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Porridge Radio on recording their ‘stadium epic’ new album

Lockdown brought Porridge Radio’s ascent to a halt – but now, with sold-out shows and festival dates, they’re back making a stir. Rolling Stone UK meets the band’s Dana Margolin as they release new album Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky

By Will Richards

Porridge Radio pose for a press picture
Porridge Radio from left to right: Maddie Ryall, Sam Yardley, Dana Margolin and Georgie Stott (Picture: Matilda Hill-Jenkins)

In March 2020, Porridge Radio released their barnstorming second album Every Bad and were gaining momentum as the buzziest band around. So when the world ground to a halt just a week later, all Dana Margolin could think to do was laugh.

“We were being told that something was happening for us but had no physical way to connect to it,” she reflects today in London. “I need to see something and touch it and feel it to understand it, so when we got nominated for the Mercury Prize, I just thought it was really funny. We went from being this chaotic DIY band to the kind of band we’d always laughed at, the ‘Hot New Band Plays Indie Showcase’ thing.”

Around that time, Margolin wrote ‘Back to the Radio’, the gargantuan first single from Every Bad follow-up Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky. Reflecting on the rising tide of hype outside her door and the sense that her life was soon going to change immeasurably, it’s a song that not only helped to shelter Margolin from the whiplash-like change coming round the corner, but also to embrace it with both arms. 

The result is a cast-iron indie-rock hit that’s set to ensure Porridge Radio’s star continues to rise. “You’re looking to me, but I’m so unprepared for it,” she sings on the unabashedly anthemic song, which points to The Killers, Arcade Fire and other stadium-dwellers for inspiration.

Porridge Radio’s genesis came as a rough-and-ready, lo-fi, DIY act in Brighton, starting with Margolin alone in her bedroom and at open-mic nights, before growing to incorporate a six-piece band, which has now shrunk to a deeply connected, permanent four. Even when they were recording at home out of necessity and embracing their rougher edges, Margolin imagined a booming, polished sound for the band, and Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder to the Sky finally sees the ambition that’s always been in her head translated onto tape.

“Over the last few years I’ve come to understand what I’m doing in my life and where I’m going. I can see myself as an artist and actually say it out loud and accept it without just laughing”

— Dana Margolin, Porridge Radio

“During the mixing process, I kept saying that it all needed to sound ‘stadium epic’ and was referencing Coldplay and Radiohead and Charli XCX and Deftones,” she says, excitedly. This level of pure ambition bursts out of the new record: it truly sounds like a band aiming for the very top.

Although the album has its climactic, arena-ready moments — ‘Back to the Radio’, the gnarly ‘The Rip’, widescreen highlight ‘U Can Be Happy If U Want To’ — Margolin has also allowed herself to be vulnerable, gentle and quiet. This marks a shift from Every Bad, which often saw her shouting, sometimes screaming, to make herself heard.

The change of pace comes across most strikingly on the album’s title track, a delicate, acoustic number Margolin penned in her childhood bedroom while recovering from an illness at home with her parents. “It just kind of came out,” she remembers. “It was really soft and gentle, and I often shy away from that kind of thing. I found it really healing and restorative.”

With the real-world markers of their growing success — sold-out shows, festival dates — belatedly taking place and a third album in progress that furthers the singular vision that made the world fall for them in the first place, Porridge Radio’s status as a band to treasure is certain.

“Over the last few years,” Margolin reflects, “I’ve come to understand what I’m doing in my life and where I’m going. I can see myself as an artist and actually say it out loud and accept it without just laughing.”

Taken from the June/July 2022 of Rolling Stone UK. Buy it here.