Gen F: Porcelain Raft

Photographer Philip Ebeling
March 29, 2011

Standing onstage alone in New York this winter, the Rome-born, London-based Porcelain Raft, aka Mauro Remiddi, set up his small bank of guitar pedals and quietly said hello to the crowd. Then he succumbed to his music and became so overwhelmed with passion that it was unclear if he was performing or just completely losing his cool. “I rarely write songs when I’m actually in the storm,” Remiddi explains later. “Everything you hear is something after the storm. The songs that you hear have that feeling of being tired or being exhausted by something.” When he began to play “Talk to Me,” the heaviest song in the Porcelain Raft catalog, at that same show, it was clear we were all in the center of the storm.

On record it’s foreboding, Remiddi pouring his syrupy, dark voice over a constant hum of white noise. But live it’s like he’s being held back by invisible chains, lurching toward the audience, his normally friendly and open face contorted in a half-cry, partially furious, jagged anger. The song becomes more disturbing because he’s willing himself to a breaking point every time he plays it.

Removed from the spectacle, Porcelain Raft can sound almost sappy. “Tip of Your Tongue,” for example, is overwhelmingly nice. Remiddi’s head is way above the clouds, his guitar gallops and he draws out the word tip into an endearingly Italian TEEEEP. It’s clearly done to fit the song, but further adds to Remiddi’s purposeful naiveté. He relies on shared memory to pull feelings out of his listeners, and if that means warping language to do it, then why not? He reminds us of our teenage overreactions, the deep emotional moments we thought we were old enough to laugh at, once again laid out bare, wide-eyed and genuine.

But to get to that point, Remiddi first had to escape Rome’s music scene, where he always felt like an outsider. “When I [left Rome], I ran away from it and didn’t regret it. I wanted to be by myself and recreate myself,” he says. “Everyone was saying, ‘Oh, Mauro, the weird one.’ But I knew I wasn’t weird. As soon as I went abroad I was fine.” And so Remiddi became a wanderer, recording wherever he happened to live (currently: in a house in London with too many other people) and letting his surroundings seep into his songs like a musical diary.

For a time, Remiddi had to self-impose a 24-hour limit on every song he worked on so that his output wouldn’t spiral into an endless purgatory of perfectionism. The result was a steady stream of singles released online with accompanying homemade videos. Having learned to funnel his energies, Remiddi has once again abandoned his constraints in favor of allowing his music to breathe. He lets ideas float free and unhampered by self-awareness, writing and singing with such honesty that the only proper reaction is to suck it up and believe right along with him.

Gen F: Porcelain Raft