body of work.
It has it’s moments that I’m proud of, it has its moments I’m embarrassed of—I just look at it as this ongoing thing that I just put my work under and that feels good, it feels healthy to confront it and say ‘that’s you bro, that’s you now and that was you then’. It’s about owning it and sticking to Porches and continuing to make music under that name. But that’s how the Ricky Music title came about, I just like how it sounds and people call me Ricky as well.
Do you make time to listen back to the previous records?
I’ll listen back every now and then. My voice changes in the craziest ways. I had a borderline country twang six years ago, it’s not like a conscious thing I do—I don’t think. It’s like reading an old diary and being like ‘who was that person, you can’t believe it sometimes’.
How’re the Ricky tracks different from previous songs?
They’re the most realised batch of songs. Lyrically this time is one of the biggest growths perhaps, really thinking about what I’m saying—not that I haven’t been totally in the past, but they’re like levels of self-critiquing, as I am getting older kinda realised if I’m gonna be making these songs, might as well try and say some shit. As I’m getting more comfortable with my voice, I have some idea about what feels appropriate to write about. I’ve been trying to turn it inward, and laugh, and say some off the cuff shit that comes from a deeper, clearly, subconscious space. In the past, my lyrics have been more abstract, and moody, and swatches of colour and this whole thing feels sharper.
Has your music-making process changed?
I’ve just been doing it more. It’s more or less the same equipment, I’ll get a new thing every now and then. I write like, two pages every day, so I have notebooks and notebooks of stuff, that’s really helped lyrically. Also experimented with writing a song and just looping it singing, like a bunch of takes and trying to capture just squeezing my brain and seeing what comes out at that moment. If you do it enough, you come up with some really super weird shit that you would never come up with if you were just sitting down with a pen. The structures are a little less, it’s not the typical A B A BB kind of verse-chorus thing—I like the idea of almost never really repeating a part of the song, having each section be its own hook if you listen to it enough. It feels like life-ish.
What’s your favourite lyric on the album?
Ooh. When I came up with that “I’m kinda pretty kinda busted too”, was pretty excited by that lyric in that song “Hair”. That song, I wrote it as I played it through for the first, as I picked up the guitar and just like, said all of that first shot, which is kind of exciting when that happens—it’s kinda rare. I had this black mongoose bike that I had as a kid, image in my head of jumping of this curb. That’s like a textbook heartbreak song [laugh].
That needs to be a Porches record ‘Textbook Heartbreak Songs’.
Right. You’re onto something.
Did you have a clear vision of the album’s aesthetics while you were writing it?
No I don’t think so. I made that painting that is the cover and I kind of had that. Sonically, at a certain point, this stuff started to come together, like the palate or whatever. I had a few ideas. I got really into The Sopranos. I watched it for the first time and was like I wanna do this Tony Soprano, really big leather blazers, slacks, shoes, jewellery and shit like that—kind of exaggerated. The album is kind of bold lyrically, not like brave necessarily. It’s bold strokes. So I liked this character idea, where it’s not very subtle, or you just go big clothes, blocky clothes, or tropes—almost making fun of yourself. I like the idea of being a sad clown.
Kind of like the video for “PFB” (AKA Pretty Fucking Bad), where everything’s turned up to 11?
That’s literally me making a song and that’s how it goes, that’s what I do for ten hours a day every day of my life [laughs]. That was kinda fun to do that last minute. The initial idea was like a ‘Spinal Tap in the studio making a song with Aaron’ but I would be freaking out under the covers, screaming into the microphone and shit like that.
“PFB” and it’s lyrics—” It’s looking bad/It’s looking pretty fucking bad”—are a mood for life!
Yeh, it’s that, it’s fun but super desperate [laughs]. It’s laughable how fucked up I was feeling. I like the idea of screaming that [song] with a bunch of people until it feels fun.
Like Daniel Johnston on a track like “Funeral Home” which is so joyous.
Oh my god yeh.
Have you always been into dressing up and playing parts?
I used to kinda always dress up, I was interested in clothes, and attitudes, and looks and stuff like that. I don’t know what it is this time, I’m just trying to have more fun with it and also have my sense of humour come through more actively in everything I put out there—in my lyrics as well as the visuals. You see so many press pics and videos where the artist is just deadly looking into the camera with that look, the ‘scowl’. I’m a more physically animated person in real life than might come across in my music.
Maybe it’s also because on previous albums you’ve expressed yourself in a serious way and now you feel comfortable letting your hair down?
I’ve always been pinned as this sad guy. I guess, fair enough. You listen back and some of that shit is pretty depressing, but it’s just part of the picture and for whatever reason, historically, people sing about the darker moments. But I think there’s a way to do that with a little more perspective and maybe try and laugh at yourself… It’s kind of funny how dramatic I can be sometimes. The humour is just as important in the drama, as the real pain.
What do you paint?
People mainly—faces, self-portraits, butterflies [laughs]. I don’t know. Painting is weird. I studied it for three years at college and it helps when I have something to do it for, whether it’s a gift for someone or album art. I did make a bunch of self-portraits with the idea of maybe getting a cover out of it. I never know what I’m gonna get. I never set out to make a thing. I just get lucky every ten paintings. I’ll sweat and blackout and be covered in paint and then look at 10 paintings on the floor and be like, ‘that one’s kind of cool, don’t touch it don’t mess it up’. I can’t do it in a chill way at all. I wish painting could be this peaceful, stepping away from music, creative thing to do, but it’s never that, once I start I can’t stop until I feel like I’ve got something good.
What’s it like being a musician in 2020?
I get to do the thing that I love to do every day so, at the cost of some other things, but I’m pretty blessed. It’s been more or less the same. I’m terrible with money, it doesn’t help getting paid in chunks that you have to spread out, that you have to make last. I don’t think I’ll ever wrap my head around that one. So it’s a lot of ‘I got money’ and then it’s oatmeal for every meal. There’s nothing I can really imagine doing so I’m happy to make a compromise.
When you last cried and why?
Cheer. You know about this show? Watched it and balled. I have not balled in years. I was like particularly fragile that day. My face was contorted, I was pouring tears… For as an emotional person as I am, I have a hard time crying [laughs], physical tears at least. Just helps to have some heavy-handed film or something to nudge them along.