Porches Wants Listeners to "Feel the Joy" of 'All Day Gentle Hold !'

Photo Credit: Jason Nocito

“This song really slapped / brought me back to life.”

So sings Aaron Maine on “Back3School,” one of the singles from All Day Gentle Hold !, his fifth and latest album under the moniker Porches. After a global health crisis that caused the most turbulent 18+ months that any of us have ever lived, the New York City-based artist wanted to write music that went in a completely different direction than the prevalent mood of the time.

“I think for me, it was a lot about just capturing and selecting songs that felt the opposite of what was going on,” Maine says, “which was death, and fear and panic and total chaos. And I feel while there's a lot of violence and chaos in these songs, at the core, they're pretty full of life.”

That said, Maine didn’t go into the creative process thinking he was going to write a quarantine album. In fact, the genesis of All Day Gentle Hold ! began in fall 2019, before his fourth album, Ricky Music, dropped right when everything hit the fan in March 2020. What the pandemic did do, though, was change Maine’s outlook on what material he had thus far, and what he would mold out of it going forward.

“I think the main thing that shifted once the pandemic arrived,” Maine says, “was my lens or perspective I had, when I was going back through this folder of songs [where] I had started these ideas. And it became very clear to me what felt appropriate to release, if I was to release music, again, [and] what felt like it cut through. I feel they all came from a specific place where it was a lot more joyful and less belabored than stuff in the past. I don't think it's very demanding, content wise, or self-absorbed as some of my music, in hindsight, has been.”

It’s true that All Day Gentle Hold ! sounds like the most fun Maine has ever had on record. The LP is also more guitar-centric than any of Maine’s albums since Slow Dance in the Cosmos, his 2013 debut as Porches. In press releases for the new album, the six-string energy is credited to Maine rediscovering some of his formative influences, such as the Ramones, Nirvana, and the Strokes. Despite crafting the album in his living room studio, from those influences Maine created his most mosh pit-worthy collection of songs, heard best on the head-banging opener “Lately,” the pummeling rush of “Watergetsinside,” and the crashing closer “Comedown Song (Gunk).”

“I was imagining,” Maine says, “if there was a day that would come where we were all allowed to be in a sweaty room together, and celebrate just live music and health in general, like what would be an appropriate soundtrack to that. Because it was a lot easier to kind of overlook that in the past where touring is a given and live performances are a given. Then it's easy to be like, ‘Ah, I don't want to tour, it's grueling, or this or that.’ I think a big part of why it sounds the way it does is [that] I was imagining ‘how can I create the most […] guttural, direct performance with these songs?’ I would say it's probably the most sing along-able, slam your head around to, hang out with your friends [music]. [Getting] excited about being here still.”

Even with the explosiveness of All Day Gentle Hold !, it’s still very much a pop album, albeit one with more impressionistic lyrics than the average pop song. (Just one example, “You suck on my arm and I kiss on your face,” from “Back3School.” Make of that what you will.) Songs such as “I Miss That” and “Okay” are among the loveliest tracks Maine has put out to date. The songwriter thrives, however, on making you sing along to such hummable tunes with their weird turn-of-phrases.

“I've always been interested in melodies and pop music, for sure,” Maine says. “But I think I don't know most of what I'm trying to say [lyrically]. There's a catchiness that is associated with pop music that I'm always searching for. Lyrically, I feel, for me at least, it's always [been] less pop. That's where it stays away from that, which I like. I've always liked that weird juxtaposition of singing about sucking on my arm, but it's to a dance beat.”

As he did with the chilly 80s-esque pop of his second Porches album, Pool, Maine manages to unintentionally capture the pop zeitgeist on his new, rock-leaning LP. Mainstream acts such as Olivia Rodrigo, Willow, and Billie Eilish have all incorporated late 90s / early 2000s rock into their recent music. It’s something that Maine notes is purely coincidental, even if he appreciates how the new youth movement reflects the spirit of his own formative influences that he tried to capture on record.

“I hope that the kids like it,” Maine says, “I mean, they’re a powerful audience to have on your team. That's where the real fandom happens. That's kind of what I was to the Strokes and Interpol and artists like that. And I feel it's coming from a youthful place. For me, this record, I think [touches] on those influences that are so ingrained in my head, in a different way than music I listen to today, even if I'm totally obsessed with it.”

With touring back on in the more vaccinated parts of the world, Maine will be heading out across North America and Europe starting March 2022 in support of All Day Gentle Hold !, and it’s Montreal where he’ll start his two month-long excursion. While he has fond memories of playing shows in Montreal when Porches started out, Maine normally reaches the 514 at the end of his tours, making him pine for his home of New York City more than usual. But now, back on the road for the first time in what feels like forever, Maine is sure he’ll be getting “that first crazy excitement by playing the first note of the tour” in Montreal.

With All Day Gentle Hold !, Maine successfully convinced his label to release it as soon as possible, because he felt the album would otherwise lose the urgency and timeliness that’s so central to the record. It’s ultimately that vitality that the artist hopes will translate to listeners.

“I just hope that it gets them excited and feel alive, as cheesy as that sounds,” Maine says. […] I just want it to be gobbled up, enjoyed, chewed up, spit out. I just want people to grab it and squeeze it for whatever it's worth. Which I think is a good time or an emotional time […] whether that's walking around with headphones alone or blasting it in your car, driving around with your friends. I just want people to feel the joy that I felt creating it and singing it, and hopefully that is a positive experience.”

All Day Gentle Hold ! is out now (Domino Records).

Alex Viger-Collins is the host of Ashes to Ashes, your home for modern pop in all its forms, every Tuesday at 8:00 PM.