Porridge Radio might make music that lashes out with a snarl, but they’re big softies really (we say that with love, honest). Rising rapidly out of the DIY punk scene in Brighton, lead singer/guitarist Dana, keyboardist Georgie, bassist Maddie and drummer Sam make cuttingly candid songs that don’t so much wear their hearts on their sleeves, as shove them down our giant collective throat.
When we speak to Dana, the group are days out from releasing their excellent second record, ‘Every Bad’, at the same time as boshing through a UK in-store tour, so some chaos is to be expected. “Sorry for all the noise, we just got done finishing up soundcheck,” she explains, barrelling from room to room trying to find a quiet spot. “Sam just came up to me with a menu asking what food I want to eat. We’re on in an hour!”
There’s an edge of panic to her voice, but it’s of the fun-giddy-nerves variety rather than anything serious, and it soon floats away as we get into how the band was formed. “I started writing on my own in my room doing solo bedroom songs. I went to open mic nights a lot and was just playing solo, and then I met all my band members by weird coincidences in Brighton. We spent a long time DIY touring, and generally just being loud and figuring out what we were doing.”
Weird coincidences? “Like, I was selling ‘zines at a fair, and Sam came up to me, picked one up, and opened it to a page that Georgie had written – he knew her from back home. Or Maddie had seen me play at a show that Georgie had put on, and then she came up to me and was like, ‘I want to be in your band!’ and I was like, ‘Cool!’ I didn’t remember that until later on actually. You know how it is – you just meet people around.”
From recording their first album together in a shed four years ago, to signing to Secretly Canadian, you might expect a bumpy transition, but Dana views the shift pretty pragmatically. “Having a team, working with loads of people who get paid to work in music. It’s different. Having a booking agent – it’s a completely new way of doing things. We used to be a DIY band because that’s how we did things, and now we do things differently. I still love the DIY scene.”
As their major indie label debut, ‘Every Bad’ represents a levelling up, even if the seeds were gestating in the group’s first shed-spawned record, ‘Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers’. “We’ve just learned and grown so much between the first one and the second one; so much has changed. I think we were able to make it sound the way that we wanted it to sound, whereas the first one was a lot more chaotic. We didn’t really know what we were doing.”
Like the gloopy breakfast food that forms the first half of their name, Porridge Radio are exciting because they make music that sticks, albeit to your brain rather than the roof of your mouth. A large part of that is down to Dana’s lyrics; less poems than mantras. Each song features a refrain that recurs again and again, gradually losing meaning before resurfacing with a totally new one. The things she sings about most? Boredom and indecision.
“I talk a lot about boredom, but I don’t actually generally get that bored. I like to stare at the wall and zone out.” Perhaps boredom isn’t such a bad thing if you can find value in it, perhaps say, through music? “Yeah, for sure. I like that. I feel like people for generations have been getting bored and frustrated and upset. It’s nothing new.”
Thanks to her hypnotic repeated phrases, and her unvarnished, frank songwriting, it often feels like Dana is leading a group therapy session. “When you start to share, other people share back, and when you open yourself up, other people open back, and the more vulnerable you make yourself, the more people allow themselves to connect with you. I think I do this because it helps me, but if that can help other people, then that’s great.”
So, what does porridge have to do with any of this? And does she have a favourite porridge brand to plug? “I don’t eat that much porridge, to be honest, but I do like it. I don’t really think about porridge as like, a word.” There’s a contemplative pause worthy of such a weighty question, before we ask if porridge has become another mantra to her. “Yeah, I just think of it as a series of sounds. It’s gotten to that point.”
How about her favourite brand of radio (some might say station)? “I spend a lot of time listening to Radio 1, Radio 6. I just love it. I like being in the car and listening to the radio and just being like: there are loads of people all around me who are probably listening to the same thing.” She’s not talking about her own music, but it’s a striking image: a squadron of BBC 6 Music cars dispersed across the nation’s motorways, all tuned in to Dana’s scorching self-help.
Given how personal her songwriting process is, it’s no surprise when Dana emphasises the catharsis of finally releasing ‘Every Bad’. “We’ve spent a lot of time obsessing over every detail of this album, and for me, it’s a release. To have it out in the world and for people to have all those songs… if they want to listen to them. It’s been so, so long. I guess I’m actually most excited to work on new songs. That’s what I love the most – writing.”
Before she jets off to play, to write, and to (maybe) eat more porridge, there’s one last burning question: what menu did Sam show her earlier? “Uh, it’s Japanese food. I still can’t decide what I want,” she says, laughing. “See: indecisive.” It’s a knowing statement, but a universal one too. If you’ve ever stared blankly at a sea of menus, frozen by the ginormous number of choices, then Porridge Radio might just be the band for you.
Taken from the May issue of Dork. Porridge Radio’s album ‘Every Bad’ is out now.
Words: Blaise Radley