This British bunch wrangles a recent, American, lo-fi bubble-under sound du jour—femme-fronted, catchy “Whoa-oh”-shot melody, surfy garage rock—and takes it as life-affirmation rather than infantilized in-joke, played with gusto rather than insecurity. On their brand new debut full-length, Girls Like Us (Bella Union), PINS add something-in-the-pints power that comes from growing up in the “Cleveland of England,” Manchester, a town with an influential music history fueled by months of rainy weather and miles of dives that makes for some inevitably angst-y emotions. And though Girls Like Us does slink and fuzz-cackle around the edges with spy movie guitar plinks and frequent garbage can beats, the songs have flat-cool harmonies and a pop ardor, so we’ll see where it all goes. But for now, they’ve released one of the best debuts of the year so far, and should get over here to tour on it later this year.
So, for a relatively new band, you’ve already had some band lineup changes. Please run them down. And is there a good forming story, like you all stumbled upon the same séance in the woods or something?
Faith Holgate (vocals/guitar): I started the band. I’d not been in a band before forming PINS but, as a teen, it was all I dreamed about. I met a lot of strangers in the hope of finding musicians to jam with, none of it worked out until I met Anna. Anna didn’t play bass at the time. Her first shot at it was when I brought one from home and said, “Play this!” Luckily, she was a natural. We then needed a guitarist and a drummer, so we made flyers and posted them around town. I think they said, “Female musicians wanted, influences, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division and Beach House,” or something like that. Lois was the next person to join the band, followed by Lara. Lara left last year and Sophie jumped in.
Anna Donigan (bass): I had only played music with other people at school usually on the cello in orchestras etc. Around the time Faith was looking for other musicians I was probably playing my piano to myself in the dark. After seeing Beach House at Manchester Cathedral and being blown away by the beautiful show, I left with an itch to get out of the dark and play with others. A week later in received a message from Faith. We met for half a pint of cider and it went from there. We recruited Lois after I kept seeing her stomping around town in her parker, Doc Martens topped with bright orange hair. I thought she was dead cool. Turned out she was. She came to audition and blasted a PJ Harvey song. She was in.
Guess I referenced a seance because I feel like some of your songs, considering they’re mostly upbeat, fun songs, still sound like incantations in a way.
Holgate: I can see what you mean but I think the word we use to describe the same thing is tribal. We recorded most of the backing vocals all stood around one mic in a stone chamber, there was tons of natural reverb, the sound makes me think of going to war or something, a death march.
Donigan: I think of our songs as pop songs but they are definitely dark and heavy. I think writing songs is a catharsis and a release of energy, so that is the result. Some of my favorite songs are a product of the British winter, Manchester skies, late nights and red wine.
Sophie Galpin (drums): I play two floor toms over everything so it sounds pretty tribal as faith said. Two drums are better than one.
You do have some dark shadows in your songs, like I could see your music taking much meaner turns on the next record. Or maybe you think you’re mean already?
Holgate: We’ve been demo-ing new songs. I don’t know whether they will make it onto the next record, but at this point I would describe the sound as being fuller with more of a psych influence. They’re kind of trippy, like I can imagine throwing a sitar in the mix and it not sounding out of place.
Galpin: The newer songs definitely feel a bit more coherent, but we are just trying to find our sound and see what comes out when we write. We aren’t aiming for something specific, just experimenting. Also, we are very mean.
Tell me about the recording of the album. What was the neighborhood like that you recorded in, and do you think it influenced the record at all? Like was there a good pub around the corner?
Holgate: We recorded with Chris Taylor at Parr Street in Liverpool. We produced the album ourselves and we had one week to record and mix the whole thing. We chose the studio because of its array of analogue gear. We think digital is rubbish. The studio is in the centre of Liverpool, we didn’t have much of an opportunity to see the sights as our recording days were so long, but we used a bunch of Beatles recording techniques so, you know, maybe the place did rub off on us. We left the studio early on one night to go see two of our favourite bands, Base Ventura and Hookworms, at Camp and Furnace.
Donigan: The best thing for me about recording the album at Parr Street Studios compared to other studio/recording experiences we had was playing the music live in a big room facing each other. We wanted to capture the energy of our live performance and we play better when we are making noise together and can see one another!
So Manchester is known as a town with a fairly rich musical scene the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, New Order, the Smiths, the Fall, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and on and on. Did you realize what a musically influential town you lived in growing up, or did you happen upon all those bands later?
Holgate: We’re too young to have experienced Factory Records or The Hacienda, it’s cool to hear all the stories though. I think if we had been there at the time we would have been bang into the acid house scene, PINS could have been a lot different.
Galpin: I do wish it was still like 24 Hour Party People. Alas.