Rising from the DIY underground to Coldplay’s stadium, Porij are turning it up. Ahead of their debut album drop, we speak to the band about festival circuits, song lyrics and the 'Oat Gang'.

“A sweaty 200-cap room, there’ll always be something so magical about that”, affirms Egg, the lead vocalist of Porij who, meeting me on a summery afternoon mid-feb, on zoom, are still buzzing from the previous months preview tour. Consisting of Nathan on drums, Jacob on guitar, James on bass, and the very charismatic Egg, the four-piece were out to give fans a taster of Teething – their debut album, which drops April 26th, contains all the ingredients to catapult Porij to new heights and global stages.

 

The band’s latest run of gigs took place at intimate venues including London’s The Windmill (a rite of passage for a UK band) where, limited by space, performers are one with the audience. It appears a humble place to land following a year of warming up crowds for Coldplay at Manchester Etihad Stadium, touring with Franc Moody across Europe and playing at Glastonbury for the second time. But, what quickly becomes clear through our conversation, is that this Manchester-educated quartet aren’t getting caught up in their success. Porij has and will always be for the people, or ‘Oat Gang’, as fans are known.

 

The 11 soon-to-come tracks of Teething tell the Porij tale so far, offering relatable, fresh perspectives on self-discovery and the ups and downs of life in your 20s. A pertinent theme and indeed outcome of the album is embracing change, something that the band – who endured a second founding-member departure in 2022, a career-making point that left Porij in freefall before new recruits Nathan and Jacob saved the day – know all too well about. Narratives are especially close to lyric writer Egg; heard most poignantly in ‘Stranger’, they bravely let listeners in on personal experiences navigating the world as a non-binary individual.

 

The current, and original, four met at The Royal Northern College of Music where they grew up on a Manchester diet of club culture and the DIY music scene. It’s no surprise then that Teething[’s] stories speak strongly to each one of them. The band are in passionate agreement, sharing, “our lives run parallel to each other”. Nevertheless, individuality and eclectic artistic talent shine through the mesh of textures, basslines and mood-changing melodies which shapeshift as the LP progresses.

 

Featured samples on the track list are like timestamps of the group’s everyday lives. A significant portion of compositions were crafted using pieces of music that were scribbled on a bus journey or hastily recorded in between music classes. If a lightbulb flashes, wherever and whenever that may be, these artists make something of it, in true DIY style.

 

Breaking rules and blending genres in ways that could convince ears that indie-rock and UK garage are soulmates, is what propelled Porij into the spotlight to begin with; their breakout 2020 EP Breakfast instantly garnered critical acclaim. Now signed to the independent record label Play It Again Sam and collaborating with industry legends like David Wrench (known for working with the likes of The XX, Young Fathers and Blur) who co-produced Teething, their sound tingles every nerve, inducing euphoria, introspection, wistfulness and dance. Out already as a single, ‘My Only Love’ highlights this dazzling, genre fluidity. Egg’s voice swoons tenderly over cascading rhythms and a beat that plunges into the cosmos of a dream state, echoing lyrics about the familiarity and comfort of a settled relationship.

 

Porij’s curious moniker may not be inspired by anything particularly profound (“I think I was hungry” is Egg’s admission), but it has turned out to be a somewhat poetic metaphor: provide ‘Oats’ (the informal name Porij and fans go by) with the flame of music and out pours fluid creativity, a warm community and sonic flavours that you may not know you like until you give them a go.

 

Sitting down to talk Porij’s evolution and Teething, the four naturally let their wordsmith Egg take the lead. Nathan has much to say on Manchester’s nightlife, meanwhile James shares his offbeat sources of inspiration and Jacob chips in with nods, chuckles and an easter egg.

Congratulations on your new album, how are you feeling about it now that you’ve finished your preview tour? 

Egg: Really good. I feel like it’s now been enough time since it was written and recorded that I can just enjoy it without being so critical. I think I’ve just let go. It’s like, ‘Oh, this is a thing, it’s quite nice actually’.

Did it go down as well as you’d hoped with audiences then?

Egg: It did actually. What was also really cool was seeing different cities’ responses, every show was so different. Sheffield and Nottingham were Friday and Saturday nights so everyone was up for it, they had really good energy.

You sold out all the shows – gutted I missed out on tickets to your London one at The Windmill – how did you find playing these intimate venues where the audience is practically on stage with you?

