British Rockers Pins Went to Joshua Tree and Came Back With a Great Album
After the release of their first record Girls Like Us in 2013, and playing opening slots for Sleigh Bells and Warpaint, U.K. "gloom pop" band Pins, who also recently toured with Sleater-Kinney, did not succumb to the mounting pressure bands often feel when it comes to make their sophomore album. “We kept getting warned about how much pressure we might feel and so as soon as we finished the first one, we started writing the next one,” says Pins guitarist Lois Maconald of her group's second full-length, Wild Nights. “When it came time to record, we were ready.”
Pins hail from Manchester, England, known for a music scene that spawned Oasis and The Stone Roses among many others. But Maconald says while she appreciates the city's musical history, she's more interested in Pins making their own musical mark.
"Manchester's a creative place and there's a lot of music in Manchester and that can be really exciting,” says Maconald. “There is support and competition, but I don't think you want to carry on the Manchester scene. You sort of want to start your own scene, don't ya?"
Fronted by singer/songwriter Faith Vern, Pins first formed in 2010 as a way for a group of women to socialize while making music together. “The idea of, ‘Oh my god, we can be like a little gang' ... a group of friends with a shared interest is more how it was,” says Maconald. “We were going to hang out, have some beers, make some noise and see what happens.” But making music without an agenda beyond pleasing their own selves became the unintended formula for becoming signed to a record deal on Bella Union just two years later.
Initially, Macdonald says, Pins played their first shows without having anticipated that their femaleness would be as important to reviewers as their music. “I think when we started we were a little naive. It was quite tough at the beginning," she says. "We got sexist reviews. I remember being really upset by a couple of them because it’s not what you expect to happen. You think, ‘I’m in a band. We’re all people,' and then we play a show and people wrote things like rating us in order of how attractive we are. It made me think, ‘This is godawful. Why did I put myself up there to read this?’”
Ultimately, however, Macdonald says it strengthened Pins' commitment to their music. “You have to keep going because that is not OK. If anything, it just made us more aware and we’ve gotten more confident onstage." she says.
Citing the ‘90s American riot grrrl scene and The Distillers as influential, Macdonald says, "Feminism is equality. It's not that everything has got to be women all of the time. In music, women are underrepresented and sometimes that means you have to have a bit of a push to represent them more or over-represent them so it can even out in the end. When Faith started the band and wanted all women, it wasn't just to be feminist. It was just about having power in numbers and not feeling like you're doing it on your own. It was not, 'Feminism, here we come.'"
After recording their first album in Liverpool, which involved a commute to and from Manchester every day, PINS chose to make their second album in California, where they co-produced Wild Nights with Dave Catching at Rancho de la Luna, a recording studio in Joshua Tree that has hosted such artists as Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys. "Their music is timeless, well-crafted and beautiful," says Catching. "We had a fantastic time together. We didn't have much time to make the record and only a week to record and mix it, and they did a phenomenal job."
“We left Manchester where everything is gray and dark, and woke up in the morning and it was blue sky and yellow sun and that was it," says Macdonald. It was like, ‘Holy shit, this is beautiful.’ It was one of the best memories of my entire life. In the morning, we would get up and do drives looking around at different places and take it in and then go back into the studio."
On Wild Nights' second single, "Young Girls," a repeated refrain asks a question: “What will we do/What will we do/What will we do when our dreams come true?” Macdonald isn't quite sure how to answer that lyric. “I don't know what our dreams would be for the future, other than to tour everywhere in the world and to be playing to more and more people ... to do it all the time all over the place."
Pins play the Echo on Monday, June 15.
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