Are you a fan of irresistible melodies and groovy synths? If the answer’s yes, you’ll love New Portals. Their music will put you in a trance that you’ll never want to wake up from!
After releasing folk songs as The Jepettos, husband and wife Mike and Ruth Aicken experimented with electronic beats and they eventually decided to release music as New Portals. Just like a portal, their songs really will take you to another world.
In our exclusive interview, New Portals spoke about: their entertaining ‘Stay Here Tonight’ music video, working with Leah McFall from The Voice, their plans for the future and much more. Check out Ruth and Mike’s answers to our questions below!
For people who haven’t yet heard your music, how would you describe your sound?
Ruth: “I think we’re kind of like indie/electronic. We’re very chilled out.”
Mike: “We’re an indie/electronic duo so it’s kind of like indie pop I guess.”
Your new single is called ‘Stay Here Tonight’ – if you could stay anywhere in the world tonight, where would you choose?
Ruth: “Somewhere hot probably; out on the beach in LA would be great.”
You recently released the song’s official video – how did you come up with the concept?
Mike: “It’s quite different to anything else we’ve ever done. We worked with two local comedians on the video: their names are Colin Geddis and Shane Todd. They’re comedians we really like from Northern Ireland so we wanted to work with them. There’s never going to be a New Portals song that’s particularly funny but we thought this song would be a good one to try out.”
Ruth: “Yeah, it’s very different for us. We thought we’d do something new; something we’ve never done before and slightly out of our comfort zone. So hopefully everyone will get and hopefully they’ll like it.”
Did you have fun filming the video?
Mike: “Yeah, we laughed a lot watching those guys. We’re not in it very much because it’s mostly those guys but we laughed a lot.”
Ruth: “It was nice for us to not be in the central focus; usually we are I guess so we got to sit back and enjoy the day. That was fun.”
From folk to electro-pop, your music has changed quite a lot since you were called The Jepettos. Are you enjoying experimenting with new sounds?
Mike: “It’s been great. We feel like it really gives a new fresh outlook on our songwriting. Our writing style has probably developed rather than starting again and we still are writing folk songs as well because we’re doing co-writes with people. We’ve enjoyed working with producers for the first time because usually we just produce our own music. It was great to get a couple of really good pop producers on board and have our creativity taken by someone else and worked with and developed. It was really enjoyable.”
What’s the process behind making a New Portals track – do you usually start with lyrics first or the instrumentals?
Ruth: “We usually start with a melody that we like.”
Mike: “We’ll both record ideas for songs on our iPhones then we’ll get together and usually sit at a piano. We have a little electronic drum machine too. We’ll either start with chords or start with the drum beat and try to fit our ideas around that basically.”
Ruth: “Yeah, lyrics always come last for us I guess. There might be a line that we come up with during the process of getting a melody we really like and we’ll maybe stick with that lyrical line or develop on it.”
Mike: “Everything else is kind of gibberish at the start but one line will just stick and we’ll form a song around that. It’s actually a similar style to Sia; we saw a documentary about her and it turns out she actually has a similar style to that. She’ll gibberish it out and then one of the lines will just stick and become the focal point of the song. So yeah, you can compare us to Sia.” (laughs)
Ruth: “We’ve been writing with another girl Leah McFall and she’s from Northern Ireland but she’s based in London now. She was on The Voice a wee while ago and she’s worked with will.i.am so she’s had a lot of writing experience behind her. When we started writing with her that day, we started sort of singing gibberish and she totally got it. That’s what she does and she said that’s what all the top dogs do as well so that was really nice to get confidence about that.”
Mike: “It’s nice to know we’re not crazy.”
As you said, you recently collaborated with Leah McFall from The Voice – what was it like working with her?
