In Conversation: Dana Margolin (Porridge Radio) and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins)

The collaborators catch up on the hard work of being in a band and Porridge Radio’s big year.

Dana Margolin is the frontwoman of the Brighton rock band Porridge Radio, who released their second album Every Bad in March 2020; Simon Raymonde was the bassist of the legendary dream pop band Cocteau Twins, and is now a co-founder of the label Bella Union and one-half of the duo Lost Horizons. The two collaborated on a track for Lost Horizons’ recently released In Quiet Moments, so they hopped on a video chat recently to catch up on their respective projects. 

— Annie Fell, Talkhouse Senior Editor

Simon Raymonde: How are you?

Dana Margolin: How am I doing? I don’t know. I’m good. How are you?

Simon: Yeah, I don’t know. I feel good right this second because I had a lovely walk. I’ll go out for a couple of hours in the morning just on my own with headphones on, and just go for a walk along the beach, along the Undercliff Walk path in Brighton. I live in Saltdean, so there’s the Undercliff path there that goes all the way to Brighton. So I just trot along there for a couple of hours, and just get my heart pumping and my brain moving. It does me a lot of good, actually.

Dana: That’s so nice. I live in London, it’s a different experience. 

Simon: Where are all your bandmates? Where do they all live?

Dana: So Maddie [Ryall] and Sam [Yardley] still live in Brighton, and Georgie [Stott] lives in South London. And I’m North, so we’re in different cities, because she’s in Sydenham and I’m in Harringay.

Simon: I suppose right now that’s not a massive problem.

Dana: It’s not usually a massive problem anyway, because either you’re on tour, so you can kind of be anywhere to start off and then you have to travel to get somewhere anyway, so it’s not that big a deal. When we started the band, it was always quite chaotic. We were always kind of all over the place. I’ll write songs, and then when we have band practices, I bring the songs to the band and we tend to arrange them within a few hours of me bringing them. I’ll send everyone a voice memo beforehand so everyone can get acquainted, and you can kind of just do that wherever you are. Sam, who plays drums — I write a lot with them, and we talk pretty regularly, sending stuff back-and-forth and demoing remotely anyway. So being in a pandemic was just like, OK, now we have more time to carry on demo-ing stuff remotely. Cool. [Laughs.]

Simon: In terms of actually getting music done, I’ve loved the pandemic. I couldn’t have done Lost Horizons in the way I did it without having all that time.

Dana: Really? I mean, we started it a year and a half ago. When did I come into the studios? Like, summer 2019?

Simon: Yeah. But remember, I had, like—

Dana: 20 collaborations, or something.

Simon: [Laughs.] Yeah, well, I always get my numbers wrong. I was determined to only have 10 this time, but I just kind of move from one thing to the other. It’s very different from working with a band where you can make a plan to go and do this for a certain period of time, and you come out at the end of it with something. I’ve gotta fit this in with running Bella Union, with managing a couple of bands and doing publishing, and being a husband and walking the dog. I’ve got to fit being this musician kinda guy into my life, and it’s a little bit harder today than it would have been, like, 30 odd years ago. 

Also, when you’re working with so many different people on the collaborative side, you’re having to wait for them to be able to do it. So I might send the person the track April 1, and it might not be until September or something that they can actually do it. But because I really want them to do it and I’m not in a hurry, that’s OK. I haven’t got a deadline and no one’s waiting for me to deliver a record. 

It’s quite different in your situation, isn’t it? Because you’re on a career path, and you’ve committed to this label. Me, I’m just doing this for my own selfish benefit, really.

Dana: I guess that, yeah, maybe the difference is that you’re very established in your career as a musician and as somebody who owns a record label. You’ve had your hype and your momentum, and then you’ve kind of gone past the point of proving yourself, and now you can make things at your own pace. Which is something I’m very jealous of, because I have so many ideas and I want to do all these things, but I still don’t know if in 10 years time I’m going to be able to be doing this. We’re still very much at the start of whatever this creative process is. So I’m quite jealous.

Simon: Well, don’t be. It’s not all good. 

Dana: Yeah?

