Before Jody Porter was known to the world as the lead guitarist in Fountains of Wayne, he fronted the Belltower, a shoegaze-leaning rock group that made waves in the U.K. in the early Nineties. A decade before that, in the early Eighties, he was a young sailing instructor in Charleston, South Carolina, where he grew up.
Porter combines those threads from his past on his latest solo album, Waterways, recorded over the last two years with a cast of characters he calls the Berlin Waltz. “It’s like the Plastic Ono Band,” he says. “Always revolving.”
Mostly, though, he recorded the album on his own at his home near Asheville, North Carolina, layering guitars and vocals in a manner reminiscent of his Belltower days as well as contemporaries like My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Several tracks feature drumming from Porter’s Fountains of Wayne brother-in-arms Brian Young. You can hear it all on “Moonbeam Reach,” a heavy new track premiering at Rolling Stone.
Revisiting the psychedelic guitar-swirl sound he favored in the early Nineties was a natural choice, Porter says. “I would’ve been a fool not to,” he jokes. “It just hit Brooklyn last year or something.”
Like much of the new album, “Moonbeam Reach” features impressionistic lyrics about sailing. A “beam reach,” he explains, is the fastest way to point a sail, 90 degrees to the wind. “And a moonbeam is something that comes out of the sky that you need to see if you’re out on the water at night, which we all are right now,” he adds.
Porter hopes to release Waterways later this year. He had been planning to support it with a solo tour, for which he would have gotten out his old road cases from past Fountains tours. “I was about to polish them off and put some stuff in there, and hook up the trailer and the minivan, and be the soccer mom,” Porter says ruefully. “I guess it’s going to be a few more months.”
Read more of Porter’s memories of his days in Fountains of Wayne in our new in-depth feature on the life and work of his good friend and bandmate Adam Schlesinger.