Listening to Port Lucian’s dreamy discography sounds like what I think it feels like to sail on the Mediterranean in summer — dreamy, wavy, and saturated with color. I felt like I’d been living in a sensory deprivation tank until I heard “Full Control?,” one of the singles of their soon-to-drop debut EP, Prince of Oddities. The oscillating synths and layered vocals offer an immersive soundscape, making the track and the whole EP a can’t-miss experience.
Port Lucian is Philadelphia-based Portia Maidment’s solo pop project. Prince of Oddities will be their formal debut on Z Tapes, but they have a lot of other cool stuff out (demos, covers, and more) on benefit compilations from Z Tapes, Dogbite Records, and Quiet Year Records, amongst others. Over Zoom, we got the chance to catch up on Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the youth classical music industrial complex, and the literal layers that make up Prince of Oddities.
Slumber: With COVID keeping us inside, I’ve been forcing myself to learn new skills, like jam-making. Have you forced yourself to learn anything new?
Portia Maidment: I wouldn’t necessarily call what I’ve been doing “learning,” but I’ve been committing myself to watching a new horror movie every night. I’ve always been into horror, and I’ve watched a lot of psychological horror, but I’m trying to branch out into different genres. Like I’ve been watching slashers, I just watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre, really good movie. I always let the title turn me off. It’s not super gorey or anything, because I’m not into that, it’s more like it’s very stylistic. The other thing is that I’m about to take the MCAT because I want to be a dermatologist. I really like skin, I’m super into it.
Slumber: Excellent! I need to study for the GRE real bad. I’ve got two 5-pound books that I refuse to open.
Portia: Yeah. I’ve got seven books here and I just finished the first one.
Slumber: Ooof! I believe in you. I really dig your homemade music videos. I first saw the one for “Full Control?” and I’m obsessed. The effects are really fun. If you could shoot a video anywhere, where would you go/what would you do?
Portia: There’s this whole subsection of music videos that all involve cake, and you eat cake really messily or something. It’s like a birthday cake, but it says something wack on it. I would love to do a studio shoot like that, like a Gus Dapperton shoot. Do you know what I mean? Kinda cartoonish. But for my music videos now, I use this $3 app called Rarevision, that’s what does all the effects and stuff. I just throw it in iMovie and put it together. They’ve all been filmed right here in my bedroom.
Slumber: Fantastic, that’s impressive!
Slumber: As a student, you’ve had to navigate both Philadelphia and Cleveland DIY communities. From your perspective, are those spaces pretty similar/pretty different? Before COVID, how did it feel to bounce between them?
Portia: Very, very different. Back in the day, in high school, I used to try to get gigs when I was first starting and no one would let me play anywhere. So, for my first show, I booked a show at PhilaMOCA, which is a venue here; it shut down actually. It was the first place I ever went to see a show, I saw Radiator Hospital there. From there I started setting up shows, I’d target bands who I thought would have a good draw and I would just pay them out because it was hard to get to a booker. The Philly scene is super saturated. But I got to play with some cool bands, like Earthboy who’s also on Z Tapes, and I played with Nation of Language who has a new record out now. That was kinda cool, but it’s hard in Philly. Everybody’s in a band.
Then I came to Cleveland, and I’m not knocking on the people who booked me, but they will book anyone. It does not matter. It’s super easy to play with bigger artists. Like last year I was supposed to open for Orville Peck, but I had my final that day! I think it was Mahall’s.
Slumber: Was it the Mahall’s show or the Grog Shop show? Because I made it to the Grog Shop show!
Portia: Oh, you know what, might’ve been Grog Shop. But yeah, I had a final that day, so I couldn’t do it.
Slumber: Wow. I think Mahall’s was April and Grog Shop was October.
Portia: Definitely April.
Slumber: Makes sense. I definitely had finals then too. But now that I’m graduated and not taking tests like that anymore, I could make it to the October one. It was weird, I was pretty into it.
Portia: Yeah, I should’ve gone! Now that shows aren’t happening, I have so many regrets.
