Artist Interview: Porcelain

Posted: by The Editor

Photo by Drew Doggett

Earlier this year we featured the enigmatic single “World I Know” from Austin, Texas post-hardcore quartet Porcelain in one of our weekly roundups and I was immediately drawn to the barrage of tautly drawn melodies barreling over itself with a rapid, dissonant speed. Paired with a succinct shouting style, the single featured cryptic lyrics delivered with such urgency it felt as if it were in a last ditch attempt to alert others of the world we once knew being long gone. Having formed the band in 2022, they had their first single release “C.O.A” in 2023, followed by “World I Know” in January of this year, and their debut album on February 16th. The self-titled album is a forceful amalgamation of late ’90s noise rock fused with jarring post-hardcore, prodding the moments at which disorder begins to boil over and I spoke with the band about it below. 

I know everyone came from other bands, and wanted to ask how Porcelain came together over these last couple of years?

SP (Steve Pike, Vox/Guitar): We started in January of 2022 near the tail end of my previous band (Exhalants). We’ve all known each other for years from playing in the same scene around Austin, so when I started thinking about starting another band, I was very conscious of who I wanted to be in a band with. 

RF (Ryan Fitzgibbon, Vox/Guitar): Yeah, years of each other’s bands being on the same bill and running in the same friend/music circle has led us to come together. It was sort of perfect timing since I was moving back from the UK in 2021 and eager to play in a band again. The others were also in a similar situation in terms of wanting to start up something new and fresh musically. I have always admired Steve (Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Exhalants), Jordan (Super Thief) and Eli’s (Shitbag, Dregs, Votive) work in other projects in the past and felt extremely honored to be asked to play music with them. Even though at first we were just hanging out, jamming, and feeling the flow of things, I had a good feeling that we were going to mesh really well together. 

JE (Jordan, Bass): That’s basically it. Just having been in bands and playing around Austin in the same scene(s) and being friends with them. I too was a fan of what Steve, Ryan, and Eli had done/were doing musically, so I jumped at the opportunity to start a band with them. I still feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to make music with such talented musicians. 

Is the name Porcelain in reference to the band Sparta by any chance?  

SP: It’s not, however, we do like Sparta. It kind of started as a joke, but the idea of something made of porcelain that was durable yet fragile really stuck with me. I feel like it really resonates with our sound and lyrics. 

ED (Eli Deitz, Drums): Personally love them, but not a reference to them. 

JE: Yeah, band names can be tough, and Porcelain seemed to be the one that we could all agree on. And lots of things are made of porcelain: plates, those little Precious Moments figurines, toilets…after we settled on the name I never really gave it much thought beyond that. But like Steve said, it’s a fitting name in a way. 

You are one of the very few artists on Portrayal of Guilt Records, how did that come about?

SP: Matt is a long time friend and he approached us early on to be on his label. I like working with friends when it comes to band stuff because there’s a mutual respect. We both want each other to do well so we can all do well. 

What was the creative process like in writing a debut album together?

SP: I came to the group with a handful of ideas and we just worked on songs to see what would stick. Some were leftover from a previous band, but retooled to fit our vision. After the first couple of songs we wrote together, it really started to take shape and form. The stuff we’re writing now feels like it’s taking a life of its own. 

RF: A lot of the songs from this album started out with riffs Steve had sitting in the archives. He would send over riffs via iPhone memo for us to ponder over and work out parts on our own or he would loop the riffs during practice so we would all come up with our own additions to the songs. Eventually the puzzle pieces would come together to make a tune! I think it’s really cool how we can build off each other easily and you’re able to hear everyone’s unique style of playing. These days we seem to have gotten a lot more comfortable playing around each other and figuring out a direction we want to go in as a band, so writing is a lot more collaborative from the beginning to the finished version of each song. 

ED: Every song came together through either a member having a part and everyone building around it or through a process of jamming. I think everyone has a good read of each other sonically and an understanding about how to best serve a song. 

JE: Honestly, the initial songs that comprised like half of the album came together so quickly that I was almost skeptical, but in hindsight, that shouldn’t have come as any surprise, given everyone’s level of familiarity with one another musically. Like Eli said, from the jump everyone just had a good idea of what we were doing, and how to contribute to a song, which makes the writing process pretty seamless. 

I think the way an album flows together plays a crucial part in how it’s experienced and love how the album has held my interest through each listen. The opening track “Obi” is also really striking in how the first lyrics you hear are “How do you say that you’re scared?” How crucial are the lyrics to this album? Is it something you hope people sit down with and seek out/read while listening? 

