PINS Interview: Drunken ideas, emojis and Iggy Pop

We spoke to lead singer and guitarist of Manchester quintet PINS, discussing the new EP, their collaboration with Iggy Pop and supporting women in the arts.

Lorna Gray

Last updated: 1st May 2018.
Originally published: 15th Feb 2017

Image: PINS by Bex Wade

Having been the 'token girl' in bands for years and hating it, lead singer of Manchester quintet PINS Faith Holgate decided to create an all female band as a way to stick a middle finger up to a male-dominated industry. Their gritty take on indie pop certainly does that. Since their inception they've played at numerous festivals and toured with Riot Grrl heroines Sleater Kinney

The band have just released their collaboration with legendary rock icon Iggy Pop - a single called 'Aggrophobe' which features his rich and almost sultry tones narrating over an equally as sexy melody. Krautrock style drums are heard throughout, with a chant-like chorus from the girl band breaking up Pop's intense and hypnotic drone. 

We looked back on our chat with PINS' lead singer, Faith, ahead of their set at Sounds From The Other City, which takes over various venues on Salford's Chapel Street on Sunday 6th May. Scroll down for tickets, and be sure to check out the full SFTOC line up.

First thing's first, tell us a bit about PINS, introduce the band.

Yeah! We're a five piece band from Manchester, we've been playing for about five years and we play rock and roll music. 

Tell us a bit about your label Haus of PINS?

That's pretty much something we started as soon as we started the band because we wanted to release our own first single, which was called 'Eleventh Hour'. We hadn't really got into it with any labels at that point, different people we're asking us if they could put it out for us, but we didn't want to be tied down to something so early because we'd literally played about three gigs.

So we decided - in true PINS fashion - just to make our own label and the first thing we released was our own music. After that, we spoke to the bands we met while we were out touring and if any of them wanted to put something out we would take it and create the artwork and everything. 

Why did you create your own label? Is it important to you to be able to put your own music out? 

Yeah! I think it's good because there needs to be a stepping stone between being a band that's completely alone and being a band that's on a label. You need that in between, where you're not tidied down to being in a contract but you can still release some music - it was just enjoyable to work with other bands. We've kind of gone full circle because we released the record we just did on Haus of PINS, so we've gone from Haus of PINS, to being on a label, back to Haus of PINS again. 

Is there a particular reason you went from releasing music on a label to going back to putting it out yourself? 

I think it was just about... because we were in between everything and not sure what the next step should be, we just thought, "well, let's do what we usually do and take back the control and do it out own way", because then we know everything that's happening with the release and there's no extra people involved - to an extent anyway.

Obviously we're fortunate enough to have radio people now, and press people, but with the actual record that was just completely down to us. The artwork, what songs went on it, when it was released, what video would go with it. So we just wanted to hold the reigns again for a little while. 

Your latest release is coming out in the format of an EP as opposed to an album - why is that?

It's an accidental EP! We always love an EP and it's always nice to have an interring between what we previously did. We did Wild Nights, we've got Trouble, and then we've got this one. So it's just nice to have something in between albums, to see what sort of direction we're headed in - just for ourselves I guess, but yeah we went to Scotland with no intention of recording an EP, we just thought, "let's go".

We had all these songs, and we wanted to figure out which ones we liked, which ones we didn't like, we which ones we can work on. By the end of it we'd recorded a full set and we were just like, "this sounds great, let's put it out". So it was just sort of an accident. 

In comparison to Wild Nights, you're most recent releases seem a bit darker and grittier, was that an intentional development or a natural progression? 

I think 'Trouble' definitely went that way. That song was written as a, well, it wasn't even for PINS - it was me and Lois, our guitarist, just thought "let's make some songs" and that was the first one that we did and it was ... and we just thought it would sound really good with the other girls singing on it and it being a PINS song. So that's how that one came about. Then I guess, 'Aggrophobe' was written probably at around the same time, the music was probably written about the same time as Trouble, so the same style makes sense.