Egg: It was interesting, when we were playing the new songs we’d be concentrating really hard so whenever I’d open my eyes, there’d just be someone there. It was really funny, you’re singing like a sexy or depressing song and look up to see a man directly in front, like, ‘Oh, hello, Steven, how are you?’.

 

Nathan: That was another thing, a lot of tickets were sold from the mailing list so all these fans who we’ve met before came to the preview gigs and there was this time and space to chat to loads of them. We could get to know them properly. Some people came to several shows. I really love Laszlo [a fan], but to get to know him was even better.

 

Egg: I think being part of the DIY scene, you do get this really kind of committed, cool fan base. Nothing much more you could ask for really.

Do you have any reservations about your audiences growing – last year you supported Coldplay, which is insane and obviously makes you hugely visible – will this affect the sense of community Porij has fostered with fans?

Egg: They’re the Oat Gang, they’ve always been such a cool community. I don’t think that will ever change, regardless of how big this gets.

 

Nathan: Yeah, we’re always going to be at the back chatting nonsense to people after the gigs. That’s the best part when you meet people who get it and are really excited – it’s addictive. That’s what drives us. We spent ages making this album, we got really in our heads about how it would be perceived, but then playing gigs and seeing people there who are really gassed, it makes you go, ‘I want to make more stuff’. Like Steve from Cambridge, who I had a pint with.

 

Egg: If you’re selective and continue doing small shows as well as the big ones, then you’re always going keep that energy alive. They’re such different experiences. Both are enjoyable in different ways – playing a stadium is obviously incredible, but it’s not the same as playing a sweaty, 200-cap room. There’s always something so magical about that.

Glad to hear it. It’s pretty impressive that you recorded your first album last year considering everything else you were doing. Where were you making ‘Teething’ and did you start it from scratch?

Egg: It happened at a really formative time in our lives because we were all across the country when we started the process. I was in London, you [Nathan] were up in Manchester, you [Jacob] were in Wigan.

 

James: And then I moved to London, when we were putting all the demos together, because we’d all gone away and written loads of stuff separately. For example, there’s a song in there that Egg wrote, like two, three years before?

 

Egg: When I was a wee baby. ‘Slow Down’, it’s the last track on the record. I actually wrote it for a songwriting module at uni, which has done pretty well now, best mark I ever got! But yeah, the project started at this point when we were unsettled, there was no real stability, we didn’t have any kind of record deal. We were mostly living at home, or living out quite ad hoc, so this album documents that uncertainty – you know when you get to your mid-20s, and, it’s cliché, but finding out who you are. The album is like 11 vignettes of where we were in those moments.

Would you say that certain tracks are more personal to each of you individually?

Egg: I mean lyrically, they’re all personal to me. But musically and instrumentally, yeah.

 

Nathan: For me, we share so much of our time together that our lives run parallel to each other, we’re in tune…

 

Egg: Like synchronised swimmers.

 

Nathan: So even though Egg writes all the lyrics, they’re telling stories which I connect hard with, because I’ve lived with Egg as they’ve gone through these experiences.

 

Egg: Yeah, you understand the experience. We hang out too much.

 

Nathan: It makes the project quite precious, makes you resonate with the tunes.

 

James: There’s also funny stuff, like ‘Marmite’. I made the beat, which I came up with after this bus journey through Herne Hill. A hot stranger sat next to me on the bus and, you know, a hot stranger on public transport, that’s a thing, but they smelled like Marmite. It just happened.

Ah, so that’s the inspiration behind the title.

Egg: Well, James called the beat ‘Marmite Beat’, and I was like, ‘Well that’s hilarious, I’m obviously going to write something about Marmite’, and it fit. Some are sillier and some are more deeply harrowing and personal but, they’re all vulnerable in their own way. Like, you would think that ‘You Should Know Me’ isn’t very vulnerable, because it has this bravado, but there’s a vulnerability in being like, yeah, that’s a side of me. Laying down a three-dimensional picture of who I am, that’s quite scary because it’s not always pretty.

That range of emotions and themes definitely comes through, even without listening to the lyrics. You got a bigwig producer involved, David Wrench, what made you decide to work with him on  ‘Teething’?

Egg: I mean, what an angel, first of all.

 

James: He’s cracking, got the best fashion sense as well.

