Porcelain Raft – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 19th, 2024  

Porcelain Raft – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“There’s no leader in the world right now that knows what to do, it’s a huge grand-scale experiment.”

Apr 20, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Italian-born, Los Angeles-based dream pop musician Porcelain Raft (aka Mauro Remiddi), who is spending the quarantine in his home country.

We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).

We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.

Porcelain Raft is releasing a new album, Come Rain, on May 15. Its first single, title track “Come Rain,” was shared via a Rä di Martino-directed video for the track (which was one of our Songs of the Week).

His brother Manolo Remiddi mixed and mastered Come Rain, which also features the following musicians: Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters, Sunny Day Real Estate) on bass, Gaspar Claus (Jim O’Rourke, Sufjan Stevens, Rone) on cello, and long time collaborator Matt Olsson on drums. “The lyrics came out fast,” Remiddi explained in a press release announcing the album. “As a starting point I used the instruments that didn’t need to be turned on, a classical guitar and a piano.”

Come Rain is Porcelain Raft’s fourth full-length album, the follow-up to 2017’s Microclimate.

“In the past three years I decided to take a break,” said Remiddi in the press release, explaining the gap between albums, “I became a father, went to live on a mountain in LA and after the loss of a loved one I went back to Italy, where part of my childhood re-emerged. I found myself playing an organ made in the 1500s, I danced and played piano for a children show. By then I had made a collection of songs that I thought I would never share.”

Remiddi considered not releasing the album right now because of everything going on with the pandemic, but then decided it was actually the perfect time to put these songs out into the world. “The world stopped. I managed to come back to Italy the day before the airports were on lock down,” he explained in the press release. “As I stepped in Rome I felt frightened, it’s surreal to see Rome silent. You can feel how tense people are. On the other side you can tell there’s a lot of solidarity. Helping the neighbor with little things for instance. We have been confined in our houses and exposed to big numbers and huge scale operations. This is why I decided to share these songs now. What a better time to hear our inner voice. This album is my rain chant in the time of drought, Come Rain is an invitation to look inward, into our micro-cosmo, whatever we may find. To look for that place within us that is everything but hell, so we can give it space and let it dance.”

Summing up the album, Remiddi said: “I want each release to feel like a part of a painting. Where the listener can focus on one detail or choose to step back and see the bigger picture.”

Read on as Remiddi reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far. Remiddi also submitted photos of himself under quarantine.

Where are spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?

At the moment I’m in Rome (Italy), I was in Los Angeles to see my daughter and I managed to come back to Italy just before the airports were on lock down. I was planning to stay longer but I don’t have health insurance and I felt at risk in the U.S. to be honest. It seemed to me at first no one understood how serious this was there, not only in terms of your own risks but also affecting the lives of others by not paying attention on the basic rules of distancing and protection. The Italian situation was already at its worst so I was mentally on high alert. It was hard to leave because I just wanted to spend time with my daughter Odessa. She is three years old now. I’m talking to her everyday through FaceTime and I make videos for her with a puppet I hand-made called Birdy. She likes some of Birdy’s videos very much, others are too experimental for her. She’s in a good mood. I’m in this very beautiful apartment in Rome, I set up a corner with my instruments and I have my own little terrace. I’ve been lucky so far. I’m also spending time with someone special I fell in love with, we have the best time together. Definitely the quarantine pushes an imaginary emotional-accelerator. Wherever you are heading emotionally, you are going to that place faster.

Is everyone in your family safe and healthy so far?

Yes, all good from my side of the family here in Italy. They live close to the countryside, they almost don’t feel the quarantine as much. It’s in the cities that you are reminded of all the great things you can’t do anymore.

What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?

I have a coffee in the morning, go in the terrace and start reading books, at the moment I’m reading Bulgakov’s The Master And Margarita, a true masterpiece, and the autobiography of composer Giacinto Scelsi, if you are not familiar with his work I encourage you to do dig into his world. A true visionary. Then I usually reply to emails and sometimes I play music. I have to say I really wanted to take a step back and reflect on things. I’m not in a hyper productive mood at all and it feels great. To put out my new album Come Rain was my creative response to this situation.

What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term?

I have a new project and I’ve been working on it for two years now. It’s an original opera that uses voices treated with my modular synth, the music is electronic and at times neo-classic. All my plans stopped with the recent events. It’s all on hold. Financially I don’t think I will be able to get any funds for it. That said, I’m giving myself time and find another way. There’s always a way. It’s imperative that I see my opera on stage in 2021.

If you also have a day job outside of music, how has that been impacted by COVID-19?