Simon: I mean, I could say the same thing, you know. I could think, Oh, god, I wish I was your age, I could do all these things and experience all this stuff all over. But as you say, I have done it, and it has been a pretty extraordinary life — full of a lot of downs, some great ups, of course. Cocteaus was a beautiful band to be in on a musical level. Emotionally and sort of psychologically, not so much. It was really, really, really hard work.

Dana: I think maybe being in a band in general is really hard work, because you become so close to the people who you work with that the boundaries between work and friendship and creative collaboration — your relationships cross all these different boundaries. I can’t imagine it being easy for anyone.

Simon: It’s weird to explain it to other people as well.

Dana: Yeah, and out of the context of being in a band, this kind of relationship doesn’t tend to exist. Maybe it does, maybe I’m naive, but it’s just such a bizarre way of relating to people. You’re crammed in with the same three people for however long you’re in the studio or on tour, and then you go separate ways and you’re living your life, but you know that you’re going to come back and kind of be on top of everyone again. I find it very strange. And we’re really at the beginning of it.

Simon: I think you do work it out after a while. You know, when you’ve toured 20 times and you’re about to set off to the same places you’ve been before — you still look forward to it, but you’ve worked out your own way. Because the first time you do it, you’re just so excited about everything and meeting everyone and going out for drinks and going to clubs and doing all the stuff that you do. Then once you’ve done that six or seven times, it’s just really not that interesting. [Laughs.]

Dana: It gets quite tired. When we go on tour, it’s very much like that, because we’ve been a band for about five or six years and we did a lot of DIY touring at the start. At the beginning it was like, “Oh, my god, this is an amazing adventure that we’re going on the road and we’re gonna go see the country.” Then you do it a bunch of times and you’re like, “This is amazing, but also maybe I just want to go to bed? Can we just go to bed?” [Laughs.] I’m not a big party guy, so tour is definitely difficult for that. 

But I think maybe what’s also weird for us, because March last year we were going to be on tours that could actually pay us a wage — whereas before then, it was always breaking even, maybe with a little bit of money on the side. And this was kind of the beginning of us being in a band as our job, which didn’t happen. So I feel like I know what it’s like to DIY tour and do maybe a few little bits and pieces here and there, but we’ve never actually, like, been on the road for a year.

Simon: That is the weirdest one. I mean, two weeks after my second son was born, I went on tour in the US and I didn’t see him until he was a year old. 

Dana: Wow. 

Simon: So that level of touring is kind of mental, and very stressful.

Dana: I’m secretly relieved that I didn’t have to do it. [Laughs.]

Simon: That’s interesting. I was going to ask you — I remember really struggling with coming home, because when you’re away and you’re at this level where you’re playing much bigger places, and you’re on a bus and you’re sleeping on the bus, you’re basically in this routine of: Gig, bus, fall asleep, arrive in the next city, wander around town, go to the gig, then whole thing again just repeats and repeats. Your life is almost like it’s scheduled. You don’t have to do anything — you don’t have to buy anything, you don’t have to worry about your bills, it’s just all taken care of by the tour manager. Then you get back home and suddenly real life kicks straight back in. I’ve always found it takes at least maybe a month, sometimes two, to get back to just even being able to have a normal conversation about, like, nothing with your partner or something. Have you had that?

Dana: I guess because we’ve never been on tour like that, I just don’t know what that’s like. I actually found that every time we go on tour, it takes about a week to get into the swing of it, and then we’re on tour maybe like another week, and then we come home. So by the time I get used to it, we’re already home. 

It always takes a while to get into the flow of it, and I’ve actually really struggled on tour and found it really difficult for my mental health. Maybe because I’ve always been stressed and worried about organizing things, and how things are going to go, because up until last March where we had a tour manager for one week before lockdown began, I was just always trying to organize everything and be in control of everything, and that actually has been really, really bad for my mental health. March last year, I remember feeling so relieved that I got to just be at home and look after my physical and mental health for the first time properly in so long. I was just kind of assuming that, like, OK, well, I’m gonna go on tour now, and that’s just going to be the next year and I’m just going to get through this and I’m going to figure it out as I go. I have no idea how I’m gonna do this, but I guess I’ll just do it and see what happens

I think it would be very different if I went now. I think I’m in a very different place than I was last year, and actually part of me is now getting excited again for touring next year or whenever we’re able to go. 