The lyrics, my husband wrote the lyrics to that a little bit later, he did that last summer. I think it's because they're from the same batch of writing, so maybe they have taken more of that direction. Also they've both got a bit more editing and chopping - in post-production. They're a bit more perfected, but when I say perfected I just mean perfect bars of music as in there's no mistake in it, there's a lot of cutting and pasting and we even got a drum machine, which is something new. 

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Is post-production editing and polishing a relatively new concept for the band then? 

Yeah, with Wild Nights is a bit more raw, it's us all playing together, and if we make a mistake it just stays in there. 

With your music taking this darker progression, your accompanying videos seemed to have as well with two of them being shot in black and white - was this intentional to suit the tone of the music?

Only some of the videos are in black and white, we like to mix it up! There's no strict recipe for that. The video we've just done for 'Aggrophobe', we were working with our friends Olivier and Sarah, who we've done videos with before. There's five songs of the EP and there's a video for each one, and they're all linked together to make a visual EP. So there's a full visual side to the EP. 'Agrrophobe' is the only one that's been shown to far, but the rest are on their way.

The videos are very aesthetically pleasing and I've noticed you all dress quite similar on stage, is your image in general and how you represent yourself as a band something that's important to you? 

I think we've just morphed into one. Just one human, because even the other day, we met up to rehearse and then we were going to meet a girl afterwards to do an interview. We were just wearing our normal everyday clothes. She'd said she wanted to take a few pictures but we didn't get dressed up or anything. Still, we all still managed to wear black, with a pastel colour, we were like, "how has that even happened?!" when there was no plan.

It just feels like we do that at the shows now. Everyone generally wears something shiny, or black. 

I guess when you spend so much time together you're bound to pick up each other's habits and fashion choices.

Yeah definitely. Also I think it is important to have 'an image'. I don't think that a stage show would be - or at least our stage show - would be the same if we were wearing jogging bottoms or something. It's nice to get dressed up, it's past of the ritual before. You know, we do our make up, do our hair, get ready. Then we feel ready for the show. 

Where there any particular influences on the new Bad Things EP?

I think the whole thing just took more of an electronic influence. That was our first introduction to having drum pads and I think they're used on every song. So Sophie has drum pads and samples now, which she didn't have before. I think that was the main thing that's made it sound a little bit different to what we were doing before. I can't think of a band I could say it was specifically influenced by, just generally more electronic sounds.

There's a Joy Division song on there. I wouldn't say that it necessarily stayed true to the Dead Souls song, but maybe there's a bit of a New Order influence. I don't know if you knew, but I think it's on the Unknown Pleasures Joy Division album, they made like spray sounds. I don't know whether they actually used a can of aerosol into the microphone for that, so it's like "chh chh", so we recorded or own version and made a sample of that, we put that all over the record too. 

Was there a particular influence for the EP artwork? It's very striking and bold, is that what you were aiming for?

Well, we always aim for timeless - but we don't always get it right - that's always the aim. Just something bright and colourful because everything's always been so dark before. We just wanted to do something a little bit more cheeky with this. Something that says, "Yep! We're here, we're doing this now, deal with it." I guess we wanted to be a bit sassy with it! 

It's sort of reminiscent of the "okay" emoji. Which - I don't know about you - but I only ever use in a sassy way. 

Yeah definitely! Maybe it came from that because we have the longest Facebook thread ever since the beginning of the band till now - it's still going and it's just constant gifs and emojis. 

Tell us a bit about the creative and writing progress behind your new single 'Aggrophobe'

So 'Aggrophobe' is the song I wrote the music for ages ago, like, a year or two ago. I just had it on my computer as a little demo. I tried to put various melodies and lyrics over it and nothing was working. I went to Berlin last summer for two months, and I just said one day to my husband, I was like, "do you want to have a go at putting some words over this song that I've done."

There was no real intention of it ever being for PINS, it was literally just for fun. Then I went out for the day and when I came back he's done all that, it sounded really cool and I couldn't wait to show it to the other girls and they loved it too. Then we wanted to find someone with a cool voice to narrate the poem - that's when the Iggy Pop idea came along, we were just like, "it would be really cool if Iggy Pop did it", obviously not thinking that it would be a viable option but it turns out that it was!

You're going to have to tell us how the Iggy Pop collaboration happened!