I’ve been working as a freelancer for an agency that creates music libraries. That job stopped, also a company commissioned me music for a theatre piece, that is not happening anymore. At the moment to be honest I have no idea how to approach the money situation. I hope people will buy my album when is out May 15th. That would be a help for sure. I don’t like to live my life with the finger crossed though.

Do you trust the government and our leaders (such as President Trump) to effectively deal with the pandemic? What most concerns you about the response of elected leaders at home and abroad?

There’s no leader in the world right now that knows what to do, it’s a huge grand-scale experiment. Most of the countries don’t want to shut down their economy and want to rush the stop of the lockdown. By doing so they put at risk thousands of people’s lives and that is insane to me. Embrace the recession and save lives, that’s how I see it. You cannot allow the millionaire club to be in charge of this emergency. Also the disinformation some of the media are spreading is very dangerous. Tons of stats that make no sense. You increase the tests you will see more people affected as simple as

that. The two things are related. The headline “More victims today!” or “Today less people affected than yesterday” means nothing. You have to mention how many tests have been done that specific day to really get the picture. This situation for sure forces people to pay more attention on their surrounding, which is a good thing.

How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump?

Trump has to go. I have a green card and I can’t vote which makes it even more frustrating. I don’t think Trump’s mental health can be hidden for longer. He would be removed from office after a year if he gets reelected. He’s obviously mentally unstable, he can barely finish sentences and it gets visibly worse every week. We are one doctor away to see him gone forever.

Which sources of news have you been turning to most during COVID-19 and which social media platform have you found most useful?

My friend Ra di Martino (she made the video for my new single “Come Rain”). She reads everything and she became the world’s expert on COVID-19. She should start her own news channel. So I just call her or text her for the news feed. You should do too!

What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?

I have no idea about the lasting changes and to be honest our brains have the same structure of the humans that lived 1000 years ago. Nothing really changes on a grand scale of things. It’s like saying there will be no more wars because we had WWI. The lesson is in front of every one but that doesn’t mean much according to history. To be honest I just think how lucky I am to live on this planet and be alive. I hope that is going to be the lasting effect of this situation on myself. You can get as cynical as you want about a statement so simple but I’m so thankful to be alive right now and breathe fresh air. I don’t take it for granted especially these days. The real changes happen on a micro scale.

Are your parents, grandparents, and others in your life who are at risk taking social distancing seriously? If not, what lengths have you gone to in order to convince them to stay inside?

Aside from the funny news you see on TV of people having a BBQ on a rooftop and people running on the beach escaping the police, everyone here in Italy takes it very seriously I have to say.

What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?

Let me put it kindly. Give us the money. That’s what they can do, rethink their business plan and inject a significant amount of money into our community. This is no charity as they are pushing it these days. This shouldn’t be a “relief found,” this should be “here’s the right share for your work.” Our fare shares in revenues when it comes to streaming services, which should be reflecting the fact that without us there’s no music platforms and surly take off the music part in it, there is no music industry either. The subject is very delicate and there are a lot things to consider. I don’t feel myself an enemy of Spotify or iTunes, I actually love those platforms the way they work for their customers. But I’m not their customers, I am and we are as musicians, their contents. I don’t believe in revolutions and in shouting slogans. The situation can be resolved only legally, some future U.S. president that addresses the problem and creates laws that truly financially help people in the entertainment. Again, we don’t want your charity, we want our fair share. I’m not expecting big corporations to suddenly change their billions’ worth business plan, they have no feelings when it comes to money. We need the right laws and lawyers.

What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?

If you want to support Porcelain Raft go to my Bandcamp now and preorder my new album!

Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?

I’m a movie nerd, with Fellini, Cassavetes, Visconti, Tarkovsky, Buñuel being my favorite directors. That said, these days I found myself watching only Tom Cruise’s movies. Like the Mission: Impossible franchise. I just can’t stop watching Tom Cruise on helicopters chasing the bad guy. It’s hypnotic.

Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?

I think over all is fair to say that we are overloaded by mostly mediocre home live sessions. There are exceptions of course. I think if we decide to do something live on Internet we need to think hard because no one needs a Porcelain Raft live-home session to be honest. Unless I come up with something unique. I’m still thinking how to approach it myself, we shall see what I come up with…

Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?

I’m writing more. Especially the lyrics and dialogs for my opera. Putting the last touch so to speak.

Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors?

It’s been hard to focus at first and in general I preferred to step back and take a real break from anything creative. There’s a silent outside that is menacing, that silence isn’t peaceful. That’s why is hard to focus. This strange silence outside deserves to be heard.

So, not much creative activity at the moment unless it is the listening.

Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?

The lack of toilet paper is a myth. We are doing fine on that front, I make sure I have coffee, also limes for the afternoon’s gin and tonic and, very important, good red wine. You don’t want bad hangovers, better spend a little bit more and feel fine in the morning.




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