But it’s really difficult, I think. Also I think my role in my band is very emotionally taxing, and it takes a lot more out of me than I think it does. So when I perform, I can kind of have this block between myself and what I’m singing and how I’m singing, but actually at the end of the night, I feel so intensely emotional and I can’t even process it because there’s just so much that’s happening.

Simon: You mean the sharing of your songs with completely new people?

Dana: Yes. I guess there’s just this difference between what I experience — which is kind of performing my songs to a blank audience — and the people who see me, who get to essentially read my diary. [Laughs.] I’m like, Oh, my god, what am I doing? This is the most horrifically embarrassing thing and it’s so exhausting. So there’s always that, which I guess I need to come to terms with before touring again.

Simon: I think it’s the volume. You haven’t had the volume yet, because when you’re doing it night after night, for months on end, there’s no way that you can possibly have the same feelings and connections with those songs, year on, year on.

Dana: I guess I’ve kind of gotten to this place now where there’s some songs that we have played for a few years, and I don’t have that same connection with them. But it still exhausts me. It’s still just a lot.

Simon: Well, remember, you put a new record out and then you weren’t able to tour it. So you haven’t been able to experience those things yet, the good and the bad, with this new record.

Dana: Yeah, I guess with a lot of the songs on the new record, we actually had been playing them for a few years before the record came out. A lot of things were really delayed for us for about one hundred different reasons, everything just kind of kept getting held back and held back. So we have actually played every song on the record about a hundred times live.

Simon: What about new songs? Have you been writing and got a bunch ready?

Dana: Yeah, I mean, we were going to go into the studio next week, but obviously that’s not going to happen now. But yeah, I’ve got an album ready to be recorded. I’m working on some collaborations and… there’s just always new stuff. There’s so much that I’m so excited about.

What’s quite nice about having all this time, though, is that I’m actually painting a lot, and I’m working on the artwork for the next album. I actually have time to sit down and paint, which I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was going to ask you whether or not you do things that stretch beyond music?

Simon: I haven’t really found any other creative pastime that gives me as much pleasure as music. I think because I missed making music — from setting up the label in ‘97 through to about 2017 when the first Lost Horizons record came out, for pretty much 20 years, I didn’t really make music. I didn’t really have the ability to because I was living in rented accommodation, I wasn’t really making much money from running the label, just enough to kind of survive. I didn’t really want to be in another band, I hadn’t really processed the break up of the Cocteau Twins particularly well, because it sort of coincided with the dissolving of my own personal relationship, and losing the house and the kids. My whole life just sort of turned upside down a bit, so I stopped making music. Not because I wanted to, but because I was responsible for this label and all these other bands, and that was my priority, helping them. I suppose my little bit of creativity was helping them get their career off and running, helping them in the studio. 

Dana: Did you miss it? 

Simon: I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was trying to prepare the 20th anniversary celebrations for the label. I should have been really happy about having made it this far, and I knew there was something missing. I realized it was just that part — Why the hell aren’t you making music, what’s the matter with you? I’ve been a musician pretty much since I was 16 years old. So when I got that bit back, I just suddenly felt much happier inside, and I was able to fill that part of myself that needed filling emotionally with making music. I haven’t really satisfied that yet, that’s why I’m still so loving what I’m doing. I’m not quite ready to be Bob Ross — as much as I love watching someone like him just paint the most amazing things in, like, half an hour, I’m not ready for that yet. 

Dana: What, for turning to painting?

Simon: Yeah, though, I do love the idea of it. My wife started painting during the pandemic and it just looks like such a beautiful, relaxing, mind-improving kind of thing to do. And where we live, you know, you couldn’t pick a nicer spot. But right now I’d rather be in here playing music than sitting out there with a paintbrush. [Laughs.] But maybe that will change. 