 

Egg: We’re huge fans of pretty much everything he’s worked on and we wanted to take our music to the next level, so we just got in touch and he was super keen to co-produce. We recorded everything at his studio in Hackney, which is like, the most beautiful space, spent about eight months in and out and really living the record with him. He took the demos, freshened them up, we got to record with some sexy gear. He’s a genius, a wizard.

You can hear it. Your music’s always drawn on dance music, but I feel like the club energy is even more palpable in this album, you could really imagine it playing at a club. What made you head in that direction?

Egg: Ready to find the club. Bigger and better. More is more.

 

Nathan: We started writing this record immediately off the back of the headline tour that we did in September 2022, and the summer just before was absolute carnage, we did like three festivals a weekend.

 

Egg: 27 festivals over that summer. It was mental, we miss it!

 

Nathan: I loved every second. I was also teaching in a school at the time, so I’d finish on the weekend and Monday morning, be back in school. Doing all those gigs, you get addicted to the ones that go off. I think it’s the energy you get from seeing people go a bit mental. ‘You Should Know Me’, for example, was us going ‘We want to have a party on stage, let’s make a song with that energy’.

 

Egg: I think the exact quote was, “I want to write a yobby banger”. So we wrote a yobby banger, well, Porij’s version of that, which is maybe a bit more delicate… and odd. We were writing with live in mind for sure so we’ve gone quite club on one half of the record but for some of the tunes we completely stripped it back. This is our first LP and it’s been really refreshing and quite indulgent to write knowing that you have 11 album tracks. It’s nice to have the tender quiet ones to create contrast.

After your UK tour in April, what spaces will you be taking your music to, some club venues perhaps?

Egg: We might try and head out of the UK for a bit. We’ve got some shows in March in the US which will be super fun. We’re heading to South by Southwest, and then we’ve got a show in New York and a show in LA. We’ve got like seven, eight shows in four days at South by Southwest, it’s gonna be pretty intense.

 

Nathan: After the UK April tour, after the summer, maybe we’ll head out to Europe. Wherever will have us, really. I think we’re quite lucky.

What’s your pre-gig routine on tour? 

Nathan: The last tour, I spent most of the time speaking to people and trying to sell merch.

 

Egg: You were the merch flogger before the show and I was the merch flogger after the show.

 

Nathan: So the whole pre-gig ritual was stand there until five minutes before stage time, run upstairs, maybe drink a beer, get some tequila and then run down.

 

James: We have one specific ritual we always do and that’s big group hug, then double-fist pump with eye contact. The eye contact is the most important bit.

 

Egg: We like to have a cuddle before we go on stage. It’s all very tender, real grandpa energy, not very rock and roll at all. I’m quiet and weird before a gig, I like to not talk to anyone.

So you’re all kind of doing your own thing, then come together for the hug and then showtime.

Egg: I also have to warm up Jacob, I make him do star jumps and burpees and high knees.

 

Jacob: Yeah I have a workout, it gets more adrenaline going.

 

Egg: We like to get Jacob bouncing. Then we have a cuddle, then we go.

Sounds like you’ve got it sorted. What are you doing to relax in between? Your 27-festival circuit for example, how are you coping, are you getting sleep?

Nathan: Haha, trying.

 

Egg: Um, sometimes…well you’ve got a darts board downstairs, we’re utilising that.

 

Nathan: Yeah, this is definitely a conversation that we’ve been having a lot more recently. Because I think when you’re in the mode, you get lost to the whole situation and your headspace can get pretty manic.

 

Egg: It’s really hard to be off. That’s what we found over Christmas because it’s so on all the time so when you take like mandatory ‘rest’, it can bug you out. I know I personally end up feeling guilty. It’s almost like your body has got used to the adrenaline so it starts saying you should be doing something, should be doing something. It’s important to reset that frame of mind. We’re saying we might go for a little spa day, us four…I think we’ll just go for a massage.

 

James: I’d go on a hike while you all get your massages haha.

 

Egg: Yeah, being outdoors is really good. Jacob’s started doing football.

 

Jacob: Yeah, I do loads, just like being outside.

That’s healthy, good to be thinking about those things now, I imagine you can slip into running on adrenaline and skipping sleep at the start but it’s not very sustainable.

