Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep: Up The Royals! - A Port-Royal Interview

Boring Machines Disturbs Sleep

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Up The Royals! - A Port-Royal Interview

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, will know of my love for Port-Royal's "Flares" album. This album contains some of the most stunning music I have ever had the pleasure to experience. It features shimmering electronics and crashing wall of sound guitars that make this one of the finest instrumental releases of all time. You can read here and here, to see what I have had to say about the Italian ambient kings.

For those not in the know, "Flares" impacted on me the same way "The Bends" by Radiohead did, back when I was 13 years old. Similarly, it has changed the way I listen to music, much like, when I first witnessed Mogwai live way back in 1997. Basically, what I am trying to say is, albums like "Flares" do not come often, but when they do it is well worth the wait. It is an absolute masterpiece and one of my favourite records of all time.

So you can imagine my joy when Port-Royal agreed to an interview for this simple site, replying with some very intriguing answers concerning their imminent 2nd album and albums that have influenced them...


How would you describe Port-Royal's sound to a new listener?

Fluid melodic instrumental music on the border among electronica, calm-post-rock and chillout/guitar ambient


What are the main influences that helped to create your sound?

We became aquainted with "post-rock" listening to Mogwai's first records ("ten rapid" and "young team") along with Labradford's masterpieces. Other important listenings came from Authecre and Aphex Twin "ambient works" for electronic music. And then, as outsiders, we also loved the first recordings by Arab Strap.


Did Port-Royal always intend to create such an atmospheric sound or was it a natural progression?


We can say yes and no at the same time. When we started we were more rockish, with real drumming, guitar crescendos etc... but soon we got bored playing such music because we needed to express ourselves as much as possible and we realized that the best way to do that was by using the computer's (we always used synthesizers as well) to record our music and to give to it much more fluidity and depth (our cardinal principles in making music). Then we started to use electronic elements permanently. Only in this way we are totally free and and more responsible for what we are doing.


"Flares" is one of my favourite records of all time, describe the recording process?

It was a really complex process, a long work in progress. Some songs, such as parts of "flares" and "zobione" trilogies, came direcltly from our first rehearsals during autumn 2000, other ones like "jeka" were written only in summer 2004, only some months before the final master of december! It's not possible to describe an unique way we compose our songs; usually we start from a guitar/synth/piano melody and then we build up the whole song adding beats, noises, voices, other melodies as multi-layers etc. The most important thing is that we worked on "Flares" with an idea in our mind that it could have been our last record and so we tried to put in it all our ideas and feelings and to do all our best. And this essential attitude (recording every album as if it was the last one) was of course our leit-motiv in the new album as well...


Have you being happy with the reactions and reviews of "Flares"?

Yes. We got a lot of enthusiastic reviews on the web and in paper-magazines as well: we were surprised to discover that our record had been listened and loved in chile, australia, japan, poland etc... Most of the reviewers linked "Flares" to Sigur Ros; this has been good for us because Sigur Ros is a great band loved by a huge audience, but we don't think this comparison fit completely: we use much more electronic elements, we don't sing and we think our atmospheres are quite different from those great ones created by the Icelandic band. We presume listeners who loved our record and loved Sigur Ros too know well we come from different backgrounds... The fact is that very often it seems people who review records need absolutely some cathegories to apply to the band they are reviewing... and the "Sigur Ros one" was maybe the easiest one to tie to Port-Royal, but not the rightest one in our opinion because we really have not been influenced by their music.


The last time we spoke, you suggested that the new album would feature less guitars and more electronics. Is this still the case and will you be keen to persue this direction in the future?

Exactly. In the new album most songs are written starting from synthesizer rather than from guitar (as we were used to in the past). But we used several delayed guitars as well: to give more warmth and some different perspectives of width to our sound and, last but not least, to add melodies. Also real drumming has almost disappeared: we are more and more involved with electronic research and the new songs show it quite well. On the other side we can say that the general mood of the record is not far from that of the "Flares" album. I think that our goal now and for the future is keeping a sort of balance between the electronic element and the "traditional" one. We don't like formalism in art: it's something that is empty and that will not last for a long time. We use the machines, we are not used by them... in our music melody/substance always overwhelms the electronic parts because we think electronics are not a goal for itself.