Slumber: Me too, lots I skipped. I remember one show I fully skipped was Video Age.
Portia: Oh yeah! I love them! I think my friend opened for them. Was it Moon Cactus?
Slumber: I think so. I guess I was just tired after work or something. Now, here I am never really leaving work.
Portia: Yeah! And I didn’t have a car until a month ago, so it was hard for me to get all the way to venues. I would Uber from my dorm in eastern Cleveland all the way to Mahall’s (western suburbs) and that’s like $30 one way.
Slumber: Oof. Yeah, that’s too much.
“Back in the day, in high school, I used to try to get gigs when I was first starting and no one would let me play anywhere.”
Slumber: What’s been your favorite gig you’ve played as Port Lucian?
Portia: I haven’t played like, that many gigs, but I think my favorite was probably my first ever, which was my release show for my original EP. That was the one I had at PhilaMOCA, I had Americanadian there which is this Philly band I really love, but also basically everybody I knew at the time came, which was cool, and I didn’t play that good and the songs at the time were not that good, but I felt really accomplished.
Slumber: That’s really cool. I gotta look into PhilaMOCA and see what happened there.
Portia: It used to be an old mausoleum, and it was owned by Diplo, actually. He turned it into a venue so it was a part of the Mad Decent venture, I guess. But then something happened with the landlord, it wasn’t up to code I guess, which I can believe, it doesn’t look like something that’d be up to code, but I think they’re dealing with it. They have a court date.
Slumber: Oooo, thanks for letting me know.
Slumber: A few weeks ago, I think I saw you tweeted a home video of you playing a violin recital?
Portia: Yeah! So my parents started me on violin when I was 3, so I’ve been playing all up through now. My big brother did, too, we started at the same time. All through high school, I did violin before any other instruments. Violin’s super hard. It’s super competitive, like all classical sports and instruments are super competitive. I did that, and I picked up guitar from there, and I’m not super good at guitar, but it translated really well. That’s how I learned to play instruments.
Slumber: Word. Here in Cleveland, I did the youth orchestra for a year in high school and the violin section was a cutthroat nightmare. I was a bass player; we were not super competitive with each other. We were screwing around, kinda giving the conductor hell, memeing, so I tell everyone to play the bass. It’s so much fun.
Portia: Yeah, violin is so crazy, like literally insane. People who are really good at the violin — I don’t trust them at all. I don’t know how they do it. My friend Isabelle went to conservatory and she is so incredible, but I don’t know how she does it. I would have a mental breakdown.
Slumber: Being surrounded by conservatory-ready people is so unusual. I joined as a senior after auditioning kind of on a whim, so the conservatory-ready people just didn’t feel like my people. But then I met people who weren’t planning on going into music, including the assistant concertmaster. It was cool to know these other people who are amazing players but have other passions, like this was for a good time and not a long time.
Portia: Yeah! And the funny thing is, there’s like 5 really big cities in the U.S. for classical music, and Cleveland and Philly are like the top. They’ve both got world-class orchestras.
Slumber: Oh yeah. Everyone was trying to get into Curtiss.
Portia: That was not happening for me!
Slumber: Same here.
Slumber: How has Port Lucian evolved as a project since it all started in 2017?
Portia: So I sort of buried my original EP. It’s impossible to find online. At the time I was obsessed with Tame Impala, and this was right after Currents came out. So I guess like, 2016 and 2017 I was doing pop with all phasers and all that. But the way I actually make music hasn’t changed at all. I would make a verse, and spend a month on a verse, and be like, where is this going? So the structure [on the buried EP] was really strange, it didn’t have a really good flow, I had never sung before, it was kind of a mess. After that EP, I took a break for a while. Then I revisited Lucid Dreaming II — I had an acoustic version originally, but then I decided I would do something sort of lo-fi because you can get away with being sort of bad.
