When Aaron Maine sits down for our interview in his apartment in New York City’s Chinatown, he’s wearing a green and white striped long-sleeve shirt and his hair is a wet, matted down mop-top with wisps of a mullet just visible behind his ears. “I got carried away in the shower,” he says in a gentle croon, explaining the few minutes I had been left waiting for him. “You know, just with the hot water.”
It’s not surprising given Maine’s preoccupation with water is so well documented throughout the discography of Porches, his musical project. From 2016’s breakout success, Pool, to songs from 2018’s The House (“Now the Water” and “Swimmer”), and this year’s All Day Gentle Hold ! (“Swimming Big” and “Watergetsinsde”), water has always been a consistent running theme, though it is not always water for water’s sake.
“I just want to connect with people in an abstract way. It felt good for me to be saying ‘water gets inside’ a million times, but I don’t know why,” he says, a hint of a bemused smile crossing his face at the lack of insight he is giving regarding his lyrical themes. “I don’t really know where it comes from. It could be a flood, or it could be cleaning something out. It feels very ambiguous.”
Maine is ambiguous by nature, happy to expound on questions with answers that are simultaneously both vivid and vague, similar to his lyrics. “I don’t want to just say everything I’m feeling,” Maine says. “It’s almost physical or something, the lyrics feel like they’re about my heart rate and my temperature and the fuzziness of my eyes and those sorts of sensations…It’s kind of a cool challenge to make someone feel something without being like ‘you broke my heart’ or saying a concrete thing.” Wary of being looked to for any type of sage guidance, Maine’s opinion is certain on how his lyrics should be perceived. “I don’t want to make any statements,” he says.
The music Maine makes as Porches is not easy to categorize. The project began as scrappy lo-fi indie rock with self-releases like 2011’s Summer of Ten and turned into perfectly executed 80s-inspired synth-pop on Pool, only to become House-inspired experiments on The House and Julee Cruise worship on 2020’s Ricky Music. What ties the Porches discography together is Maine’s unmistakable voice: melancholy, tender, and soulful. On newly released All Day Gentle Hold !, we hear that voice on a collection of compact and brilliant power-pop songs, filled as usual with Maine’s unusual and endearing production choices.
There is no separation for Maine between his personal life and his work because his studio is his bedroom. “I have three feet of separation,” Maine says, clarifying. “Most of the time, this is my studio.” He picks up his computer to scan the room he is talking to me from, a familiar looking room for anyone that has lived in an apartment in many of the high density cities in North America. “This is my desk, speakers, keyboards, and guitars. This is my couch, this is my bed. It’s all in here.”
Recording is a mostly solitary exercise for Maine, but not exclusively. “I do it alone typically, from 10am to 6 or 7pm,” he says. “If I have friends over, I might show them what I was working on that day or we might try messing around with something, which is fun because I’m not allowed to go full crazy person by doing the same guitar part 7000 times and I feel like some really nice moments came from that on the record.”
All Day Gentle Hold ! is full of these moments. “A guitar part could come out at 3am and that riff can get chopped up and put into the song,” Maine says in describing the process. “I’d run a song and essentially just make up lyrics on the spot and feel the words coming out of my mouth, then listen back to see if there was anything special where I really got hit with inspiration. All this raw material is in there, I tried to keep these moments where your eyes light up and your ears prick up. Getting like six of those moments and turning them into a song, that was the idea with this, to have none of it sound overworked.”
The sound of the album is buoyed in part by the bands Maine brought himself up on. “I listened to a lot of rock music growing up. It started with The Strokes, and I worked my way back to Weezer, and then Nirvana, and then Television, and Neil Young. That stuff feels ingrained in my psyche,” Maine says. “I did go through a big Kurt phase while making the album. I think it was getting back in touch with stuff like those shapes on the guitar, those harmonies, that sort of energy and rawness, or whatever you want to call it.” That energy bounces around the room listening to album standouts “Lately,” “I Miss That,” and “Back3School,” and you can hear the sheer joy of rocking out on “Swarovski” and “Grab the Phone.”
For the first time in Maine’s career, he is aligned with his own album cycle. “This is my first record that’s come out anywhere close to when I wanted it to come out,“ he says. “It’s been really nice to focus on the videos and the photos and the press and to be actually excited to talk about it, instead of being halfway into the next thing and talking about this thing in the past.”
Things are lining up for Maine because he is taking a break from writing music for the first time in seven years. “It feels really good honestly,” he says. “If anyone saw what my regimen is like, they would say ‘just like chill out.’ I’ve felt like I’ve had my head down so hard. Having my headphones on really helps me tune stuff out and structure my days and it has acted as an escape for forever, sometimes in a healthy way and sometimes in a ‘I should probably be paying attention to other things right now in my life’ way. I finally took a breath and it feels really good to enjoy this part of it instead of trying to get busy as soon as possible to pass the time.”
For now, Maine is passing the time with friends and getting some exercise. “I’ve gotten really into tennis,” he says. “I’ve been playing four or five or six times a week and it’s been really great, just to get out there to get some air and to get some energy out; I just feel more settled afterwards.” He’s also been taking short trips with his friends. “I miss touring because I feel like that was when life was more colourful,” Maine says. “I’ve never been on one vacation in my adult life that wasn’t music based. I’m not the type to book a trip anywhere so I’m trying to do a little bit more traveling for traveling’s sake.”
All Day Gentle Hold ! is available Oct. 8 via Domino Music.