Julien Bracht and Markus Nikolaus of Lea Porcelain wield massive sounds, from grandstanding synth melodies to explosive drum beats. Exploding across Europe, the duo has—through highly sought-after live performances and a few tracks on Spotify—already amassed a dedicated following ensorceled by their huge tracks. Snippets into their enormous and expanding world, glowing synth-heavy tracks from “A Year From Here” to “Bones” possess an ecstatic grandiosity that flex Markus’ sweeping vocals and Julien’s tingly compositions. In anticipation of their upcoming release Hymns to the Night, AdHoc caught Julien and Markus to discuss their process, their backgrounds, and their plans—plans nearly as colossal as their music. Read the interview and get swallowed up in the heady expansiveness of Lea Porcelain, a sumptuous universe unto itself.
AdHoc: Could you speak to the story behind the new record? What kind of narrative does it create?
Markus Nikolaus: The album creates the narrative of a journey. It makes you wander through certain moods and it will start to paint a picture in your mind. From beginning to end, you will be left with various narratives: one of the uprising, the rebellious, the roadtripping, the adventurous, the naughty, the melancholic, the sad and the lonely in addition to one of the hopeful, the cheerful, the uplifting, the positive and the optimistic view that this life, no matter how hard, is worth living under any circumstance—because everything is an experience worth living and there is no negative or positive. Everything is in balance, and there are just experiences to be made—and that is what our album is: an experience one has to make.
What were you thinking about when going into record the full-length?
Markus: We didn’t think at all. We just started writing to escape the projects we were in by the time. The idea was very simple. Free approach, no pressure, a lot of vine and no borders. That’s it! And as we started, we felt how much fun it was and we just kept writing and writing for weeks and months until we realized that we had really created something here. Then we quit everything else and just concentrated on Lea Porcelain.
There’s also a distinct melancholy to your music. What specific mood are you looking to evoke?
Markus: Compassion and motivation and every feeling we felt writing this song. The melancholy comes from recapitulating your life or your past year or something—and that makes it so melancholic [because] you’re aware of what you have or don’t have.
Your songs also seem to display an interest in place, from “The Streets of Philadelphia” to a “Warsaw Street,” and your trajectory as a band has taken you across Europe, from Frankfurt to Berlin to London. What role does geography play in your work? Is Lea Porcelain located anywhere specifically, or does it inhabit something or somewhere a little more placeless?
Markus: We will always think of this project as an international bond that travels and is completely its own universe. At the moment and before the album we were traveling insane distances every month to play the capitals of Germany, France, U.K., Benelux and others—and we did it for the right reasons: to bring this music to every place in every nation. And even though Berlin is now our home, we consider all three cities as stages that we needed writing this album and finishing it.
Do you feel a difference in your process when you create in London as opposed to Frankfurt or Berlin?
Julien: Every moment of writing is different, so of course if you change the city, you also gonna write with some different feelings and emotions. I remember that we left London once to get some fresh air and we drove to St Ives, a small beach town. I started to produce some beats and instrumentals while Markus was writing some new lyrics. After the beach we went to our bed and breakfast to record the vocals while the hotel owner was shouting through the door, because we woke up every hotel guest. That was the recording of “Loose Life.”
Many of your videos depict the two of you walking away, shot from behind you. Do you feel like you’re escaping anything, or that your music could serve as an escape from something? How does this relate to the titular message of “Out is In?”
It’s all a matter of perspective because for us we are walking towards something that we haven’t reached just yet but we will. And ‘Out Is In’ was the first track that we ever recorded and ever released, and that was the starting point for us to say “no more funny business, we’re doing it real this time and the only way out for us will be in.”
Your sound inhabits a really unique space, somewhere between the ecstasy of arena rock and prickly synthpop. You’ve also been described as a post-punk act. Where do you feel you fit in terms of genre?
Julien: I think our music sounds wide, atmospheric, melancholic, and uplifting—and is between some genres. We were pretty much isolated when we started this project, so we didn’t look at any hype and didn’t try to make something that would work for someone [else]. We always wanted to do a sound that is magic to us and gives us a certain feeling when we put it on in the car after writing [the] songs—without thinking of hypes or other musical movements. So basically, we just did our thing and now we are gonna put this record out and people can discover our world and join the adventure.
Did you draw inspiration from any artists in particular for Hymns to the Night?
Julien: The only real inspiration was one song from Moon Duo called “Killing Time.” But I basically just had the idea to record some big drums, play with reverb and distortion as effects, try to put Markus’ unique voice over it in a special way, and give the songs a real melody with all the synths and pads. But as I said before, it was more a free approach kinda project, and then it became this magical thing and we could´t stop writing. During the writing process, we listened to loads of Radiohead songs because of the wide range of their music, but we didn’t try to copy their sounds or anything.
You’ve released many of the songs on the upcoming Hymns to the Night on Soundcloud and other sites. How have you noticed the songs evolving over the years?
We are concentrating on Spotify and thats evolving nicely. We want to have an organic growth and have found that people are little by little discovering our music in a good way. When they discover us they get into it really deep and come to shows and talk to us, telling us that they are obsessed with our music. So I think if people need some time to discover us, but when they do, they are touched by the music and can´t stop listen to it—[that] is what they tell us. So thats a pretty cool sign for us.
What’s next for you?
Julien: Get the album out there to this beautiful world and play the music out loud on festivals and headline shows through Europe and US. We are gonna support Alt-J on some European gigs this summer, which is a big honour, and we play Latitude, Reading, and Leeds (on the Radio1/ NME Stage) this Summer. The album tour will be around October. We are really excited about everything and could not be more motivated to get this music out there and to convince people all over the world on small and big stages. We have one really big vision with this music and we will not stop working on it until we’ve achieved it.
Hymns To The Night, Lea Porcelain’s first physical full-length release, is out June 16. Be sure to check out the premiere of their new video, “A Year From Here,” above.