Manchester quartet Porij talk dance music, queer representation, and their debut album 'Teething'

Interview Porij: Dance Yrself Clean

Armed with a coming-of-age record like none you’ve heard before, Porij have arrived - and here, bringing heart to the dancefloor is the order of the day.

It’s only 2pm on a moody Monday afternoon, but it may as well be 11pm on a Friday - if you’re Porij, it turns out the party’s never too far away. We’re downstairs at The Social doing our best to bring Ibiza to Soho for this very shoot, and the band’s frontperson Scout Moore (better known by their stage moniker Egg) has jumped on the aux, pumping Charli XCX out at full volume over the venue’s PA.

Far from absurd, it’s a scene that actually seems bang on brand for the Manchester-formed, now London-based quartet. Over the past few years, they’ve carved out a niche for themselves as a band who combine the intrinsic physicality of beat-driven dance music with the perhaps more cerebral, emotional pull of lyrics and live instrumentation. Porij could as easily play a set at any given indie venue as they could a late-night festival tent (or indeed the mammoth Etihad Stadium, where they recently supported Coldplay on a run of dates), and they wear these chameleonic credentials with aplomb.

“Actually, that’s kind of how we started,” grins Egg later, as we chat over pints in the bar alongside bassist James Middleton, guitarist Jacob Maguire, and drummer Nathan Carroll. “Jazz gigs, indie gigs, dance gigs - it was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll chuck Porij on the bill’.” Although plainly not a jazz band, they have one foot firmly planted in each of the other two worlds: a product of their collectively eclectic tastes, Porij are an apt continuation of Madchester’s genre-blurring legacy.

“The beauty of music is that it fits in so many different places,” enthuses Nathan, as conversation turns to the parallels between live music venues and club spaces - and the serious existential threats currently facing both. “I think if we lose the spectrum of [nightlife], it all becomes very samey, and then we lose that beauty. I want to go to a weird pub in the middle of an industrial estate to listen to dub music at three in the morning after I’ve been to a sold-out show at Ally Pally, you know?”

Egg agrees, commenting that a capitalistic “shift towards these bigger and brighter things” means that “we’re losing the more intimate places where you really have a sense of community in the club scene” - something they note has always been trailblazed by queer people and people of colour. “Oftentimes, it’s a chosen family, and so these communities are really tight knit,” they continue. “Having these queer spaces like [London club nights] Riposte or WET where you can go out and meet people is really important. The queer scene is thriving through club music right now, which is SO cool.”

Manchester quartet Porij talk dance music, queer representation, and their debut album 'Teething' Manchester quartet Porij talk dance music, queer representation, and their debut album 'Teething'

“We wanted to play dance music live, and I think when you do that it does become inherently human.” - Egg Moore

A criticism that’s often unfairly levelled at dance music is its ostensible lack of emotional depth, which Porij not only refute wholeheartedly, but also deftly defy in their own output. “We wanted to play dance music live, and I think when you do that it does become inherently human,” Egg explains. Thematically, too, the band are unafraid to dig into meatier, more complex territory: their 2021 breakout track ‘Nobody Scared’ looks at femicide and the Reclaim the Night marches, while forthcoming debut LP ‘Teething’ - their first proper statement as their current unit, following some early lineup changes - is an intimate exploration of self-discovery in your early twenties.

“It’s all about the beauty of growth and how that’s not always an easy process, but there’s something really special about that,” Egg continues. “It was written at a time which was really formative because we were all over the country and everything felt super up in the air; we’d just come off our headline tour, we hadn’t been signed, and I personally felt very lost.” Nathan agrees, sharing that “focusing on making the album was the thing that grounded my entire life”. It gave them what he calls “a sense of purpose” amid a period of intense tumult, during which he and Jacob made the move from the capital of the North to the capital proper to join Egg and James.

Inevitably, this external upheaval bled into the record, which was recorded in East London over a series of months with one of the band’s Mix With The Masters heroes, David Wrench (Frank Ocean, FKA twigs, The xx). “On one of my first nights out in London, I went to Heaven with a few friends for some mad club night,” says Nathan. “We were in the studio a week after that, and I was viscerally remembering that experience. [When creating music] you’re feeding off all these things - all the bright colours of the city, you know?” There’s a brief pause, before everyone bursts into laughter. “That’s the GAYEST thing you’ve ever said,” Egg teases.

Ultimately though, “Porij has always thrived in chaos,” Egg states, “and I think we like it like that.” And on that evidence, it’s little wonder that ‘Teething’ is the opposite of a straightforward, one-note offering. Because the four have such a wide range of tastes between them (James is “a massive dubstep fan”, while Jacob is apparently “renowned” for his Disclosure obsession), Nathan explains that recording the LP was “almost like pass the parcel” - a process of “trying to find the right musical hat to put on each track via different genres”, depending on the experience they wanted it to evoke. “The escapism of going to a techno night; the happiness of a garage night; the intensity of a drum n bass event…” Jacob lists. “Certain genres pair perfectly with a certain feeling.”

“There’s a horrific onslaught against trans people in the media right now. It’s scary to put yourself out there, but it’s really important.” - Egg Moore

‘Teething’ is a record that truly runs the emotional gamut, from the opening snarling bite of ‘Marmite’ (“You’re like Marmite, fickle to me / Mixed reception, no one can agree”), to the tender euphoria of ‘My Only Love’, via the garage bounce of ‘Unpredictable’ and the immersive trance of ‘Endlessly Waiting’. Finally making a longform project allowed Porij the scope to fully embrace the broad sonic palette their trio of EPs dipped a toe into, while lyrically the album is, in Nathan’s words, “a beautiful space for Egg to be totally vulnerable and totally honest”.

It’s on ‘Stranger’ that this soul-baring is most apparent, as they explore their non-binary identity and experience of gender dysphoria with a candid transparency thus far unheard in Porij’s work. “I really didn’t like the song for a long time because it just felt too…” Egg pauses to take a sip of their pint. “I felt embarrassed by how raw it was. It’s been quite intense playing it live, but I also think that it’s been really beautiful to be able to share all of myself. And actually, I came out as non-binary in part due to Porij; back in the early days, we always got called a boy band, and I’d think, ‘You just heard me sing - do you think I’m chemically castrated?’”

They continue: “It was lockdown, and I kind of came to terms with things. We were about to release a single, so that element of pressure kind of gave me the guts to go, ‘I’ve gotta say this now’.” “We had a really good photo of you that we were gonna use for a social media post,” recalls James, taking up the story and smiling at Egg. “And you went, ‘Can I use that one to come out with?” They grin: “Yeah, ‘cos I thought I looked really hot in it!” The band all smile too, their mutual love for one another clear, before Egg acknowledges that many other queer people don’t receive the acceptance they deserve. “There’s such a horrific onslaught against trans people in the media right now, which is why it’s scary to put yourself out there. But that’s also why it’s really important.”

What would it have meant to have heard ‘Stranger’ or seen a non-binary person fronting a (pseudo) indie band when they were younger? Egg is quiet for a moment, then says: “I had a really wonderful experience on our January tour. We played Rough Trade in Nottingham, and afterwards this woman who worked in a school came up to me and said, ‘Thank you for being someone that young people can look up to’. I think that was the first time I’d actually really thought about it like that, because I’m just… living, as a person.

“And I bawled my eyes out, so in all the photos [with other fans] I’m just like, ‘It’s been a really good gig, thanks for coming’,” they say, scrunching up their face and pretending to sniffle as the others laugh. “It really blew my mind, and it was really touching for her to say that.”

These four should probably get used to interactions like this; with all its emotional and sonic range, ‘Teething’ taps into something that’s expansive yet intimate, broadly relatable yet poignantly specific, and utterly, unmistakably human. If anyone can put to bed the notion of dance music being devoid of depth, it’s Porij.

How d’ya like your eggs in the morning?

We find out what’s on Porij’s breakfast buffet bucket-lists.

Egg: I want to eat my weight in hash browns. Quite often on tour, that’s all I’ll get for breakfast. You like a bit of a smoked salmon bagel vibe, don’t you Jacob?

Jacob: Yeah, sometimes - it depends.

Nathan: I can’t have much more than toast or a bagel in the morning, with a mint tea.

James: Oh, I love having leftover curry for breakfast! I did it recently and it was great.

Egg: Jammo’s going edgy for the debut album. I had a trifle for breakfast the other day though, and it honestly made me giddy.

‘Teething’ is out 26th April via PIAS.

Tags: Porij, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the April 2024 issue of DIY, out now.

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