But Prince of Oddities is a collection of stuff I’ve written over the last year and a bit. I didn’t think I was gonna come back to music. At the time, I felt so bad about what I’d done. Now I feel like I’m making stuff that I’m proud of. I let go of a lot. I used to have a studio in my basement, I had all this gear and I thought that if I had this really nice gear, I can make really nice sounds. Now, I don’t do that at all. I let stuff clip out. For my drums, I just use samples. I don’t even play bass, I use an electronic bass on my songs. Now, if I put stuff together and I like how it sounds, I’m happy with it.
Slumber: Seems to work, I really like it! I’m glad you mentioned Prince of Oddities, I’m super stoked for my cassette to arrive and I can’t wait to hear what the record sounds like on tape. Obviously we’re still in quarantine, so there’s not necessarily gonna be a release party, but if there were, what would it be like?
Portia: I haven’t played live in a while so it’s hard to say, but since I’ll be in Philly for a while, I’d probably just get my friends together and play something. I think back in the day I was obsessed with the clout of playing at a big venue, but now I feel like if I’m just playing with my friends in someone’s basement, that’s my ideal.
“Prince of Oddities is a collection of stuff I’ve written over the last year and a bit. I didn’t think I was gonna come back to music. At the time, I felt so bad about what I’d done. Now I feel like I’m making stuff that I’m proud of.”
Slumber: I dig it, I think people are realizing that their DIY communities are more about people than place.
Portia: Totally, 100%. The weird thing is I was never really connected to the DIY community here in Philadelphia, aside from being on the DIY Facebook group. The only way I really got connected with them is through Twitter. Like, very recently.
Slumber: At the end of the day, it works!
Portia: Yeah! And that’s how I met Filip of Z Tapes, too. I was on SubmitHub and I was sending out “Give It Up,” the first song off this EP from before this even was an EP and they were just singles that I mashed together. He covered it on his blog and I guess I stayed on his radar because we’d interact on there, and he reached out to see if I wanted to put something out. Which is awesome because I was following Z Tapes in high school, it’s kind of like a cultural thing in Philly, so I’m super super excited about that!
Slumber: Yeah! Have you listened to his interview on Other Record Labels?
Portia: Yeah! Twice!
Slumber: It’s really cool to listen to him talk about how Z Tapes is a labor of love.
Portia: Yeah! And he Zooms all of his artists so I’ve talked to him before, and he’s just such a nice guy. He’s very positive about just doing what he loves. He’s extremely helpful. He’s a big advocate for all of his artists.
Slumber: Thumbs up to that! It was also cool to see some of your demos on the Dogbite Records benefit compilation and some of Filip’s compilations this year. This is clearly a year of compilations. If you were in charge of organizing a compilation, what would it look like (theme, contributors, etc.)?
Portia: Gosh, I’ve never thought about this before. I don’t think I’m organized enough to have a good theme, but I think I’d personally reach out to the artists that I like. I’m really into Laptop Funeral, and I love Pickle Darling. I have a cover of one of his songs coming out.
“I think back in the day I was obsessed with the clout of playing at a big venue, but now I feel like if I’m just playing with my friends in someone’s basement, that’s my ideal.”
Slumber: What else are you excited for Port Lucian to do next?
Portia: Once the album comes out, I think I’m gonna take a little break for a while. For a lot of the songs on Prince of Oddities, if I get insecure about something, I will layer a bunch of stuff over it. My choruses are a bunch of vocal takes stacked on top of each other. So, next time I definitely wanna do something more minimal and purposeful, I guess, with the melodies.
Slumber: Nice! I’m excited to hear about it. Last question — do you have any advice for young DIY’ers trying to launch their projects while juggling their responsibilities?
Portia: Yeah! The way I do it is making myself do 30 minutes a day. It’s so easy to get out of your routine and just stop. And I’ve been in that position where I’ve taken a break from music for a year plus. I’ve done that multiple times. I feel like if you do a little bit every day instead of an all-day session where you’re miserable, it’ll work. You need a little bit of distance in order to do something good.
Listen to Port Lucian’s latest, Prince of Oddities, out now via Z Tapes.