Well we were in Scotland, and we'd had a few drinks to be honest, and that's where the idea came from. We just thought, "Iggy Pop would be the best voice ever to be on this!" and we looked at ways we could possibly get in touch with him because why not?! We went through the radio and looked for email addresses and things.

Eventually our manager spoke to our booking agent in America, who knew his manager, and we wrote a letter and got it sent to him. The manager said, "I'll put it front of Iggy, but there's nothing more I can do", so it was going to be that he'd either look at it or he won't, it was up to him. I guess he just looked at it, liked what we had done, heard the song and just said yeah!

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There's a certain romanticism to that, it's very old fashioned to write a letter in the hope it will be read.

Yeah! It just proves that are still some people left in music who are open to that. They don't put themselves above anybody else, they'll just do something for the love of music because they think it'll sound good. A lot of people have egos about these things but if Iggy Pop is going to say yes to doing a project like this, then everyone can take something from that. Everyone just needs to relax a little bit and stop being so out of reach and putting themselves on a pedestal, and be more human about it. 

Was he the first and only choice for this collaboration?

He was the first choice! We thought about asking him, and if he was to say no - which we were fully expecting to be honest - we would reach out to other people, but he was the first choice and he said yes so we didn't have to look for anybody else! 

So you're headed out on tour very soon!

Yes!

What are you looking forward to? 

Literally just playing the shows! Playing live, playing new songs, saying hello to everybody. A lot of the same faces come to the shows so it's nice to see them. I like the whole thing! I like the whole structure of the day, it's a bit different from a normal day at home. There's no time other than stage times, everything else is just free and easy - there's a lot of sitting in the van. 

Is there any location you're really looking forward to playing? 

We haven't had the opportunity to play in Paris very often so that's the one I'm probably looking forward to the most from this tour, also Berlin. We've played there a few times, like I said I spent the summer there last summer, so it'll be nice to go back and see friends that we made. In the UK I should say that the Manchester show is the best but it's not because it's the most stressful one! It's the one with the busiest guest list, everyone wants to come in for free! 

What makes a show enjoyable for you as a band? 

If there's good sound, so we don't have to worry about it. Good lights. If the stage is big enough because there is five of us, it's good to have a stage that can fit us all on properly. If the audience comes to the front, that makes me happy - and if there's lots of girls in the audience, that makes me happy!

Last time I saw you perform you quoted Kathleen Hanna in asking that the girls move to the front, are Bikini Kill a particular influence on you?

I love Bikini Kill, but I must have picked that up subconsciously! I've liked Bikini Kill since I was about fourteen, and I must have that and it's just gone into my brain and came out of my mouth. I didn't plan it, I didn't know I'd taken it from Kathleen Hanna.

Is it important to you to see girls are at your shows?

It's just really nice if they're there, and it's reassuring to us. We like to see anyone at our shows but it;s not so much fun if it's just one gender. It's nice to have other women there and to speak to other women after the shows to find out what they're doing. Everybody that comes to our shows, they're all doing something really interesting and I just love to hear about it - especially if it's women in arts or music. 

Do you feel as if women in arts and music need to support one another?

Yeah I think we're always the underdog! 

Speaking of supporting women, you supported Riot Grrl heroes Sleater Kinney in 2015, how was that?

It was great, yeah! We didn't have Anna with us - who plays bass - because she broke her leg. So she had to miss like first four months of any shows that we did that year. So it wasn't as good because we didn't have everybody, it wasn't the full unit. Obviously it was still really cool to watch them play every night, and to meet them and to play such big shows.

Would you say Sleater Kinney have influenced PINS sound at all?

I didn't listen to them that much but I enjoy them a lot now since doing the tour.

You already mentioned your Salford gig is going to be the most stressful, but is playing in your hometown a nice way to bookend the tour?

It's still lovely to play back at home, and being able to go home to our own beds after the show is a plus.

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Sounds From the Other City 2019

Islington Mill, Salford

Sunday 5th May

2:00pm til 5:00am

Minimum Age: 18

For ticket prices, please click here (Additional fees may apply)

SFTOC is Salford's annual celebration of new music, performance and art, taking place on the May Day...