8 May 2019

Photos, Interview & Text: 
Martin Hufnagel


Some albums come to you at the perfect moment. Last year, just when winter had arrived, I was sitting on the train, travelling back to Hamburg after an emotional encounter. Staring out of the window and the already white landscape, Lea Porcelain’s debut album Hymns to the Night caught me. Their sound is the result of Markus’ strong and expressive voice and Julien’s beautiful soundscapes.
One sunny day, we met at the Funkhaus in Berlin to talk about their first encounter at the Robert Johnson Club, the energy at night, music in skate videos and, of course, their new song ‘I Am OK’. 

Listen to our full conversation on The Wasted Hour Podcast

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Right place, right time: There are days when things just fall into place. Markus and Julien from Lea Porcelain, they met for the first time the morning after a long party at the Robert Johnson Club in Offenbach. Julien was a rising star of the German techno scene, signed to the Cocoon agency and playing a lot of gigs. It was a one man show, with most of his sounds just coming from the computer or synthesisers, and more and more, he felt the urge to write songs with somebody. 'There was this point when I was just looking for a change', says Julien.

It was exactly during that time that their first encounter took place. Markus had just returned from Antwerp. In his youth, he had started a band to play at a skateboard contest, after being inspired by the soundtrack of Flip’s 'Sorry Skateboard' video. 'I didn’t have good taste in music when I was 11 or 12… but when I watched skateboarding, I liked whatever was in the skateboard video. It was subconscious, because I liked the way the guy skateboarded, their style, and then their taste in music.' After finishing school, Markus moved to Ireland for his social service and started to sing in English too.

He recalls what happened next: 'I went to one of Julien’s gigs and kind of became his roadie for the night because the club was really full. After he played, he had to get all his drum gear out, so I helped, and we went to his studio.' Julien remixed one of Markus’ songs, and a couple of months later, they did a session together. From the beginning, it was a perfect match: Markus instantly found lyrics and melodies for Julien’s atmospheric soundscapes. After 3 days in the studio, they had 2 songs. One of them being 'Out Is in', the opener of their first album Hymns to the Night.

During a subsequent holiday in Spain, Julien, infected by the euphoria, was blasting the songs on a high volume through the PA system every morning. He says, 'There was so much energy only because of these 2 songs… and then I kind of decided that this is the direction that I wanted to go.' A couple of months later Markus’ previous projects ended, and they decided to go all in.

It was the right decision. Their first album creates a strong, melancholic yet optimistic mood. From the first tune of 'Out Is in' until the touching burst of 'Endlessly', it’s a perfect soundtrack for a train or car ride at night. It made me think both about the future and reflect on things that had happened, and made me want to cry and smile at the same time.

For a potential follow-up, they spent the winter in Spain, inviting friends and working on new music. 'It’s very good if you take 3 months, to go to one house, set everything up and just be in this bubble every day', says Julian.

Their first song 'I Am OK', released 2 weeks ago, is a pre-taste of their new material. It’s about losing and finding yourself again. When do Markus and Julien feel OK? According to Julien, 'Right now, after our time in Spain, having a bunch of new songs, a great team around us, and a great band, I feel OK almost every day.' 

When not travelling, the duo is based at the Funkhaus in Berlin, which is the former base of the central radio station of East Germany. The housing complex is next to the river and hosts several studios and event venues, and since very recently, companies are there as well.

After our interview, Markus and Julien showed me their studio, where they’re putting finishing touches on the live set-up for their upcoming tour. New devices are tried out, cables are rolled up, and the motif for their banner is selected. 'It's a lot of work for a band to take what they produce in the studio and to put in on stage for everyone to see. It’s a long way', says Markus.

Thank you, Markus and Julien, for being part of wasted hour.

See more of Lea Porcelain here: