For Porches, music is a memory
Aaron Maine joins Document to map the personal stories that guide his creative process
To venture into the Porches discography is to step into a diaristic synth-pop iteration of Aaron Maine’s life. The project originated just over a decade ago, when Maine recorded the EP summer of ten. Maine’s debut album as the Porches, Slow dance in the cosmos, was a collaboration between the artist and his partner and co-creator at the time, Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos. The 2013 record is a reflection of their infatuation with each other, filled with cheeky nicknames and starry-eyed sentiment.
With her critically acclaimed second album Swimming pool, Maine has been pushed to the front lines of the alternative music scene. He reinvented Porches, swapping twangy guitar for heavy synth, electronic beats and haunting Kline harmonies. The House felt like a natural next chapter for Porches, though it found less love than Swimming pool.
On March 13, 2020, Maine released their fourth studio album Ricky Music, which largely details the emotional fallout of Maine’s breakup with Okay Kaya’s Kaya Wilkins. The record was quickly lost in the throes of lockdown and pandemic scare, and remains hidden away in the rest of his discography, waiting to be found.
At this point, like almost everyone else in the world, Maine was scared. In the early stages of COVID, it was unclear how or when things would return to normal. Maine wondered if he could play live music again, realizing that touring was essential to completing an album release cycle. “[Playing shows] was easy to take for granted,” says Maine. “It was kind of like a pain in the ass at times, but I realized without being able to see a room full of people physically responding to it, that it was really abstract. No matter what messages or press I got , I had the impression that, Am I really doing something?”
That feeling made him think, “I was just imagining, if I’m allowed to go out and play shows, and people show up and my job is to make music, what will be the most exciting and festive songs to play?”
From This Free Space, Porches’ fifth studio album Soft hold all day! was born. The album is upbeat and punchy; he does not lose a second, with just over 25 minutes. Maine recently completed a tour across the United States in support of Phoenix, where he was able to bring the album to life. At Radio City Music Hall in early September, Maine energetically threw her body onto the stage, contagiously excited as the audience seeped in.
Maine is generally a homebody, spending much of his time in his corner of New York’s Chinatown, where he has lived for about six years now. He hangs out in Seward Park and particularly enjoys walking around town and people watching. When I ask him about his interests beyond music, he takes a minute to think, before responding, “Man, like, not so much other stuff. Tennis is one of his new favorite hobbies and the first hobby he’s had in a while. He also looked Desperate Housewives from the top, which he has never seen before, and he has just started to read intimate ties by Austrian novelist Robert Musil. But really, music is the center of his world. Maine spends most of her free time hanging out with her friends; he is often spotted strolling around Dimes Square with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, a friend and frequent collaborator.
Maine stumps out the rest of his cigarette before walking down Ludlow Street. Sitting across from him, some of his scattered little tattoos catch the eye: a treble clef on his neck, a Libra symbol on his hand, a smiley face on the inside of his right forearm. Maine speaks slowly, every word spoken with intention; he is not afraid to silently collect his thoughts before speaking.
Despite his affinity for the Lower East Side, during the lockdown Maine found he was missing out on tours; it works as his only excuse to travel, he says. “[The pandemic] just put it in perspective; what a crazy thing it is to do, to show up in a room and have people walk out and play music really loud,” he explains. “Acting is something I really enjoy, I love putting on a show, and using my voice and sharing that experience can be very emotional.”
Growing up in Pleasantville, a small town in upstate New York, Maine spent most of her time skating, drawing and listening to music: The Strokes, Velvet Underground, The Beatles, Weezer. “This music is so ingrained in my head that I think that’s where a lot of the sense of melody comes from – Julian Casablancas and Neil Young,” he says. “It’s not that I’m comparing myself, my brain was the softest back then, absorbing the music like that.”
Maine and some of his friends who shared similar musical tastes became obsessed with learning songs from artists like Radiohead and The Strokes, and eventually formed a band. They would hop around the garage together doing cover songs and just create stuff using Maine’s tape recorder. “It was a fertile place to grow creatively,” he adds.
He grew up in an “artistically inclined” family; her father, singer-songwriter Peter Maine, often contributes vocals to Porches albums, and her mother was a dancer. Maine continues to surround itself with people with artistic leanings; he frequently collaborates with a number of artists, having worked with Hynes, Alex G, Mitski and Coco and Clair Clair.
Historically, much of Maine’s music has been very personal and often finds inspiration in the long-term relationships he gravitates towards. “I used to equate romantic tension or turmoil with being inspired or living an inspired life, and I don’t think that’s the case,” Maine says. “I think I’ve made the most realized and honest music when I feel supported in a relationship. All that energy that you would put into drama with someone else if something was wrong or you you argue could be used for the drama of your art I feel like I have an easier time creating and thinking, or coming up with different ideas.
With incredibly intimate looks on his mind, his albums have been compared to music diaries. I ask him if he finds this scary or embarrassing.
“Oh yes, definitely,” he replies. “But at the end of the day, that’s what I do. If I didn’t feel like sharing, nobody asks me. There’s a lot to be gained from it, even if it’s sometimes embarrassing.
And besides, he reminds me, everyone is subject to growth and change. “If someone read a page of his diary again, he would probably cringe; just because it’s public doesn’t mean that I haven’t changed as well or that I have my own personal relationships and things that aren’t for everyone,” he says. “But I think that’s part of the interesting thing about being an artist; he is vulnerable by nature.
fashion assistant Noah Delfiner.