How is the new album coming along, does it have a title or release date yet?

It should be out for Resonant at the beginning of 2007 (january or february). Anyway the record is now finished, in a couple of weeks it should be ready to be sent to Fernando Corona aka Murcof for mastering. We are also waiting for the layout of the visual artist Andrea Dojmi (whom we are working with since january about some visuals performances). We are still talking about the possible title, there are only some ideas...


A lot of people want to see you perform in the UK, will you be touring to promote the new album?

That's great, we are happy that people want us playing there! We really hope so even if it's not as easy as it could seem... Last summer (2005) we should had come to UK for some gigs but expences were too high and so we had to drop it. We hope that after the new record release we will have more offers to play there.

How does Port-Royal re-create tracks such as "Zobione" and "Flares" in a live setting and what instruments are involved

At the moment we are not playing them live. Our gigs consist of a laptop set with synths and a sampler in which we present the new material and remix some of the old tracks (but we choose the ones with less guitars and drums in them). When we played as a "real" band (drum, bass, guitar, piano etc...) we found out that to recreate on stage songs like the two trilogies was almost impossible, and we had to think of someone else; the fact is that our music originates from a long work on details and stratification and on subtle balances and atmospheres; it's music recorded without thinking at all about the way it could be arranged for live performances. Anyway ther are parts of the songs you mentioned in the question that sounded really good played on stage as well, like "zobione pt.2".

Your record label, Resonant, has a number of great artists signed, do you feel at home there?

Yeah, we are definetely proud to be in a catalogue with bands and artists who create atmospheres so keen to ours, like Straefern Hakon, Dialect or Library Tapes. We can't see too many other labels around that would fit us better.

What albums have you enjoyed this year and what records could you not live without?

Honestly, we are not listening to music in these past few months. The fact is that (in our experience) when you record you stop to look for things from the outside (those same things that until that moment inspired your art) and prefer to try to drown completely in your own world of melodies and sounds...

Essential Albums: Mogwai "Young Team", Arab Strap "Philophobia", Autechre "Amber", Labradford "Prazision Lp", Third Eye Foundation "Semtex", Magn├ętophone "I guess sometimes I need to be reminded of how much you love me".

How would you describe Genoa's music scene right now. Are there any bands we should know about.?

Genoa's music scene is growing up day by day, with lots of new projects and small labels. But we don't feel part of it, and can't say that much about it, even if some of the persons involved in it are friends of us... Since we started in doing our music we have always felt more at ease to be on our own. Anyway, a band you could check once they will publish their first record is Japanese Gum; they are good friends who play beautiful electronic music.

Where do you see Port-Royal being in 5 years time?

We see ourselves in big crowded stadiums in Eastern Europe playing dance music!

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Well there you have it, rumours of a more electronic album have been, all but, confirmed. The next album, though, will retain the same atmosphere as "Flares". If the 2nd release, is half as good as "Flares", then Port-Royal may be about to release one of the albums of 2007.

4 Comments:

At 04 October, 2006, Anonymous Lenty1 said...

Good interview. It would be great to see them live even if it is "just" (as many people see them) a lap-top set. Some live instruments over the top are nice though. Hopefully the balance between electronics and instruments doesn't shift too far although their influences such as Amber don't cause me to worry too much.

 
At 04 October, 2006, Anonymous Woland@PRN said...

great interview! Thank you.
Woland - PostRockNotes

 
At 04 October, 2006, Anonymous mailersoon said...

Very nice interview. It's also interesting to note that the recording is being mastered by Murcof. If it's half as good as 'Flares' I don't think anybody will be disappointed.

 
At 05 October, 2006, Anonymous charlatantric said...

Excellent, thank you.

 

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