Rising: Porridge Radio
For many artists, DIY is more than a mode of survival: it’s a badge of honour, an ethos of self-sufficiency to be upheld indefinitely. Ask Dana Margolin of Porridge Radio about it, however, and you’ll find a much more pragmatic approach.
“We’ve always been lo-fi by necessity,” she says considering Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers, the 2016 debut that the Brighton-formed outfit famously recorded in a shed in the space of a week. “But now we don’t have to be lo-fi, we really don’t want to be.”
Margolin’s modus operandi has changed significantly since she first started writing barbed indie-pop under the banner, five or so years ago. Initially a solo endeavour, Porridge Radio has since blossomed into a four-piece band, the tight-knit line-up completed by keyboardist Georgie Stott, bassist Maddie Ryall and drummer Sam Yardley. They’ve all since quit Brighton for London – with Margolin returning to her family home in Hendon – and their second album, Every Bad, is out in March via prestige indie Secretly Canadian.
This seismic shift in circumstances isn’t lost on Margolin for one moment. “You can’t say you’re DIY if you’re not,” she shrugs matter of factly. “We have a booking agent, we have press officers, we have a team working on stuff. And it’s amazing to step up.”
Step up is the operative phrase. In terms of ambition and execution, the difference between Every Bad and the C86-esque stylings of its predecessor is profound. Largely self-produced, and mixed by Nilüfer Yanya and black midi collaborator Oli Barton-Wood, the collection sees Margolin’s diaristic introspection and serrated shifts in vocal dynamics applied to an array of arrangements, from the melancholic jangle of Pop Song and Auto-Tuned atmospherics of (Something) to the abrasive art-rock of Don’t Ask Me Twice and the anguished waltz of Circling, which she today describes as sounding akin to a “haunted seaside ride”.
“We really love pop production,” Margolin explains. “And making this album we wanted to produce things better. I do really enjoy a good Radio 1 hit – artists like Charli XCX and PC Music, Lorde and Lana Del Rey. As we go forward I want to lean into that more, I think.” She adds with a laugh, “though I say that and then I write really emo guitar songs, so…”
As is perhaps inevitable from a former anthropology student, Margolin uses her lyrics to document vivid snapshots of the human experience, relaying struggles with mental health and corrosive relationships in the process. While she finds the process of lyric- writing “incredibly cathartic” on a personal level, it’s equally important to her that listeners can find their own meaning in the experiences she relays. “Everything that happens around those [experiences] is what is important,” she insists. “Those specific moments are there to demarcate the spaces in between.”
For all her vulnerability on Every Bad, Margolin is refreshingly self-assured when pressed about the band’s long-term ambitions. “I don’t think we’ve ever sat and discussed our vision but I think along the way we’ve always been like, ‘Yeah, we’re the best band in the world.’ A peaceful life where I can have a studio, and a little house, and some dogs, and can make music and art whenever I want – that’s my idea of success. But also a stadium tour.”
Every Bad is out 13 March via Secretly Canadian