PINS HAVE been called a ‘Manchester band’ - which to some is not a geographical description, but a musical signifier - or as ‘Manc post punk’, which situates them in a particular time and musical pigeon hole, but there is far more to the exciting quartet than these labels can convey.
PINS’ - Faith Holgate (vocals/guitar ), Anna Donigan (bass/vocals ), Sophie Galpin (drums ), and Lois MacDonald (guitar ) - debut album Girls Like Us reveals a quartet with a defined sound but one that draws on many sources.
“People say we’ve got sixties influences, others say seventies influences, others nineties, others noughties,” laughs Faith, during our Tuesday afternoon interview. “Maybe that means we’ve got influences from all those decades. The Fall inspires us, but so do The Black Lips and Dum Dum Girls.”
But PINS are more than the sum of their influences. Each member has a very striking, individual image, giving the impression of a team of four strong willed people?
“We spend enough time arguing which proves we’re strong minded,” says Faith, “but as a group we’re well able to make decisions which shows we are a team.”
Girls like us
With the exception of Sofie from southern England, PINS hail from the Manchester city and Greater Manchester area. Despite this, and the city’s strong regional identity and rich musical history going back to the 1960s, Faith has little time for the aforementioned ‘Manchester band’ or ‘Manc post punk’ tags.
“I never really know how to answer questions about being a Manchester band as I’ve never lived anywhere else other than Manchester,” she says. “Our music has a cold and dark sound and it’s cold and dark up here so maybe that has something to do with it. There is a musical heritage, we love Joy Division, but there are Manchester acts who don’t influence us like Happy Mondays and Oasis. With the internet you can access music from other parts of the world and that’ll worm its way into your songwriting.”
Faith had been keen to form a band for some time but getting the right people proved a challenge - until she met bassist Anna Donigan in late 2010. “Anna was the first person I met I wanted to be in a band with. Before, there wasn’t anyone,” says Faith. It took another year for a complete PINS line-up to be put together with Lois MacDonald and original drummer Lara Williams.
“I wanted all the band members to be female and that was difficult to find female musicians in Manchester,” says Faith. “I also wanted people we could be friends with, people we could have fun on tour with, it wasn’t important that they could play their instruments. The demands were more social than musical.”
PINS’ debut album Girls Like Us was released in late September on Bella Union and was warmly received by music critics, achieving eight out of 10 scores in Uncut, Drowned In Sound, and Art Rocker. Effortlessly balancing post-punk rawness, harmonic sixties pop, garage rock, and contemporary indie, few of its 14 songs passed the three-minute mark, but the occasional soaring guitar line and grandstanding drum beat (eg, ‘I Want It All’ ) give many of Girls Like Us’s short, sharp songs, a grand, epic feel.
Despite possessing a sound that finely balances the bands many influences into a cohesive whole, Faith believes PINS sound is still a “work in progress”.
“We’ve been writing stuff since we recorded the album, that, in my opinion, are quite different,” she says. “When you go see a band and see what they’re doing, you might want to try that yourself. That would influence you, or else you explore your instrument, or choose a different way to sing. We sometimes make terrible demos singing into our phones so we don’t forget them. Other times we swop instruments - I might play the drums for a bit, just to have a different approach.
“We’ve also tried different types of tuning. We’ve tried that on some of the new songs and one of those might be our next single. They’re just small things, but by trying different methods you challenge yourself not to get too comfortable.”
If PINS eschew a comfort zone for themselves, they also eschew one for the audience, right from the get-go of Girls Like Us opening track ‘It’s On’.
“We wanted to kick off the album by letting listeners know we are ready for a fight if they want to take us on,” Faith said at the time of the album’s release. Reminded of it again, she laughs.
“It’s mostly in jest,” she says, “but we can get more aggressive than we should, because we have to spend so much time defending ourselves - mainly about being a girl band. At the beginning it was maybe the only thing people could talk about - ‘Manc post-punk all-girl band’ - it’s quite a negative thing.”
Faith raises a valid point. The National, Deerhunter, Grizzly Bear, etc, are never referred to as an “all-male band”. Their gender is not noticed, but mention of PINS, Savages, or Dum Dum Girls, are nearly always preceded by the ‘All-female band’ tag, as if their gender is the most essential point about them.
Faith acknowledges there is still a “massive imbalance between male bands and female bands” and perhaps all-female line-ups are remarked upon more for being rarer. Yet it is hard not to think that sexist assumptions about women in rock and women who play loud guitars, are at the back of at least part of these reactions.
“We felt we had to prove ourselves because of it,” says Faith. “A lot of the comment on Facebook and Twitter about it can have an underlying sexism, I mean we don’t judge all-male bands for their appearance. For the most part we try and ignore it. It’s sad that is what people focus on, but there seems to be nothing we can do about it.”
Girls Like Us was recorded and self-produced in Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios, which the band selected for its vast selection of analogue gear. What was the preference for such equipment in the digital age?
“We tried a bit of both before going into the studio, but we found that recording on to tape, the tape can be manipulated in a better way than if you did it digitally, where it sounds fake,” explains Faith. “The Black Lips recorded their stuff onto tape, and you can hear the tapes being turned on and the hiss, and I like that ambience, so I though, ‘If they did it, I want to do it.’ We tried to recreate that on digital equipment but it didn’t sound as good. There is something nicer about it as well. The equipment is old and you feel you are in a proper recording studio, not just face to face with a computer.”
Would this also explain why PINS released their first single Eleventh Hour/Shoot You on cassette on their own Haus Of PINS label? “No, it was that we wanted something physical, but we couldn’t afford to do it on vinyl,” admits Faith, “but we like things that are tangible, and I like the cassette sound and its compression.”
That cassette single, along with the group’s powerful live performances, brought them to the attention leading independent label Bella Union (also home to Fleet Foxes, Explosions In the Sky, Beach House, and M Ward ). “It has led us to where we are now,” says Faith.
Haus Of PINS, which the band describe as an “independent label of love” was initially only created to get that first single out, but it has since acquired a roster of artists.
“We’ve put out music by September Girls, Abjects, and King DJ,” says Faith. “We’ve also just done a Christmas compilation featuring 12 bands, it’s all original songs, including a PINS song, and it will be for the charity Swop, who work with refugees.”
With media attention, a busy touring schedule, and the blogosphere alive with talk about them, PINS have their foot firmly in the door, with the possibility of greater things on the horizon, but with Haus Of PINS they remain determined to help develop other artists in tandem with developing their own career.
“If we can help anyone and give them a platform that’s a really positive thing,” says Faith. “We used our label to get signed and if we do that for others it would be great.”
PINS play the Róisín Dubh on Saturday December 7 at 8pm. Tickets are available at www.roisindubh.net, the Ticket Desk at OMG, Shop Street (formerly Zhivago ), and The Róisín Dubh.