Porij: dynamic Manchester gang with festival season’s most fun live show

Each week in Next Noise, we go deep on the rising talent ready to become your new favourite artist. After overcoming a number of lineup changes, the Manchester four-piece are warping a shared love of rave culture into intriguing shapes. Words: Sophie Williams

‘Beware: creepy crawlies and snakes!’ reads a sign perched next to the entrance to a sprawling forest inside Brecon Beacons’ Green Man festival. Eggy Moore, lead vocalist of Porij, has seemingly turned a blind eye to the warning, and is encouraging NME to do the same: they’re carefully tiptoeing down a nettle-strewn path into the haven of trees, marvelling at the natural beauty around them. As we reach the heart of the grounds, they suddenly turn around to face us. Is that a hissing sound we can hear in the distance, or just an echo from The Walled Garden stage next to us? Moore’s eyes flash with anxiety: “Run!”

We dodge stinging nettles to make a quick exit, and find the remaining members of Porij – guitarist Jacob Maguire, bass and keys player James Middleton, and Nathan Carroll on drums – laughing at the scenes of hysteria they just witnessed. “Bloody hell, what a way to start our first Green Man,” quips Middleton, before Moore jumps in: “We’re always running around at festivals,” the singer adds. “As a group, we’re like sharks – we never stop swimming.”

It seems that the quartet’s schedule is similarly busy, as they are gearing up to perform twice in one day across the site in support of their second EP, ‘Outlines’. Self-released via their own label, Oat Gang Records, the new four-track collection proves why Porij are Manchester’s most danceable new band: each song becomes more fierce and acidic as it progresses, as slippery basslines dissolve into swirls of echoing electronics, before sharply springing back into focus. They mix the disorientating production style of Flume with the band’s own playful flourishes, from siren noises to urgent, whispered vocals.

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The first of the two resulting shows is a high-energy workout: packed into the Green Man record store’s compact space, Porij crank up the BPMs and dish out insistent grooves that are so loud and bass-heavy they could alter heart rhythms. The performance is filmed, and when the first run-through of closer ‘Nobody Scared’ fails to record properly, the audience stays to watch the band perform their breakout single again. “If you come to our headline show this evening, you’ll get to hear that song for the third time today,” says Moore. “Can you even imagine a better way to spend your Saturday?”

Porij are on fine form, with a new lineup that’s helping Moore and Middleton to expand on the atmospheric, club-influenced sound that informed last year’s ‘Baby Face’ EP. The four-piece initially met at the Royal Northern College of Music as first-year students; two years later, Caroll was recruited after appearing with the group at Cardiff’s 6 Music Festival in April, while Maguire was drafted in the month prior.

Having spent a number of years with a revolving door lineup – including the recent departure of founding member Tommy Villiers, who has writing credits on ‘Outlines’, but now performs in the drum n’ bass duo Piri & Tommy – Moore says that the band now feel “settled”. Villiers and his previous bandmates remain on good terms, however – the move was simply to allow him to pursue his new project full-time. “Everyone that has contributed to Porij in the past has had a massive impact on us, and I have some of the best memories of my life with those people,” says Moore. “And now, they’re thriving, and I’m equally happy with where we’re at.”

Caroll, meanwhile, says that he had worried “incessantly” about joining a band that had been making music together for a long period of time. “Open communication is so important,” he continues, explaining how he attended therapy before the group hit the road this summer. “In this band, everyone can put forward an idea and we’ll give them all a try – it means that being in Porij is beautifully chaotic.”

It’s heartening to find the current members of Porij in warm spirits, given that, as a unit, they haven’t been creatively or personally that close for much longer than six months. Their friendship started to flourish as Moore – who came out as non-binary earlier this year, and uses they/them pronouns – became a regular presence on Canal Street, the epicentre of Manchester’s queer rave scene, and bonded with the rest of the band by going to clubs across the city. How does it feel to have translated those formative nightlife experiences into music? “Orgasmic,” comes the response from Moore, setting off another wave of laughter.

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Middleton picks the conversation up: “The dynamics, personalities and humour between us just flows so well,” he says. “We’re friends first, and we can learn from each other. It’s almost like a playground of music; you get to be around other young, DIY musicians that have had to graft to get here too, and they’re not jaded by that. It’s the dream.”

Porij shot for NME
Credit: Nici Eberl

At their ongoing gigs, punters get to see Porij for what they are now – a tight, charismatic live band with one of the year’s most fun live shows, as they pile on and reload drum solos, restless synths, and snaking basslines, while encouraging their audience to get low. Prior to Green Man, the band clocked up appearances at Glastonbury and Bluedot, and support slots with Metronomy, with whom they’ve teamed up with on a currently unreleased collaboration. “I find the challenge of winning over a festival audience quite addictive,” says Maguire. “We have recently become fully-fledged adrenaline junkies – it’s not even like we’re diving out of a plane, we’re just performing!”

If this summer has proved anything, though, it’s that the band’s untempered ambition has transmuted into a newfound confidence; in October, they’ll be heading into the first writing sessions for their forthcoming debut album, with a reinvigorated belief in their shared vision. “Trust us, we’ll be running for the Mercury Prize in 2023,” says Middleton with a wide grin.

Before they hit the studio, Porij will head across the UK to perform their biggest headline gigs date, including a stop at London’s legendary Heaven – a nightclub that has become a central LGBTQ+ space in its 43-year existence. For Moore, that show already feels like “a bucket list moment ticked off”, though in the run-up to it, they’ve had to learn how to balance two extremes: excitement, and the fatigue they feel from fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, and has also previously impacted Lady Gaga’s ability to tour. “I do exactly the opposite of what you should do if you have fibromyalgia – I’m a musician that runs off so much energy,” Moore says. “But I’m still giving it everything while taking care of myself.”

As night descends, from the moment Porij take to the Rising Stage for their headline slot, they’re a magnetising presence. With their colourful, propulsive and infectiously fun tunes, they don’t waste any time in encouraging Green Man – a traditionally subdued festival with a folk background – to let loose and large it up. “Let’s go, energy crew. I want you to be fearless and jump about with me,” says Moore, daring their audience to follow them into the darkness once more.

Porij’s ‘Outlines’ EP is out now via Oat Gang Records

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