Mike: “It was great. We’d actually heard her sing before and chatted online but we hadn’t spoken to her face to face. I’d spoken to her a couple of years before she was on The Voice and then we just ended up meeting up for a day when she was back in Northern Ireland just to give it a go. At the time, we were thinking of just giving it a go but it really clicked with her. We were able to write a song in a day and it’s actually going to be one of our singles for New Portals so we’re really happy with that one. We’re going to do some more writing with her.”
Ruth: “She’s a really fun girl. It’s incredible to be in the same room with a voice like that; you learn so much and she’s really cool as well so it’s win, win. It’s great fun.”
Can we expect to hear that song soon then?
Mike: “It’s probably a few months away I’d say because there’s another single to come after this and then that one after that. We’ve got the next few months planned anyway.”
You were recently named The Guardian’s ‘New Band of the Week’; congratulations. How did that feel?
Mike: “Thank you. It was a big surprise. It took a few days before it really sunk in so yeah, we were blown away. We had been asked for some information relating to it the day before so we knew there was a chance it could happen but even then, we still thought it was unlikely. So yeah, we were still blown away when we actually heard the news.”
Ruth: “It’s nice to know that people like that are starting to know that we even exist so yeah, that was great.”
Who would you say some of your musical influences are?
Ruth: “I guess we have different influences with different genres.”
Mike: “Earlier on, growing up, I learnt how to play the guitar listening to Oasis and then Radiohead. Then we got into folk music together and then we turned electronic recently.”
Ruth: “I guess we look at duos quite a lot and recently, we are really enjoying Twenty One Pilots as well. All sorts of stuff like that.”
We love ‘Groove Boy’ and all of your singles so far – are there any that you particularly enjoy performing live?
Mike: “We really like playing ‘Stay Here Tonight’ live – we played it live for the first time recently in Belfast and it really works live. It’s quite simple to play but it has a good vibe to it so we were able to lose ourselves in it quite nicely.”
Ruth: “We’ve also written little extras at the end of another single that we just released called ‘Skyline’ and that plays live really well. We kind of have a really dramatic drum ending so that’s really good too.”
Mike: “Figuring out what to do live has been a fun experience because we’re bringing in other instruments that aren’t on the recording. Ruth and I are both playing some live drums in it along with our drummer so it’s lots of fun.”
Would you say the vibe is quite different to when you used to play gigs as The Jepettos? Is it quite different seeing the crowd’s reaction?
Mike: “With The Jepettos, people had to be listening for it to work. The room had to fall silent – that did happen but if it didn’t happen, it was a disaster of a show. Now, as New Portals, we’ve only done a couple of shows but people have listened and if there is a bit of background noise, it doesn’t matter because they can still feel the vibe and get into the groove of it all. It’s been easier; we’re more confident going on stage as the New Portals because we just know that we’ll enjoy it anyway.”
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for New Portals?
Ruth: “Hopping on a great tour would be lovely. We’re just working on trying to book shows and writing as much as we can as well.”
Mike: “We’ve got the new music video out and we’ve got another two singles with videos planned as well. Then, we’ve basically got an album worth of tracks ready to go but we’re going to keep writing and keep improving things hopefully.”
If you could leave a message for your fans, what would you say?
Mike: “Thank you for your support and please do tell other people. (laughs) Spread the word. Hopefully we’ll meet you soon. Feel free to message us and come to say hi after a show; we’d love to chat.”
‘Stay Here Tonight’ is currently available for purchase here on iTunes. It joins the charming duo’s previous musical masterpieces: ‘Groove Boy’, ‘Skyline’ and ‘Do It Right.’
So what’s next for New Portals? As mentioned in the interview, more singles are on the way over the next few months and new live shows will hopefully be announced soon.
It’s only been a year since Ruth and Mike’s New Portals project came to fruition but they’ve already got a fantastic set of tracks behind them. Incredibly, we have a feeling that the best is yet to come. Keep up to date by following @NewPortals on Twitter.
What do you think of New Portals’ latest single? Let us know over on Twitter @CelebMix or leave a message in the comments section below!