Porridge Radio: ‘Even though it was frustrating not being on tour, I didn’t stop creating’

“I’m really excited it can happen,” says says singer, guitarist and songwriter Dana Margolin, of Porridge Radio’s imminent trip to North Yorkshire to play at this year’s scaled-down Deer Shed Festival.
Porridge RadioPorridge Radio
Porridge Radio

Renamed Deer Shed Base Camp Plus, the event, which runs from July 30-August 1, is this year described as a “socially distanced camping festival”, with strictly limited numbers at Baldersby Park in Topcliffe.

As well as Porridge Radio, the musical bill includes sets from Jane Weaver, Dream Wife, W H Lung and Big Joanie; there’s also comedy from John Shuttleworth, Mark Watson and Angelos Epithemiou and a range of family-friendly activities.

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Having resettled in London after studying at the University of Sussex in Brighton, where she formed Porridge Radio with Georgie Stott, Maddie Ryall and Sam Yardley, Margolin spent lockdown pottering with the family pets.

“I’m quite lucky, I was living with my parents so I had the safety and security of being with them,” she says. “We have a couple of dogs and that was really nice to just be with the dogs and hang out at home for the pandemic.”

The band had been building up a head of steam last year, just as the Covid pandemic kicked in. Their second album, Every Bad, was released by Secretly Canadian ten days before the UK locked down.

Margolin says she coped with the situation by keeping herself busy. “I was writing a lot, doing a lot of album promo stuff online and painting a lot, just keeping myself really occupied with that,” she says. “Even though it was frustrating not being on tour, I didn’t really stop creating. If anything, it gave me a chance to be more creative.”

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Like many bands, Porridge Radio toyed with livestream gigs, but found there wasn’t the same buzz. “We did a few, on my own and together, but I think we realised it’s not the same,” Margolin says.

One significant positive for the band was the backing of a record label. It was, Margolin says, quite a contrast to their early do-it-yourself approach, adding: “Just the difference in working with a team and having people helping you do things is huge.”

Nonetheless she feels being part of the DIY scene stood them in good stead. “It meant that we’d played hundreds of shows with a lot of the songs from Every Bad before it came out,” she explains. “Also you learn how to do things for yourself.”

Margolin feels her songwriting “hugely” developed between the band’s 2016 debut album Rice, Pasta and Other Fillers and Every Bad. “The first one I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. “We recorded it in a shed together, we didn’t have any idea how it was going to sound and just felt frustrated by how it turned out.

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“Every Bad, I just think it came out really well. We’d learned a lot between the two on how we wanted to make things sound and made something we were really proud of.”

While her fondness for pop music has grown, she feels her lyrical preoccupations remain rooted in her own experiences. “I think the things that interest me as a lyricist are things that are happening in my life,” she says. “They’ve changed as I’ve changed and grown.

“At least I would hope they’ve changed as I’ve got older. A lot of things that come up are about personal experiences and emotions.”

Margolin has previously said that as a band Porridge Radio despair a lot about the state of the world. Today, she says she is “sure” that the experiences of the last 18 months have trickled into her songwriting. “I don’t know how explicitly, but everything affects everything,” she says. “If you’re aware of what’s going on in the world, it does seep into your writing too.”

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Honesty remains an integral part of her writing. For the most part, Margolin believes a song needs to connect on an emotional level to properly work. “When I’m writing that’s what I go for and what I tend to end up listening to the most,” she says.

When we speak, the band are about to go into the studio to start work on their next album. Margolin is reluctant to say whether its tone will be angrier or more reflective as a result of all that has happened in the last year – “I couldn’t tell you,” she chuckles – nonetheless it’s evident that they are keen to progress. “Every Bad came out over a year ago now,” Margolin points out. “We’re ready to record the next one.”

They will also be playing a couple of socially distanced shows in libraries in Wigan and Widnes in July. “Libraries are such an amazing public resource, I’m a big fan,” Margolin says. “These are for a promoter called Louder Than Libraries who put on bands in libraries; we’ve played some before and they’re really great.”

Outside of Porridge Radio, she is due to appear as a guest vocalist at Lost Horizon’s concert at Scala in London in October, having sung on a track on their recent album In Quiet Moments. She says she enjoyed working on the record with Simon Raymonde and Richie Thomas, adding: “I love collaborating with people, it’s really fun.”

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Her own band are due to hit the road again in November. “There’s a lot in the pipeline,” Margolin says, with no small understatement.

Tickets for Deer Shed Base Camp Plus have sold out, but there is a waiting list. For details, visit deershedfestival.com

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