INTERVIEW / PINS
Photos by Francesca Tirpak (www.francescatirpak.com)
PINS know how to put on a show, and earlier this month the Manchester band stopped by Belgrave Music Hall as part of their latest headline tour. Their set featured lots of new music to be heard on the next album, with their newest offerings featuring a heavier emphasis on electronic dance music, driven by pulsating bass lines with a typical PINS grunge tint. It's been just over two years since Wild Nights was released, an improvement on their debut record. Whilst some critics questioned the album's lack of aggression, PINS continue to defy expectation and have expanded their controlled chaos style in a different direction, rather than falling back on easy 'let's play louder' stereotypes. It's an exciting new direction for fans of the band. Before their set Nathan Fogg talked with lead singer Faith Vern and guitarist Lois Macdonald.
Delinquent: So, how's the tour going?
Faith: Successful, so far so good.
D: What night is this?
Faith: We don’t know?
Lois: I feel like every day we're just like, 'what day is it, where are we?'
D: How many headline tours do you reckon you've done now?
Lois: Oh God, I'm not sure...total?
Faith: If all the questions are gonna be like, you need factual answers, we're gonna have trouble. I don't know…
D: Do you remember your first tour?
Faith: Erm, yeah I do. Cause we played what's that place…Nation of Shopkeepers. We played there.
Lois: I remember our first gig.
Faith: Yeah our first gig was at Islington Mill in Manchester.
D: Were you really nervous on your first tour, still figuring it out?
Lois: I don't know about the first tour but definitely the first show.
Faith: Yeah the first shows we were nervous, it was literally about 5 years ago it's all a hazy memory now. We've got a short-term memory loss.
D: You've played here before though?
Faith: Yeah, we played here ages ago.
Lois: With Post War Glamour Girls.
Faith: Yeah like, ages ago we played here and then we've played in Leeds a bunch of times. Our last show here was at Headrow House.
Lois: That was a fun show.
Faith: That was a headline one, and before that we did Oporto. It's a little small sweaty one.
D: How would you compare Leeds to Manchester?
Lois: I don't know, I like that there are other cities that are so close to Manchester that have really good music scenes as well. I think it's a positive thing.
Faith: Sometimes we'll go to shows in Leeds even if the band is touring in Manchester, it's only an hour. We watched Thee Oh Sees at the Brudenell.
D: How was that?
Faith: It was great yeah, they just have so many songs that there's no chance that they'll play all of your favourite ones.
D: They are doing one of their Belgrave Feast events downstairs today, did you get a chance to check it out?
Faith: No, well they brought us some pizza but we were here before and we saw them making chicken wings and all that stuff, but we're all vegetarian.
D: Is that tricky to maintain on tour?
Faith: I think vegetarian is very easy but being vegan is a bit trickier.
Lois: Yeah, it's not impossible it's just a bit more monotonous eating the same things…chips and...I try to take stuff with me so you can mix it up a bit. But after a couple of weeks it's wraps and lettuce...
Faith: We love like healthy, nice fresh stuff. Services stations get boring quickly.
D: Have you been to Tebay services?
Faith: Yeah but we fucking hate that one!
D: Really? Apparently that's got some sort legendary status around touring bands.
Lois: Now I can see why people like it but…
Faith: Seven quid for some soup?
Lois: It's a bit pricey! Fucking hell! It had a lovely concept but it's just a bit expensive and a bit...
Faith: Well it's extortionate! I think they're just ripping people off, I think they're out of order actually if anything.
D: Do you think it's all gone to their head a bit?
Faith: Yeah! I think it has yeah, they need to get a grip.
Lois: Write that down.
D: You’ve just come off a tour with The Breeders, how did that come about?
Lois: Well we saw they were touring and asked to put forward for the support.
Faith: We always say to our booking agent 'this band's on tour we'd like you to put us forward' and then sometimes they ask us. I don't know which way around it was in this case…
D: So you still do support shows as well as headlining, is that common?
Faith: I think it's common?
Lois: Yeah cause if there are like bigger bands, you play bigger venues, bigger crowds, different places.
D: So you just want to tour all the time basically?
Faith: Got to!
Lois: Yeah. We do love touring though, we're all going completely bananas now, don't know what's going on...because we've been touring a lot. But we all...well I love touring anyway.
Faith: How's anybody gonna here the music if we don't go and play it?
D: You also toured pretty early on with Sleater-Kinney, how was that?
Lois: Oh yeah we did like 3 shows with them I think?
Faith: No we did like 5, but still relatively short.
Lois: They were fun, I felt like I learnt a lot from watching them play, how they were as a band. That's one of the things that's good about supporting bigger bands, to see what you could be doing.
D: Did you learn much from The Breeders too?
Lois: Just to be a good person, cause it's the best way to be.
D: Do you get time to write on tour?
Faith: Not really, not when we're like driving around. It's more like, so we'll do the tour, we'll go home, if there's a week in between then we'll get together and do something then. Or we'll just write stuff separately and send it to each other. But for me definitely I prefer to have time to do it. I wouldn't just sit here with an acoustic guitar, I don't write music that way.
D: You have to dedicate the time to it?
Faith: Yeah, it's just more if there's a bit of free time I just get my laptop out and make a little makeshift studio and just write some stuff.
D: Do you find it easy to write?
Faith: Yeah, when it's like that yeah.
D: Have you ever had any periods of creative block or anything like that?
Faith: Sometimes, lyrically. I have a lyrical block, but I just leave it for a day and come back to it, it'll be alright.
