The Worldly Mauro Remiddi Finds His Place as Porcelain Raft

Mauro Remiddi, aka Porcelain Raft, has been around the block and then some. Born in 1972, he toured all over the world before recently settling in New York City, where he recorded Porcelain Raft’s debut album, Strange Weekend. The reverb-drenched sonics and haze of nostalgia aren’t remotely singular (for those of you who might adore or disdain the recent chillwave trend), but Remiddi’s warmly impressionistic lyrics, which come off like the communique of a faraway friend telling us what it’s like to go there and back again, imbues his music with a more mature quality befitting of his life experience. Recently, Remiddi played at Chicago’s Metro to support Youth Lagoon, where we caught up with him before the show to chat about his travels and his ultimate settlement.

You’ve lived all over the world, but when did you first start traveling?
I started traveling when I was 20 because I was in a trio. We were playing klezmer—gypsy music basically. I was playing accordion. We started traveling over in Italy for a year. It happened that I was living in Milan, a little bit in Florence. Then we started traveling in Germany as well, but I really moved completely when I was 27 and went to London and lived there until one year ago. Now I live in New York.

Were you playing music the entire time to support yourself?
Not to support myself. I’ve never really earned money from music. I was just playing all the time and was broke all the time, so I would do sound engineering… sometimes playing piano in hotels and stuff like that. But I was broke all the time and just decided, either you have time to do what you want or have money, and I decided to have time.

Why did you decide to move to New York?
I played in New York in 2000 for an Off-Broadway show. I was playing piano. I stayed there for three months and just loved it—loved the city. I ended up in London, but New York was always in the back of my head. I played some shows there a year ago at CMJ and I fell in love with the city all over again. And at the time at CMJ, I met Grace, who is now my wife. I basically met the love of my life that day, and one thing led to another and I ended up moving there within two weeks.

I did really enjoy the record; it has this feeling of impermanence, of being in motion. How do you think your traveling affected the recordings?
It’s something I try not to think about. I like to keep the things I do in a more subconscious way… not internalize it too much. What I feel is, it’s not about the moving. It’s not going from point A to point B. It’s not about the line that connects those. It’s the idea that you find yourself in this new world. Your life starts there: you fall in love, you live in a different city. Also, English is my second language, so there’s so many things going on at the same time. What happens is basically when I’m there, I’m not traveling. I’m just in New York now; back then, I was in London. There’s this idea of the traveler as somebody who is moving so he doesn’t grow his life anywhere, but I’m growing my life in these places I’ve been in.

And there’s the nostalgic element to your music too without being too overtly sentimental.
It’s more like I’m building something. The past is just the memories, the base level. We started in the basement. So if I’m going to show you something on the tenth floor, I have to start from here and go up. It’s the same building. So how can I not be informed by the past? And this past… most of it has this quality of daydreaming. There’s no sleeping, and there’s no dreaming about something that doesn’t exist; it’s actually you there. You have this daydreaming feeling where you remember things. “Oh, the day my Mom said that to me and I cried.” If you want to re-remember, then that’s the feeling you have. It’s a very distinctive difference between the two, sleeping and dreaming. And I feel that most of our memories from when you’re small are made of this daydreaming thing, so my music has that underlying element—to underline the present. All of my lyrics are about the present.

Is it strange to be on tour with bands half your age?
The difference is that when you’re 20 on tour, you sleep on sofas. You don’t sleep in a bed. I think that’s the difference. I just try to treat myself way better now. The excitement is still there. I’m so glad I’m doing this; it feels just right.

What’s the concept behind your album’s artwork?
For the cover, I collaborated with Daniel Murphy, a graphic designer from Secretly Canadian, and gave him the inputs: the satellite images, and I do a lot of images of my hand. It doesn’t look like… it’s something disappearing, but it’s there. The satellite image tells you much more than anything; it tells you something has to do with the present. The album is called Strange Weekend because it’s about a weekend—it’s about two days. So I really wanted to make sure that there was some meaning there which could tell you this was about a very short amount of time. I wanted to time-lapse something very short. I’m tired of these albums that talk about feat and something that’s going to be there forever. “We are standing in this world, and in the universe.” What about now? What about this weekend? I wanted to reduce the size. Recording in a room reduces the size. So this album has a lot to do with the size, which is very small. The next album will be bigger. This one shows where I am now.

I gather it took longer than two days to record.
It took about one month and a half to compose and record at the same time. Every song I composed on the spot.

Have you thought about that next one?
I think I’m going to wait until I have to do it. I’m just taking notes for now. And the moment I see the thoughts off the top of my head, then it’s going to fall into place.

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