Dana: I find that they inform each other in quite a strong way. Like if I’m in a big painting phase and writing phase, I can’t make any music because everything sounds bad. But then sometimes I’ll be painting and an idea will come, and that will inform some words that will eventually turn into a song. Or I’ll be making a song and I’ll be thinking about the visual idea behind it, and it will turn into artwork. They will kind of like feed into each other, and I really like having the time to do each one. They’re all very different spaces. I love just sitting down and completely zoning out and painting and kind of looking and being like, I thought I started five minutes ago, but it’s been two hours, I don’t understand where time went. So that’s kind of like this weird meditative thing. And then writing feels like it’s all one short burst of this thing — I’m just scribbling loads of words down, and then they’re just chaotically in this book that I’ll come to afterwards to look for lyrics. Then writing music is a much more thoughtful process.

Simon: When you say you can’t do them all at once, you mean like if you woke up today and said, “I really feel like painting today,” and you start painting today, how long might that go on before you could do a song? Could it be the same day?

Dana: I mean, it could be a few hours or it could be, like, months. I was talking to my sister about this, and she has a theory that she only has space for two creative outlets at the same time. So she also likes to kind of go between music and painting and ceramics and writing and whatever else she likes doing, but she only has space to hold two of those things at once. I guess by time, I mean like a period of time. There’ll be periods of time where I can only write words and I just can’t make songs, because my brain can’t process music in a creative way at all. 

Simon: That’s funny. I mean, I totally understand that. I think I’m probably the same, really. Like sometimes just nothing comes out, but I don’t dwell on it. I think what happened with the Cocteaus is, because we wrote and recorded — in a very similar way to the way you and I did the Lost Horizons tune — it’s just all kind of made up, improvised kind of music. All the lyrics and the music and the vocals could get left right to the end, so the band’s recording sessions were 10 tracks of instrumentals completely finished, and then all the vocals were added right at the end.

Dana: That’s such a strange way of writing to me. It was the first time I’d ever written like that when we collaborated.

Simon: You enjoyed it, I think.

Dana: I enjoyed it, but I haven’t gone back to that. I find that I write melodies and words together, and those inform the songs. I haven’t worked with anybody other than you who sent me a song and then said, “Now make the vocals.” That was the first time somebody had said, “Here’s a song, write the vocal part.” 

Simon: It was quite fun, wasn’t it? Because in a way, you’ve got to sort of — obviously if you don’t relate to the music, it’s not going to be very inspiring and you’re not probably going to come up with anything decent. But I think for me, I’ve got to know kind of roughly before I send it to you that you’re at least gonna listen to it with an open heart, and not be like, “Mmm, I don’t know, that probably doesn’t sound so much fun.” Because if it doesn’t sound like much fun then it’s probably not gonna be. You’ve got to approach these things with a really open heart, and I think you did, and pretty much everybody did.

Dana: Have you ever wanted to collaborate with someone, got there, and then it’s kind of not been what you thought it’d be?

Simon: Well, you know, I’m sure you found this when you’re making music — you fall in love with this piece of music while you’re doing it and it’s all very intense, your feelings about it. And then when you feed it back to somebody and their response is not the same as yours… I sent this track to this guy from Iceage — whose records I have liked in the past, and I thought his vocal would be perfect on this track. I sent him this piece of music and he just came back and said, “I don’t like it at all, and think it’s really bad.” [Laughs.] I was so disturbed by that.

Dana: That’s such a sad way to say that.

Simon: I mean, usually, when you send people music, if they don’t like it, they come back and say, you know— 

Dana: “I’m busy, I don’t know if I have time for this.”

Simon: Exactly. So I can usually tell if they don’t like it, but at least they’re not telling me directly that they don’t like it, they’re just going around the houses, which I kind of prefer.

Dana: I always assume that everyone hates what I do unless they specifically say that they like it.

Simon: I think that might be the way I need to go forward. So anyway, there were a couple of things that didn’t work out like that. And sometimes someone would do something — like I love this singer called Nicole Atkins, and she really wanted to do a track and she really tried hard to get it. But on her end, she loved the music, but she just couldn’t do what she wanted to do. She got stressed out about it, and then that one didn’t work out. But that’s kind of fine. Sometimes you just have to accept that it’s not right. 

Dana: The chemistry isn’t right with that particular song or that particular person. I found when you sent our song over, I was just like, I don’t know how I’m going to do this because it’s so different to what I would write. And then I remember just thinking, I’m just going to just let it fall out and send it back, and then you can just decide whether or not you want to go with that.