Nathan: It’s weird, it’s the chase. I imagine the same thing goes for a lot of freelancers, the insecurity of not knowing what’s going to happen or the future of your career. Especially as a band, your entire work and life is basically determined by whether people like you or not, as well as like your music. Having that constantly in your mind, it’s stressful.

 

Egg: Especially when you know you’re not meant to think like that when you’re creating, but it’s hard to shut it out. Then there’s the fact that now, on the side of being a musician, you’re kind of an influencer. When you ‘switch off’, it’s easy to end up doom scrolling but that’s not active rest. See your pals – that’s a good one, especially when you’re touring a lot. I’m guilty of being a bad friend because I’m awful at messaging, so recently I’ve really been trying to spend quality time with my friends, instead of coming in like a tornado once in a while.

It’s tricky doing something you love as a career, like you say, especially in music where you and your work are constantly put on stage, in front of a kind of public jury. How do you manage that pressure?

Egg: It’s really hard not to be insecure.

 

Nathan: I know for myself, music was always my escape from those situations. I’d go listen to music or play the drums or make something. Now all the stuff you make is the stuff you’re getting judged on. But on the other side, it’s incredibly fun and it’s ridiculous the things we get to do, living the lifestyle that all of us have dreamt of since we were teenagers. Putting both into perspective, you need to find balance.

As teenagers who was musically inspiring you, what were you listening to?

Egg: There was a real mix, it really changed throughout the teenage years. Early on it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers and then like, Chet Baker. In the latter years I discovered SoundCloud and got into like UKG and had a whale of a time. We all have such eclectic music tastes, which is why everyone’s like, ‘Porij is genre-less’.

 

Nathan: Mine was Chase & Status. That album with the picture of the bulldog [No More Idols].  Then also, depending how I was feeling, the first two Fleet Foxes albums.

 

Egg: Heavy rotation for me too. I was also a classical musician – until I was 19, then I had a wonky tooth so thought I’d try be a pop star – so I was listening to like Stravinsky. I’m a huge James Blake fan, he was a major one when I was a teenager, and has been a huge influence on this album, along with Hiatus Kaiyote, Mount Kimbie, The XX, Little Dragon, all that kind of stuff.

 

Jacob: Disclosure…That’s my go-to for every interview.

 

Egg: It’s an easter egg, we have to have Jacob say disclosure at least once in every interview. It’s true though.

 

Jacob: Yeah, it is true I do love disclosure.

 

James: He does listen to other things, but he won’t tell us about it. I first got into music on straight late-00s indie, your classic Arctic Monkeys. I probably discovered SoundCloud around the same age as Egg, but for me, it was almost exclusively bassline and neurofunk. It was the 2016 era when really abrasive bro bassline was in, I was doing my A levels at the time and somehow listening to SoundCloud mixes of that really got me through.

Very eclectic, you can hear a bit of all those influences in Teething. Manchester’s music scene is pretty special, it’s where Porij emerged from, what is it that makes the city a breeding ground of music talent?

Egg: I feel very lucky to have gone to university and lived for a time in Manchester, there was loads of quality nightlife on my doorstep.

The White Hotel? That’s probably one of my favourite venues of all time.

Porij: Yeahhh

 

Egg: Love it there. We’ve done two gigs there, two headline shows a few years ago, and it was fucking amazing, such a different energy in there.

 

Nathan: That whole part of town is quite manic for nightlife because there’s so many warehouses around. Cheetham Hill is like hidden, so ad hoc nights pop up in these random warehouses.

 

Egg: It is literally that high density, the fact there’s like 20 venues over 20 streets, all in walking distance and all these communities around them which are amazingly welcoming. We were really lucky because they were a big part of how got our first gigs in Manchester, all the people running gigs were really supportive.

 

Nathan: Yeah, it’s the concentration of people, grassroots organisations, venues and after-parties. I was in Manchester for the best part of a decade and a lot of my socialising would be going friends’ gigs. You’d maybe see a couple of other bands who you’d really enjoy and you’d hang out, then end up at some sort of after-party – maybe it was at the White Hotel, night and day, or maybe a tap house, maybe a club night in Hulme. There’s a culture and community – an endless amount of musicians, of all different flavours, who are all socialising. And it’s been that way for generations.

