While indie rock is an absurdly ambiguous and vast term, bands that fall under the all-encompassing umbrella can typically be categorized by two main forms of live performances. One batch usually ascribes to visceral, foot-stomping gigs while the other appreciates atmospheric, dance-driven approaches.
The upcoming Monday night show at the Rickshaw Stop—featuring Porches, Alex G, and Your Friend—will falls in the latter. All three groups specialize in creating moods—both ominous and inviting—that prevail a smoky, late-night sense to their affairs.
[jump] Porches, for example, the co-headlining act that is the recording moniker of Aaron Maine, has a new album out called Pool that is full of noir-ish numbers that could make up the soundtrack to a Michael Mann thriller. Maine’s economic and opaque approach to songwriting — many of the track titles are only one word and his lyrics are sparse and minimal — conjure up contrasting images and emotions. Maine said he focused on writing lyrics that were more open for interpretation and universal, and less specific to his personal struggles.
“I think my earlier work was too revolved around my own life,” said Maine. “I wanted to have an almost emotional mysticism to the album.”
That ethereal feeling is evident in his constant references to water. Aside from the album being dubbed Pool, the opening track is called “Underwater,” and Maine’s lyrics frequently reference liquid, although we never quite know if he finds the idea of being drenched frightening or liberating.
“I didn’t plan on writing that many references to water in the album, but I did want the album to have a cohesive feel to it,” said Maine. “I think water is a very interesting element — it can be beautiful and refreshing, but it can also be terrifying.”
While Maine strove for a loose narrative in the album, he wanted to make sure the album was danceable (“something that people can bop their head to.”) Pool is certainly that, packed with propulsive bass lines and syncopated synth beats that give the listener an immediate and organic urge to move their hips.
The act opening up the Rickshaw Stop show, Your Friend, doesn’t quite generate the same natural dance tendencies as Porches, but more than matches Maine’s gift for ambient feel.
Your Friend is the creative project of Taryn Miller, who has the rich, dreamy voice of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and the avant-garde tendencies of art rock acts like Xiu Xiu. Her latest album, Gumption, was released in January on Domino Records, and features songs replete with lo-fi field recordings captured from her family’s farm in Kansas.
The eerie sounds — traces of engine noises, pigeons in cages, babbling brooks — are mixed with various sound manipulations and insistent, dronish musical arrangements. It’s like the album equivalent of a found-footage movie documentary. The intense opening of “To Live With” features the sounds of an ever-swirling eddy, proving that Maine isn’t the only one with an interest in water.
Gumption is a daring, mature and adventurous creation, belying the relatively modest expectations Miller set for herself when she started Your Friend. As a student at Kansas University, Miller began work on her 2014 EP, Jekyll/Hyde, and asked to play at a house party alongside one of her friends. She said she received an overwhelmingly positive response when she performed her songs, though she never really intended for them to be available for a wide audience.
“At the time, I did it mainly for myself,” said Miller. “I didn’t think a lot of people would want to hear it.”
After releasing the EP, Miller’s songs started catching playing time on the local college radio station and caught the attention of Domino, which quickly signed her. Gumption has been strongly received by critics, and has helped steer Miller in an artistic direction she never anticipated.
“It happened so fast,” said Miller. “I didn’t think I had the ability to do this because I don’t have a very musical background like others. I was very intimidated by that world.”
While Miller may feel intimidated, she clearly belongs, particularly while sharing a bill with like-minded artists like Porches and Alex G. It’s a long way from recording field animals in Kansas, but when she’s on stage Monday night, hopefully she’ll feel close to home.
Porches, Alex G and Your Friend play at the Rickshaw Stop at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 28. More details about the show are available here.