Simon: That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to let go of your rules and the way you’ve lived your life up to now. You’ve got to let go of that with improvisation. You don’t have to improvise it the same way I do, but to be able to just sort of let go is really important in music. I think it’s a good lesson to try out every now and then. When you’re used to doing things in these rigid sort of ways of going in the studio. 

That’s another thing I wanted to ask you, actually, about whether you want to make a record in the future where you spend ages and ages on it and you get it to be as close to perfect — not that there’s ever a perfect record — or whether you just love this sort of faster DIY thing that you’ve grown up with. You just go in and you knock it out, and the imperfections of it are actually part of it.

Dana: I guess I love taking a long time on a record and making it good, but I also hate taking a long time on things, and I get to a point where I just am sick of the songs and I can’t be bothered anymore and it just doesn’t feel worth it. But I love the idea of recording music in a studio as a space to make another version of a song. It’s not like recording a live version, but it’s like you’re creating a way that a song can sound outside of a live space. I really love thinking about it like that, and being able to kind of go in demoing things and thinking about all the different layers that I wouldn’t be able to do live. I love studio production and making things sound a bit weird or adding little Easter eggs into songs. I think that’s so fun. 

I think you can overdo it. I don’t think there’s a perfect song. I could rerecord every single one of our songs and make another version that I liked, but I think that as you play songs live, they evolve anyway. And the way that we play, I think, comes from a place of trying things out and trying to say that every time you play it live, it changes form. And every time I sing it, I sing it slightly differently. Then eventually we get to the studio and we create a version of it that is really exciting. All the things that were in your head whilst you’re performing it, you can put them into  place, which is really fun. But I think of them as very different kinds of things.

Maybe it’s great to do a live record to get what you’re talking about, which is that if you go in and you just record something and you get it down, but there’s something so magical about being able to kind of add samples of things and change your vocal effects and add 16 guitar layers.

Simon: As you very rightly said, you can overdo, so it is good having someone there — maybe a producer or an A&R person or a friend or whatever — just to say, “Yeah, I mean, we haven’t really changed that much for the last six months. You added all these things, but really it’s not much better.” So, you know, sometimes you do need someone around to give you a bit of a slap on the head for reality’s sake. 

But having that little bit of extra time, what do you think is the way of achieving that? As the industry gets smaller and smaller and the income that we all receive gets smaller and smaller, how are the ways that you can see yourself being able to make music and take your time with it and not have to rush it? Is that by doing more things at home, or—

Dana: You know, I’m not sure, because the only way I’ve ever done things has been over long periods of time, spread between different studios and bedrooms and practice spaces. And then for Every Bad, we were in a studio to record the bulk of it, but then it took about a year. So I don’t know.

Simon: Yeah, it’s a very different way. I love what you said about that, because I hadn’t really thought of it [like that]. I obviously don’t play any of these songs live until they’re completely finished. I mean, I did the first Lost Horizons record for a while, and that was great fun, but as you say, every night is so different and you learn so much about the song by playing it live, and by how the audience reacts.That’s a brilliant way of editing new material. You try it out one night and you get back to the dressing room after and you’re like, “Did you notice how everyone was bored shitless during that section? We need to trim that down a bit.” And then the next night you kind of work on it in soundcheck or whatever, and you come up with a slightly revised version of it.

Dana: Also the fuckups — when you fuck something up on stage and then you’re like, “That was quite cool. We should keep that in.” [Laughs.]

Simon: I keep all my fuckups on the recordings. That’s my rule to myself. Because when we record our original sessions for the drums and the piano or the guitar or whatever it is — I actually do think that I’m probably going to edit it when I bring it back home, when we were just recording our jams, but on the first record I ended up keeping every mistake. Because by the time you’ve added bass and guitar, you don’t really hear the mistakes.

Dana: Yeah, I really suffer from not being a perfectionist in that way, so I really relate to that. But I’ve been really trying to not be like that. My instinct is to be like that, and I have been working really hard on not just being like, “Yeah, that’s fine, that’ll do.” [Laughs.]