 

The last tour we did in January, our rep from Metropolis – who were promoting the gig – was this guy Keith who was the bass player in this mad 90s punk band called The Membranes. This whole punk scene existed in the 90s along with the massive club nights like the Hacienda, and then obviously all the bands like New Order, and Oasis. It’s an ecosystem which is still thriving, there’s so many more incredible current acts popping up, like Antony Szmierek [whose song ‘The Words to Auld Lang Syne’ Porij remixed], really cool rappers like HMD. It’s always there bubbling.

 

Egg: I don’t think there’s something quite like it in London because it’s so vast and spread out.

 

Nathan: In London it’s different because you get pockets of it. Like The Windmill, so many bands have passed through there and formed friendships and connections there.

Yeah, there seems to be a lot of grassroots organisations in Manchester which platform aspiring artists. Were you aware of their impact as you were coming up?

Nathan: Yeah, that’s the whole other side of it. Obviously we went to music college in Manchester, but there’s then also a lot of music charities providing opportunities for people interested in music. These amazing rappers born and bred in Manchester, who get to properly produce music with trained musicians thanks to organisations like Zed Arts, Bright Sound, and Reform Radio.

 

Egg: They’re feeding it from the ground up. Instead of cutting off the leaves, they’re really nurturing the soil and allowing artists to grow up the ladder – which is really important.

That network is so important for artist’s coming up. You recently signed to PIAS Records, which I imagine grew your network, but beyond that what does it mean for Porij and the Oat Gang label? 

Egg: It’s been super exciting. We were independent beforehand, very much DIY, which I think we still are to be fair, in the sense of our ethos because we like to get our hands dirty and get stuck in.

 

Nathan: It’s been interesting to see how stuff works with the label, obviously we haven’t released the LP yet but it’s been wonderful to have a sounding board. Working totally independently as a band can get quite insular, kind of like an echo chamber so it’s been refreshing to have more bodies and people excited about this thing that we’re doing.

Is your own label going to continue on though?

Egg: Oat Gang Records will, for the time. I mean that’s the end goal, you know? To set up your own imprint would be super cool. So definitely still in future plans, but I don’t know when it’ll happen.

What’s on your bucket list for the near future? 

Egg: Japan. I want to tour the world. I love seeing how new audiences respond to our live shows, they’re so different in each place. I’d love to head over to Asia and Australia, definitely a dream of mine.

 

Nathan: There’s a lot of very specific stages at very specific festivals that I’d like to play. Like I’ve gone to Green Man every year for the past eight years. The Far Out tent is a dream of mine to play, at a specific hour of the day. There’s a lot of stages at Glastonbury too that I dream of playing, like the Hell stage in Shangri-La. And then yeah another big dream of mine is to explore a lot of Europe – Holland, France, Spain.

 

Egg: This is the segment when you just say your travel dreams. “I’m gonna go Ibiza”. It is how we can connect with people, this is our language. It’s a fast way to show who we are, and ask ‘Who are you? Do you like this?’.

For sure, an interesting way to experience different sides of a culture, see their energy in those spaces. How about music project ambitions?

Egg: Well we’ve booked in to start writing LP two in a week, no rest for the wicked.

 

Nathan: Definitely dream remixes too. Stepping into the club space is an exciting realm to explore. Dance music takes so many different forms; writing this album we spent a lot of time experimenting with those. A song would change its face three or four times, maybe we’d try it as a drum and bass tune, then as more of a garage vibe.

 

Egg: Keen to get some hot remixes in for the record, we may have some things in the pipeline… definitely can’t talk about them. We’re also thinking about setting up our own club night and building our community. Lots of dreams, lots that’ll hopefully come to fruition very soon.

Can’t wait to see your club night. I would like to know, where did the name Porij come from?

Egg: Oh it’s so non-anecdotal, it’s really dumb. I think I was hungry… You know, it’s one of those things you’ve just got to get out the way. It came to mind, I was like that looks pretty good. It’s a non-story, not a great answer… I saw it in a dream!

Well, it’s caught on! Porij hasn’t always looked the same – Nathan and Jacob you were recruited later – now you’ve produced your debut album together, would you say you’re the final four who’ll carry Porij into the future?

(Porij all nod firmly in agreement)

 

Egg: Yes, can’t get rid of me haha. Making the album cemented what this work means to each of us. Teething is us showing the world what Porij is and where we’ve come.  It’s family innit.

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