JE: To the point of album flow and whatnot, there was some forethought and intent in regard to the tracklist so, happy to hear that the album holds interest upon repeated listening. Typically, when recording an album, I’ll meticulously listen to mixes to the point that I grow exhausted of the tracks so that when the album comes out, I won’t even care to listen to it again for a couple years. But that never happened with this record, and I probably listened to these tracks over the mixing process more so than any other record I’ve worked on, so I felt that was probably a good indication of the album’s listenability. 

SP: I have a lot of conflicting feelings about the lyrics I write. They are the last piece to each song that gets finished. Lyrically, this record is deeply personal and was going through a transitional period in my life while writing them. I don’t like printing lyric sheets because I feel where they sit in the mix people can make out what they are. I’ve had several people approach me since the record has come out and tell me that the lyrics resonate with them, which makes me glad because I’m glad folks can find something that resonates with them within our music. 

What made you place a song like “History” as the fourth song instead of the closing track?

SP: When we wrote “Disgrace,” we knew that’s how we wanted to end the record, so when “History” came about, I thought it would be great to end the A Side with it. If you can make it through the 5 minutes of drone/noise at the end of the song, you would be greeted with more songs.

ED: To my ears, “History” is less of a total album closer than “Disgrace.” “History” serves as a great bridge between the two sides of the record. 

JE: Yeah, knowing that the tracks would eventually be pressed to vinyl, we thought it might be fun to just drone out the end of the first side of the record with “History.” Also was a fun bit of in-studio improvisation when we recorded it. That song is definitely a typical closing track for us at shows though. 

I read that it took you a longer time to mix the album and tracklist than it took to record it. Were there albums you looked to for inspiration when it came to getting the mix where you wanted it? 

SP: I’m an audio engineer, so having a very well balanced mix where everything is represented properly was paramount. We were also extremely busy with our daily lives during the mixing process, so that made it take a little bit longer than normal. One album that stuck to me that I felt would be best to use as a template was Repetition by Unwound. I love the production and mixing on that record, and for our sound it was the closest thing sonically that could be a good blueprint. 

ED: Not sure about inspiration for tracklist as much of it was figuring out if the order made sense sonically. Mix-wise we were a bit all over the place with what we suggested. Fantastic Planet by Failure, In on the Kill Taker and Red Medicine by Fugazi, and A Hero’s Death by Fontaines D.C., along with some others, all were thrown around as references. 

There’s a melody on “Plastic” that sounds like the track “Escape Pod For Intangibles” from Hopesfall that I refer to as a secret Hum song, and I wanted to ask if that was intentional? Who do you look to for inspiration sonically and/or lyrically?

SP: That wasn’t intentional and honestly I’ve never heard that band or song! haha But for sonic inspiration I look to Unwound, Sonic Youth, Kowloon Walled City, Blonde Redhead, Sumac, and outsider/freak jazz. Lyrically, I feel like D Boon had a stranglehold on me during my formative years on how to deliver what you want to say in as little as possible. 

JE: I’m always pleasantly surprised with the sonic connections that people make between what we do and other bands. Sometimes it brings other cool stuff to my attention that I’ve never heard of, but will have to check out (like Hopesfall). But yeah, sonically I feel like we’re all coming from roughly the same noisy guitar lineage, and as long as people dig what that ends up sounding like, that’s enough for me. 

What was the creative process like for the album cover?

SP: I do a lot of collage art in my free time, so when it was time to make the album art, I wanted to take a stab at it. I wanted to represent the ever changing Austin skyline within the cover, because I think it’s important to represent where you are from; all the good and bad that comes with it. The woman in the window was such a striking image to me because I related so much to her vulnerability, which I felt was also displayed in the songs on this record. I showed what I had come up with to the band and everyone was on board, so that was a huge relief. 

What do you hope people take away from listening to the album?

JE: If people listen to it and the takeaway is positive, that’s enough for me. And if not, that’s fine too. Plenty of other albums out there. But in all seriousness, we enjoyed making the album, were fortunate to have it put out, and hope people enjoy listening to it. 

ED: I like to think that the passion from our live performance translated into the album because this is at the end of the day a project that we put a lot of heart, emotion, and energy into. If that feeling can be taken away from listening to the album, that’s a success to me. 

RF: It’s very wild to be told this, but I’ve had many people come up to me and say that our music has really moved them. Whether it was a physical or emotional sensation, I am glad they had that experience. These sensations are therapeutic and so amazing that we can feel these things through songs. I just hope people can listen to these songs no matter what kind of mood they might find themselves in. I want the album to be approachable by anyone and hope people have fun listening to it just as much as I do playing the tunes! 

SP: I hope people can find a connection with this album, like I have with some of my favorite records. Not saying this needs to be their favorite record, but I just hope people enjoy it and come away with a new thought or feeling. 

Porcelain is out now.

Loan Pham | @x_loanp

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