Simon: When you come to mix your record, what’s the process you’ve had so far to deal with? Is it working with an engineer and trying to build that relationship with them, or is it very much you guys trying to do it yourselves?

Dana: We’ve done it slightly differently both times, and this time we’re going into it, again, slightly different to try and find a way that works. I don’t think we’ve ever done it in a way that I’ve been totally happy with. I guess that is just the nature of these things, that you figure out as you go. Every time you make a record, you figure out all the things you do differently. But we’re quite, I guess, headstrong in a lot of ways about the way we want the mix to sound. Sam and I will demo things together, and then get Georgie and Maddie to add their parts on the demos. We tend to have a lot of references and ideas for production, and extra parts that we want to go into it. We get very anal about every single back-and-forth, so I think what we want now is to work with somebody who we can start-to-finish show the vision to, and for that person to know how to do all the stuff in a studio that we don’t know how to do.

Simon: So you’re actually, from the recording process all the way through to mixing, like a proper producer?

Dana: I guess so. Also, we tend to develop the songs a lot ourselves before we go in — I guess a co-producer.

Simon: I mean, that sounds like the best thing, because you want to retain control of it but you also like the collaborative part of it.

Dana: Yeah, I think collaborating is amazing. It’s the way you get to step out of the patterns that you get stuck in. It’s just finding the right people to collaborate with, that’s the difficult part.

Simon: Yeah, it can be. I mean, as you say, you learn from other people and what you see from friends and bands and experiences you hear about. But also, I think you gotta trust your people and your team and yourself. You’re going to make mistakes, it’s just nature. 

With this record, it wasn’t the pandemic that made me mix the record myself. It was me. I loved what Paul Gregory, from Lanterns on the Lake, did with the first record — I couldn’t have done it better, it was amazing. And I didn’t feel I was ready to mix that record, because I didn’t think I had the skills and the tools. But on this one, even from the very beginning, I knew I had to mix it and it was stressing me out massively because mixing a record is so, you know, other side of the brain than the creative part. It’s like math. It’s so complex. You’ve got to focus and delve so deep inside this stuff, and I’m really hopeless. I’m so impatient. I just want everything to sound amazing, like, now.

So the pandemic was brilliant for that, because I could just come into the studio in the morning and just zone in and focus. It took a lot of time to build up the energy to do it, but once I did it, I was like, Actually this is going to be fine. But it took months and months and months and months to get it right. But that was also fine, because no one was banging the door down to have this record delivered.

Dana: That’s great. I want to get to that point. I mean, I work very, very collaboratively with Sam, and we would like to be able to get to a point where they can mix a record that we co-produce. We’re learning the skills, and we’re kind of figuring that out. I don’t think we’re there yet for the next record, but the one after maybe. Or the one after that. That’s kind of a goal for us, to get to a point where we can just do something without having to rely on loads of external engineers and producers and mixers. We could just do it ourselves.

Simon: I know when the Cocteaus were making records back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we had our own studio, but we did often sort of dream about making a record in another country — somewhere completely away from all your family and friends and your distractions.

Dana: Yeah, we really benefit from doing a residential studio trip. So writing and recording — if we go away for five days, we get so much done in that time. If we’re kind of coming back-and-forth, the whole vibe changes, the whole way we do things. We spent some time in Margate, in PRAH studios, and it’s amazing. You go in the morning and just start working, and come back and you can just make dinner together and write and practice in the evenings. It’s like a continuous process, you never stop writing and practicing, because you’re just there together in a house or in a studio constantly. Obviously then after a while, you lose your mind a bit. [Laughs.]

Simon: You do, I suppose. But it would be nice for you to be able to do that one day with a bit longer than five days. 

Dana: Oh, yeah, a month would be good, maybe, But, you know, going home a few times in between. I like to be at home.

Simon: Is it the solitude and the quiet, and just sort of, you can turn the volume down in your head a little bit more? 

Dana: I think it’s about being able to be in control of what I’m doing and who I am around. And, you know, the timing of things. That’s it. Do you feel similar?

Simon: I do love being at home, too, and I love the routine now. I mean, now more than I did back then — you know, I’m 58 now. I’m not 28, so I’ve got different things going on in my life.