D: What do you find are the themes you keep coming back to when you write lyrics, the stuff that keeps seeping back in without even thinking about it?
Faith: Yeah, yeah yeah...always write about women and girls, always do that. I'm trying not to though! I'm trying to be more abstract, like trying to leave the comfort zone a bit. Not be so direct. That's a comment I get all the time - your lyrics are really direct. I thought I'd try and explore something else.
D: You were up in Joshua Tree recording the last album, that must have been a good setting to come up with more abstract stuff?
Faith: Yeah but we wrote all the songs before we went!
D: Maybe you should go back over there and just write.
Faith: I would fucking love to do that! Like go somewhere where you can sit and just go and write, but that's such a luxury these days.
D: Would you count yourselves as a political band, or political as people?
Faith: I think we're probably as political as you and everyone else that's our age. Everyone's just showing an interest at the moment aren't they, because it's in your face. It's kind of like, when things are running smoothly then people don't feel the need to be political, but when everyone's like 'hang on what's going on here'...
Lois: Yeah, and you get to a point where you've had enough and you're frustrated, you start to engage with it don't you?
D: Do you feel it's important as a band to use your voice in that way?
Lois: I wouldn't say it's our main focus as a band, I think if it's something we feel passionate about then it's gonna come through in what we do anyway.
D: With everything that’s been happening over the last couple of years did you ever have any conversations about wanting to focus more on politics?
Faith: No, we didn't have a conversation...we talk about it all the time, as in...like you know, when it's time to vote we'll discuss that a lot. But not just with each other, with all of our friends. But we didn't think like 'oh let's do a song related to Jeremy Corbyn'.
D: Are you following the news with all these sexual harassment stories coming out?
Faith: Yeah we just saw Louis CK...
Lois: Yeah...bit gutted really ‘cause I quite liked [him]... I thought he was quite funny. But it's not funny anymore is it?
Faith: For me I'm just like, glad that all these people are being named and imagine if it only took one person to come forward and to get that ball rolling. Before that what, it's just gonna stay hidden forever? It's a disgrace, it's disgusting.
D: When women started sharing their stories with the ‘me too’ hashtag were you surprised at the magnitude, or was that just confirmation of what you already knew?
Lois: I don't feel surprised. I think it's good that people are talking about it but I don't feel surprised at all. Just from like... living as a woman. No, because it does happen all the time.
D: So, where else are you going on this tour?
Faith: We're going to Glasgow tomorrow.
D: Glasgow always gets mentioned as a really great place to play
Lois: Yeah it's great. Good party city for sure.
D: What is it about it?
Lois: It's reckless! The weekends are reckless.
D: What's been the heaviest night of the tour so far?
Lois: Amsterdam... London.
D: What about tonight, or are you heading back out on the road straight after?
Faith: I dunno... see where the night takes us.
Lois: We'll have to see.
D: How have the crowds been so far?
Lois: Yeah good, enthusiastic.
Faith: We're playing a lot of new songs tonight.
D: How has the reception to the new songs been?
Faith: So far so good, everyone's really been into it, it feels positive. We don't really care that much, if we want to play them we just play it.
D: Have you recorded anything?
Faith: We've only done demos.
D: Do you think it's important to play them live first?
Lois: It's something we usually do, we don't get to play everything but yeah we do usually try. It helps develop the song a bit as well, you can see how people respond to it.
D: Do you ever iterate songs while out on tour?
Lois: We might do if we played it live and were like, we think that could have been longer, everyone seemed into it. We'll go back and rework it.
Faith: Nothing major.
D: Is it harder to improvise with 5 of you on stage?
Lois: I dunno, I feel like we've learned to play together quite well now, so you notice when you're playing if someone misses a cue or someone plays something wrong, everyone always just gets back on track quite quickly.
D: What are your hopes for the new album?
Lois: Probably just to sell...200 million or something.
D: How many did the last one do, like 150?
Lois: We just wanna like, push that up a little bit this time around.
D: How has the writing been going for this one?
Faith: We've probably written about 20 albums in the gap between the last one and this one and then we just scrapped it.
Lois: You scrap it, do more, scrap it, do more...
D: Do you ever think about releasing them as demos?
D: There must be some gems in there?
Faith: I dunno, I'll have to revisit the archives.
D: It could be like Bob Dylan, all these bootleg tapes.
Lois: We did do one tape of demos which was just a giveaway
Faith: In Japan. So the Japanese have got it. On a cassette so you can't even play it.
D: Cassette is back!
Lois: Haus of PINS is a cassette label actually. It's affordable and we were like making the cases...
Faith: I don't see the problem with having a cassette as well, I've got a cassette player at home, so whether I get a CD, record or cassette...just put it on and listen to it.
D: So you don't think vinyl is some sort of pinnacle?
Lois: I like vinyl, but I think you can listen to music on all formats. I'm not a purist. But if I'm buying something I'll be buying it on record instead of the CD or something like that.
D: It feels like a good way to support music.
Lois: Yeah and there's just something nice about a big old record.
Faith: I like having a record because you've got the artwork and I like having a look at it as well, I like putting it on the shelf. But if it's to listen to, I don't really care...the only thing I don't really like is Spotify because sometimes it doesn't have an album on it, it's just like songs, so you can't get the entire album.
D: What do you think about Spotify?
Faith: Well it's great if you're at a party.
D: How about as a band?
Faith: Well you see like, zero pence from all of the download situations really anyway.
D: Is it that bad?
Faith: Yeah, well I think we get a bit of money don't we from American downloads every now and again. But it's not really enough to….
Lois: Worry about.
Faith: …to care!