Alt-pop duo New Portals have been busy crafting some pretty catchy tracks of late. The project is still in its relatively early stages, but the Northern-Irish husband and wife team of Mike and Ruth Aicken are certainly no strangers to songwriting, having been making music of an altogether different genre for a while now.
Their previous material – as The Jepettos – had more of a folk leaning but the New Portals incarnation is based around a more uptempo, often brooding electronic sound, coated with Ruth Aicken’s sublime sugary sweet vocal tones.
We fell in love with their track Stay Here Tonight a little while back so, ahead of a couple of live dates in Belfast and London later this month, we caught up with Mike for a bit of background on the band, and an update on their progress so far…
SYNC: How has New Portals come about, and what inspired the project to develop from what you were already doing as The Jepettos?
MIKE AICKEN: We were enjoying writing and performing folk-pop and seeing some degree of success but we just started to feel like we wanted a change.
SYNC: How does the creative/songwriting process work between the two of you?
MA: All of our songs are written 50/50 although we still do argue over who wrote what! We both record ideas on our iPhones then get together and try to listen through them, scrapping the rubbish and seeing if we can develop the rest. We also set ourselves little one minute challenges where we’ll play a piano chord sequence and we have one minute to come up with a hook or a lyric. We’ll run through 5-10 of those at the start of a writing session. Sometimes one will stick and will be obvious to both of us that it’s worth pursuing further.
SYNC: You’ve been generating plenty of interest on radio and in the press. What has been the reaction you’ve been getting to new songs over the past few months?
MA: We’ve been very happy to see some key opinion leaders and taste-makers pick up on the songs and give some great reviews. We’ve also signed quite a few synch deals which is great – we’re keen to keep up the momentum and move forward now with our live shows for the rest of 2016.
SYNC: The NI music scene has never been short on music talent – which other bands are you currently enjoying or feeling inspired by, both at home and further afield?
MA: When we first got into writing indie-pop, we were really inspired by Sylvan Esso, Broods and Oh Wonder and were always discovering more – mostly through listening to Spotify playlists that we get placed on. A local act that we’re enjoying are Tuskany.
SYNC: What are the short/medium term plans for the band? Is there an album or tour in the pipeline?
MA: We have a show in Belfast on 11 June at The MAC then we’re supporting Youth Club at Cargo, Shoreditch on 22 June. After that, we’ll be looking out for a nice support slot to go on tour- that’s the dream anyway!
New Portals – Groove Boy
New Portals – Skyline (Live)