I know what you mean about the control thing. You’re just literally out of control when you’re on tour, and it’s very easy to slip back into old bad habits. Because, I mean, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I obviously don’t take drugs anymore, but I used to do all those things to quite an excess. [Laughs.] So, you know, when I go on tour, there’s all these trigger points for all those experiences, and it’s good for me to just get back to the hotel, or get back into the van, and just try to do something normal so I’m not tempted to go off to the pub or the club or whatever with everyone else. 

I just want to do normal things like get into bed and read a book, or just go for a walk or something completely alien to being in a rock band or whatever it is. Because it’s very easy to get drawn into that lifestyle if you don’t have strong mental health. It’s very easy to go off and just hang out and get wasted every night. It’s really unhealthy. I can’t go down that road. So touring for me is very much about the one-and-a-half hours on stage, and then after that, I just want to go to bed and curl up in a ball.

Dana: Yeah. I find that I really struggle with my mental health on tour, and that time being on stage makes it worth it. Everything around it is like, How do I maintain some level of being OK? Like, figuring out how to do the day. But again, I think maybe it’s very different because our tours so far have been, like, maximum 45 minutes on stage a day. They like it’s never been more than an hour. I think that there’s a lot of things that make our touring experiences quite different. [Laughs.]

Simon: Yeah. I mean, you know, you’re still literally at the beginning of the journey.

Dana: Yeah, we’re really, really at the beginning. It feels quite strange to have not been touring last year, because I think maybe I would feel differently about a lot of things if we had been.

Simon: Oh, I’m sure you would. And you would have been on tour in America — have you done that yet?

Dana: No. We had about two months booked in the US last year.

Simon: Yeah, you’d have been going to that SXSW, wouldn’t you?

Dana: Yeah, and then we had a tour supporting Car Seat Headrest as well.

Simon: Oh, that would have been amazing.

Dana: It would have been great. [Laughs.] We had a lot of Europe shows as well. 

Simon: Do you think you’ll be able to tour this year?

Dana: I dunno, what do you think? [Laughs.]

Simon: [Laughs.] I’ve literally just given up trying to know. Before this new lockdown, I kind of thought, Wow, maybe the summer or something. April, May, might be a little bit of touring. But right now, I can’t see it. I can’t see everyone being vaccinated until at least the end of April. And then it’s not just going to open up immediately. It’s going to take a while. And of course, everybody is going to be wanting to tour September, October — all the tours from last September have now been moved to next September, October, and if those go ahead, that would be a good start.

Dana: Yeah, I guess it’s just waiting and seeing, isn’t it?

Simon: Yeah. I’ve gone through the point of being upset and disappointed about it, because it just is what it is now. We’re just gonna find some solutions and just try and stay happy. It’s really hard because it’s what we love to do, and seeing all these bands that released records last year — their debut albums that they spent a year or two years, like yourself, working hard on these records. And then they put their first record out and then everything just disappears. 

Dana: Yeah. I guess we were lucky because our album came out, we played an in-store in Brighton at Resident. That was actually our last show, because that was the 13th of March. And from then on it was kind of a shit-show.

Simon: Terrible, terrible timing. 

Dana: Really awful timing. 

Simon: But I think for you, in a way the year ended brilliantly, didn’t it? You know, with the Mercury nomination, and, still being able to keep the album in people’s minds. 

Dana: Yeah, I think we’ve been pretty really lucky, and we’ve had a really good year. I don’t dwell on the things that could have been, because there’s no point. We’ve been alright. 

Porridge Radio originated from Dana Margolin’s bedroom, where she first started making music. Living in the seaside town of Brighton, she recorded songs and played them at open mic nights to rooms of old men staring quietly, as she screamed in their faces. Their second album (and Secretly Canadian debut) Every Bad glistens with grand, sweeping ambition. 80s-esque synths shine against Margolin’s urgent vocals – with all the rawness of early Karen O, and influences as disparate as Charli XCX and The Cranberries. Oscillating between desperation, resignation, and, crucially, hope, Porridge Radio’s unmistakable take on pop music is like a jewelry box twinkle just out of kilter.

(Photo Credit: El Hardwick)