Expectation, excitement and the pressure that can emerge from a debut album don’t appear to faze PINS. This band’s stance is one of dogged desire to keep what matters in focus and damn all trivialities to the birds.
“The album has turned out exactly the way we wanted it to,” affirms front-woman Faith Holgate, from the ambient confines of Parr Street Studios, where the Manchester group cut their debut LP earlier this year. “When you’re a fan of music you listen to it and enjoy it, or you don’t.”
What of the dreaded marking schemes that are splashed over magazines and in Wikipedia meta-critic averages? Faith again states ingenuously, “I haven’t even thought about marks out of 10 or stars marking our album; that means nothing.” Pins have already accepted that Girls Like Us, their debut album, is the sound of the group right now and have been able to capture their sound the exact way they intended. The album – recorded in a week – was an exercise in hard work, coping with a deadline and proving that keen eyes for thorough preparation epitomise what Pins are all about.
Even their band name takes on more meaning when you speak to the band one on one. I ask Faith where things began for Pins? She replies “An imaginary band in my head”. Faith’s fantasy had to have a reality. This band had to happen. The second person to join was bass player Anna Donigan, but although Anna had played other instruments, at the time she joined the bass wasn’t one of them. However, she took it and claimed it as her own and the sheer collective knowingness of what this group wanted led them quickly down the path they’ve been on. Learning different instruments in quick time never fazed them. Fantasy merged into intention and, more importantly, action.
The embryonic band took huge strides from mere potential to a strong kinetic presence, and their energy is direct. The LP is bare in places, full on garage in others, but always stark. There’s no excess. This is a record trimmed down and forthright. Lois McDonald (Guitar) explains that the band’s exploratory prep left the album “fully formed before we went in [the studio] but it still went down to the wire”. Sophie Galpin, who only this year replaced Lara Williams on drums, carries on the same vibe, “I learnt the drums to be in Pins. It is the band I’ve always been searching for.” The multi-instrumentalist picked them up in a matter of weeks. Lois and Anna chime, “we’ve definitely all grown as musicians” and Faith pips in “the drummer didn’t drum, the bass player didn’t play bass, the singer didn’t sing, but we just figured out what we wanted.”
The more they get into it the more they are now married to their roles. There is a level of afficiando-geek in the way they talk about their instruments. A definite love affair has blossomed and bloomed quickly. Lois, who confesses that she only really knew how to play chords before embarking on the Pins voyage, is doing a bloody good impersonation of someone who can’t half play, particularly on the songs Girls like Us and Waiting for the End – the guitarist has the chops. This guitar in tight tandem with the Pins rhythm section gives Faith a bold concrete platform to stand on. Lois states, “We’re now confident and comfortable with what we’re doing.”
There does appear to be a single mindedness behind these four individuals. I don’t see anyone running away on a private tangent and this is a band in the truest sense rather than a disparate group of individuals who got together based on convenience or casual serendipity. From when they formed up until recruiting their latest drummer, everything has a purpose in Pins. This is mirrored in the sound of their debut, a record of very little bluster or with little ornament to be rid of. Since their early days and appropriate with their early gig venues of disused office blocks and concrete reverberations, there is a theme of claustrophobia that pulses through their debut album. Pins, whilst fitting into the Mancunian tradition of ‘indie’, are not necessarily a snug fit. Their sound visits Patti and Fred Sonic Smith, a nod to the heritage of American Garage as well as the more recent Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts. Bringing something new to the foreground, dare I say it their sound has much more drama than most of their contemporaries, something unique, which is ultimately them. Something we all can’t escape from, as Faith states “We very rarely get compared to stuff we actually listen to”.
She goes on to reveal that she is currently enamoured with John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees. Still in their infancy in comparison with Dwyer’s career, Pins share a focus with him on hard work. It is this commonality that could befit a real career. Although signed to Bella Union they still operate their own label, Haus of Pins. With this platform they are already spreading their own gospel according to themselves, releasing other artists’ work and the first issue of their ‘Zine’. Not satisfied with standing still they appear to be thinking big without getting bogged down in the choices and potential paths that can (and cannot) be taken. Good luck to them on their way, but they won’t need it. Pins have it all mapped out.