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PORRIDGE RADIO – INTERVIEW

Their 2020 plans may have been derailed by COVID-19, but Brighton’s Porridge Radio – one of Britain’s most exciting, arresting guitar bands – still have their eyes firmly on the prize

March 2020 should have been a defining month in the career of British DIY rockers Porridge Radio.
      After four years bubbling under the surface of the UK music scene, the Brighton-formed four-piece seemed poised to enter the spotlight and connect with a mass audience. Their second LP, Every Bad – a follow-up to their low-key 2016 debut Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers – was chalking up rave reviews in the NME, the Guardian and Pitchfork. The band were scheduled to fly to Austin, Texas, to perform at the prestigious South By Southwest conference. And, upon their return from the States, the band were due to embark on their biggest UK tour to date.  
      All those live plans, of course, have been postponed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Porridge Radio’s 2020 itinerary – much like everyone else’s in the music industry – has been placed firmly on hold, with little idea of when activity will resume again.
     However, speaking to New Sounds on the very day that their UK tour is postponed, the band’s singer and songwriter, Dana Margolin, is in surprisingly calm and pragmatic mood.
     “We just have to accept it,” Margolin tells us over the phone from her London home. “Right now, it’s not simply not safe or responsible to be out there playing shows. Missing out on South By Southwest was the hardest thing. It’s one of those events you dream about playing; we’ve been excited for months. Playing it can really help a band’s career. But that’s the way it goes. Right now, the music industry – the whole world – is on pause. We can wait it out.”
      Porridge Radio, it’s safe to say, are the very embodiment of the old proverb, ‘patience is a virtue’.
      A product of Brighton’s fertile music scene, the band first took shape when Dana Margolin started writing songs while studying at the University of Sussex. After expanding into a full band – with the arrival of keyboardist Georgie Stott, bassist Maddie Ryall and drummer Sam Yardley – Porridge Radio spent four years plying their trade on Brighton and London’s gig scenes. Their songs – a thrilling, bittersweet blend of art-rock, post-punk and jangle-pop – earned them a modest but fervent fanbase amongst the DIY underground.
      It’s only in the past 12 months, however, that Porridge Radio have truly threatened to spill over-ground. After signing to the esteemed indie label Secretly Canadian in December last year, the Brighton outfit have suddenly emerged as one of Britain’s most hotly-tipped bands. Their aforementioned second LP, Every Bad, has already been hailed as one of 2020’s finest LPs and a future Mercury Prize winner.
     Five years on from their formation, Porridge Radio are now finally reaping the rewards of their hard work. And nothing – not even a certain COVID-19 – will threaten the band’s momentum.        
     “We’re a patient band,” says Margolin. “I think, to some people, we probably seem like a new band. But we’ve been doing this for five years, and there’s been loads of obstacles along the way. The new album (Every Bad), we actually started writing that three years ago. But all those setbacks, they’ve only made us stronger. You know, it kind of makes sense that coronavirus has hit just as we’re releasing our new album. It’s the story of this band – always being tested.”
      Indeed. In an age when so many young artists go from being complete unknowns to headlining arenas, Porridge Radio are a wonderful advert for the virtues of development and – there’s that word again – patience. Four years of slogging it on the DIY circuit has instilled a real resilience in Porridge Radio. Indeed, even when they were performing to the smallest of crowds, the four members never once wavered in their self-belief and ambition.
     “That’s the thing,” says Margolin. “Even if you’re playing a tiny show in some pub for no money, you have to believe what you’re doing is special. Otherwise, it’s just a self-indulgent hobby. As a band, you kind of have to mythologise what you’re doing. You need to remind yourself that what you’re doing is meaningful to people.”
      Those years of operating on the margins, of quietly cultivating their craft, have proven invaluable to Porridge Radio’s development. As illustrated by their stunning new LP, Every Bad, the band may be fully prepared for world domination – but, thankfully, they’ve sacrificed none of their idiosyncrasies. Songs such as recent single ‘Sweet’ are guttural, melodic and full of strange sonic curveballs. And Margolin – a songwriter who’s never been afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve – continues to deliver lyrics full of startling power and poetry.
     “I’ve always wanted to make music to be vulnerable,” she says defiantly. “When I’m writing songs, it’s a place where I speak my truth and show all my vulnerabilities. For some people, it’s not easy to be emotional and to open up. But music and art, they can allow people to unlock that part of themselves. I want my music to be part of that process.”
     It’s only been out for a week, but Every Bad is already having its desired effect on audiences. Giddy with excitement, Margolin speaks about the “amazing reaction” from teenage listeners, reserving particular praise from one fan who, she says, “started up a whole Instagram fan account for us. That kind of thing really makes me emotional. To realise you have that impact on people.”      
     Whilst Porridge Radio have been unable to meet their adoring public this year, the band have been busy, like so many musicians, harnessing the powers of social media and organising live streaming gigs.
     We live in unprecedented times and no-one really knows what’s around the corner. Whatever transpires, though, you can be sure that Porridge Radio – a band who know a thing or two about keeping patient – will continue to keep blowing hearts and minds with their glorious, life-affirming music.  
       “With everyone in self-isolation, musicians will have to find new ways to interact with people,” says Margolin. “Right now, it’s all about making a space for yourself online. Engaging with fans in a different way. There’s so much uncertainty and fear out there. Artists, musicians, we all need to come together and find solutions.”    

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