The Off Beat: Porcelain Infuses Noise Rock with “Realistic Ambition”

Intense quartet launches self-titled debut on Feb. 16


Porcelain “band dad” Steve Pike with (back row, l-r) Ryan Fitzgibbon, Jordan Emmert, and Eli Deitz (Photo by John Anderson)

Anyone who’s seen Porcelain live knows: Their music washes over you. Once singer-guitarist Steve Pike gets his introductory merch-table-guiding spiel out of the way, there’s no room for artist-audience banter. The band rips straight into a set of gnarly but melodic post-hardcore, complete with transitions and noisy soundscapes.

Out next Friday, Feb. 16, debut full-length Porcelain proves equally spellbinding. Transitions intact, its eight tracks flow into each other, presenting not just a collection of songs, but a curated body of work. On first listen, it’s clear: These guys are tight.

Indeed, “we give a shit,” Pike confirms during an Epoch Coffee roundtable. “It’s so easy just to be another Austin band and [say], 'Oh, we’re gonna go play Hotel Vegas three times a month ... but that’s such a limitation – when you just want to play one city and be big in one city.”

“There’s really nothing wrong with aspiring to that,” drummer Eli Deitz interjects. “But we want to do more.”

Guitarists Pike (Exhalants, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes) and Ryan Fitzgibbon (TV’s Daniel, US Weekly), bassist Jordan Emmert (Super Thief, Pleasure Venom), and drummer Deitz (Votive, Shitbag, Dregs) had long known each other from their other bands, but started playing together two years ago.

“We really hit the ground running,” Emmert says. After their first show in May 2022, the group showcased at South by Southwest the next spring, followed by debut single “C.O.A.” Their first LP arrives via Portrayal of Guilt Records, placing Porcelain alongside industrial rockers Nuclear Daisies on the metal heavy hitters’ limited – nay, selective – label roster. Based on a claustrophobic Portrayal of Guilt Records showcase last month at Chess Club, the partnership comes with a built-in audience.

Riding “a good, healthy amount of realistic ambition,” according to the bassist, they recorded the album over five days last year, but spent months perfecting its mix and track list. Two songs were axed in order to fit “History,” a 10-minute critique of a cyclical society that devolves into an improvised swirl of feedback. The outro changes in nearly every live performance.

“That’s my moment where I can really go for it and feel cathartic and get a lot of emotion out,” says Fitzgibbon, who also tours on guitar with UK cumbia punks Los Bitchos. “I’ll bang my guitar, rub a freakin’ beer can all over the strings, make some crazy noises, mess with my pedals. I love that. I find that very fun and therapeutic.”

“We’re talking about some really real shit. We can all have some sort of catharsis about it together, but we’re also gonna try to have some fun and try to take the piss out of it a little bit.” – Singer/guitarist Steve Pike

Penultimate track “Invoices” checks another group favorite. Inspired by the “mind-numbing warehouse jobs” that Pike, a live sound engineer, took when concert venues shuttered during the pandemic, the song trudges along to mirror the “punch in, punch out” mentality of working-class life. It also draws from another universal, existential crisis-inducing milestone: turning 30.

I recognize that the best day of my life’s gone/ So wave goodbye,” Pike sings, taking stock of his life so far. As he goes to repeat his farewell, the zombie walk ends, and the band crashes in for a last-minute headbanger’s throttle. Naturally, it’s another live highlight.

“I always look at the crowd whenever we’re playing that song,” Fitzgibbon says, throwing up devil horns to describe what’s reflected back. “It’s got a lot of girth to it.”

Sonic intensity aside, the band packs a sense of humor. Before each set, they walk onstage to remarkably goofy compositions, from the narration of the FitnessGram Pacer Test to songs by 311 and Puddle of Mudd. “It’s not slowed and reverb,” Deitz, the mastermind behind the bit, insists of the edits. “It’s chopped and screwed. It’s not Zoomer shit. It’s Houston shit.”

The “vibe setter” offers a sort of pre-show levity, Pike says. His lyrics reveal personal traumas, but his performances don’t dwell on them. “We’re talking about some really real shit,” the singer admits. “We can all have some sort of catharsis about it together, but we’re also gonna try to have some fun and try to take the piss out of it a little bit.”

On release day, Porcelain takes the piss alongside ­alexalone and Cherubs, a stellar who’s who of Austin noise. Emmert cites the latter as his introduction to the genre, while Pike hails alexalone as one of the most underrated artists in the local scene. The gig also kicks off an upcoming East Coast tour, Porcelain’s biggest run to date and first journey to the region. Fitzgibbon speaks excitedly about playing in Toronto – “We’re leaving the country!” she squeals – while Pike points out shared dates with Ontario natives Life in Vacuum. It’s the logical next step for a band whose ambitions are, really, not that lofty.

“Just being a working-class band – that’s all I would like to do,” Pike says. “We’re not just in it to be popular or the next big thing in Austin. We’re here because we need to make music ... so why not? If I’m going to spend this much time doing it, why not be fucking good at it?”

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Porcelain, Cherubs, Steve Pike, Eli Deitz, Ryan Fitzgibbon, Jordan Emmert

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