PORT OF Est Share Their Thoughts & Latest Single Moonless Sky [INTERVIEW]
Many people remember 2016 for a host of unsavory reasons. The death of numerous artists and icons like Muhammad Ali, Phife Dawg and David Bowie along with a slew of unimaginable political developments, left much of the world disillusioned and pretty depressed. However, while there was much to be bemused about last year there was still plenty of things to brighten your spirits if you kept your eyes and heart open. One of the highlights of my 2016 was discovering the compelling new indie/electronic crossover duo from Portland, Maine PORT OF Est.
The innovative duo of vocalist Hannah Tarkinson and producer Todd Kitchens founded PORT OF Est back in 2015, and since then this duo from the northeast has turned heads and established themselves as a budding creative force. Their debut album Onyx Moon was an undeniably noteworthy combination of multiple sonic dialects ranging from IDM, drum and bass, shoegaze, hip hop, electronic pop, ambient, folk and indie rock. With their eclectic and varied musical pallet, PORT OF Est has honed a dynamic sound for themselves, and we are happy to premiere their latest single “Moonless Sky“. In celebration of their latest release, the duo was happy to take a few of our questions. Check out our interview with PORT OF Est, and listen to their latest single “Moonless Sky” and fantastic debut album Onyx Moon below.
Sensible Reason: Firstly I wanted to say I am a big fan of yours. Since I heard Valentine In My headphones I have loved your sound and style. I am curious, what is your songwriting style like? How do you build a track?
PORT OF Est- Thank you!! Our songwriting style is a lot of back and forth, trial and error and reworking a song until we’re both happy with the finished piece. We agreed at the beginning of our collaboration that we would also do what’s best for the song (not our egos) and that keeps us on track. We tend to develop the initial sound together then break off to develop our own parts. We work together in the studio as much as possible, but we’re both pretty busy so we utilize technology to send updates back and forth.
SR: How would you describe your sound and sonic style?
POE: If you like Massive Attack, Phantogram, Bjork, Squarepusher, and My Bloody Valentine you’ll probably dig our stuff. There is definitely an indie pop vibe especially in the composition, the rest is pure experimentation until something clicks. It’s as a hybrid of all these styles and poetry.
SR: You guys are one of the most intriguing acts to come out of Maine in some time. Do you feel like you are flying a banner for innovative music made in Maine?
Hannah Tarkinson: Thank you! Nah. I mean, there are some amazing musicians and bands in Maine… both current and past acts. There’s a handful of producers and dj’s that have paved the road for music like ours. I, personally, am under the influence of Mosart212 (Mo Nunez), Alias, OHX, Santiago, & Olas. Check them out and “steel yourself” to embrace the goodness of these Maine musicians;).
Todd Kitchens: Hannah’s been in the state for a good bit longer then me. But yea, there is some great talent here and people are down to earth. It’s a great place to hone your craft. In the production realm, I am lucky to have worked with Jonathan Wyman and Darren Elder at The Halo as well as Adam Ayan at Gateway. Collaborating with these masters has really pushed my skills as a producer.
SR: Who are some artist that give you inspiration? What first enticed you to making music in this fashion?
HT: The obvious ones, Radiohead, The Roots, Sigur Ros, Aphex Twin, Björk, Baths have been percolating as inspiration throughout the years. I’m coming from a folk/blues/rock background. That’s the music I’ve made most of my life. I’ve always loved rap and electronic music and I’ve dabbled in it with friends over the years, but I never seriously pursued it until meeting Todd.
TK: I’ve always been drawn to and inspired by the Shoegaze and post-punk genres of the 90’s (MBV, Slowdive, Medicine, Swerve Driver for example) and their predecessors. If I had to pick two of my biggest influences, I would have to say the Cocteau Twins and Massive Attack. That said, I listen to a lot of jazz, R&B, and experimental classical works by the likes of Harold Budd, Erik Satie, and Brian Eno. The list is huge and growing.
SR: Where do you do your best work? Is it on the road? On your own in the studio? Or at home going about your daily life? Where does inspiration strike you most often and why?
HT: We work well in the studio and independently. I like that about us. We know when to break off and when to come back together. I can get lyrical inspiration from just about anything. As long as I’m present, most things are an influence. Musically, I like to be alone and doodling on my guitar. Heartbreak has been a true ringer as well;)
TK: Inspiration usually strikes in totally random places. I often hear the beginnings of a new track in the harmonics of other music or my environment. It lights a little fire that pushes me into my studio and then I just experiment with texture and sound design. I end up with a few bars of decent material about 10% of the time. If Hannah digs it we start to flesh it out. If not it gets filed away to pull from at another point.
SR: How do you want to evolve your live performances? Do you have plans to expand on what you do already?
POE: We’re currently working on a new live set. We’ve primarily been a studio band due to our busy lives but the live set is underway and we’re so excited about the collaborations on the horizon… stay tuned….
SR: What message (if any) were you seeking to convey with your latest album ONYX MOON?
HT: I’m a firm believer in leaving the music up to the interpretation of the listener. Generally speaking, the album covers love, loss, longing, anticipation… not as a message, but as the lyrical content. I’m sure there are take-always that you can gather from it as a collection of music, but I wouldn’t want to take on the mission of conveying a message. That takes away from the overall listening experience.
TK: I agree with Hannah. It’s all about process. Once a track is finished I start to feel pretty disconnected from it.
SR: What advice would you give to a young producer or vocalist trying to make a name for themselves?
POE: Make music for the love of music. Don’t let fame be your sole purpose. If it’s all about the fame, you will never truly be happy. Make career decisions (music or otherwise) based on love, not fear. As corny as it sounds, it’s legit.
SR: What else do you have planned? What can we expect from PORT OF Est. next year?
POE: Well, we’re excited about the release of our latest track, “Moonless Sky” which is a love/loss/ode song to Hillary Clinton.. what could have been and what is in store for our country over the next 4 years. The drums on our latest track, Moonless Sky, were remotely recorded in Atlanta by longtime friend and collaborator Chandler Rentz. We’re also excited to get our live set together and to perform in some exciting venues. More on that soon…