There is a tangible sense of expectancy in the air. The Line Of Best Fit is at Manchester’s Deaf Institute and the first of two support bands are about to play only their sixth gig ever. There is already a sizeable early evening crowd as PINS take to the stage and within a couple of minutes it is clear why the locals are getting excited.
Some bands have ‘it’ – the tunes, the attitude and bags of stage presence. PINS show enough over their eight-song set to suggest that they have ‘it’ in abundance. The all-female four-piece make noisy, textured pop, mixing their stated influences of Hole, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Beach House into a thrilling brew. On tonight’s showing they are still understandably raw, but it is a stunning performance for gig number six.
A few days later, we meet up with singer/guitarist Faith Holgate and bassist Anna Donigan (drummer Lara Williams and guitarist Lois McDonald complete the line-up) in a first-floor room above a pub in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It is their first ever interview as PINS, but Faith and Anna are soon into their stride, regaling us with stories about the band’s creation and expressing their extreme disappointment at the lack of a Smash Hits-style set of quick-fire questions. Part way through our interview, two fire engines pull up outside the pub and several firefighters enter the building. Neither Faith nor Anna flinches from answering the question in hand. These PINS are nails.
How did PINS come about?
Faith: I was looking for band members for probably about a year, when I realised I wanted girls to be in the band because I didn’t want to be the token girl in any boy’s band. Every time I jammed with some boys, it seemed they just wanted a girl in the band – which I did not want to be. So, that’s why I came round to the thinking of PINS being all girls and it took a really long time. I found Anna through a friend, and then we found the other two but even that took months.
Anna: We’ve only been a full band – the four of us – since last summer.
What was your initial vision for how you wanted the band to sound?
F: I knew what I didn’t want it to be. I didn’t want it to be power chord music like a punk-type band. I wanted it to be something special and for each song to be very different and for each song to mean something. I knew how I wanted my guitar to sound, but I didn’t know how that would work with the others’ instruments. I like it fairly noisy and I love My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain and I was taking influence from those kinds of bands and whatever Anna put with it seemed to work. In fact, the bass and drums are the primary things in most of the songs and then the guitars just layer over the top.
Even though the songs are noisy, there does seem to be a pop ‘sensibility’ within each of them.
F: That’s definitely something we talked about. We don’t want to be a polished pop band, or be a twee indie-pop band – which sometimes a lot of girl bands can get pushed into – but we did want to have the core of the songs to be pop songs. We didn’t want to be too experimental.
As this is the first ever interview, I get to do the ‘name’ question. So, why are you called PINS?
A: Shall we do the true story?
You could do the true one now and then lie to every other journalist?
A: Well, we’d message each other with names all the time and nothing stuck. Then, our ex-drummer’s brother said ‘Pins And Needles’ and we shortened it to PINS. Then she left and we kept the name anyway.
F: We do need a more interesting story. People always think it is about ‘pins’ as in legs or named after the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s song ‘Pin’.
When you were in your early teens, what was the first album that you fell in love with?
F: Mine would be Hole’s Live Through This. I wasn’t there for the Hole scene, but I remember buying it when I was at high school and just getting into music. That was the album that made me want to play the guitar. It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s true. I just loved the rawness and it being a woman. For me, as a front woman, Courtney Love is really empowering.
A: Before sixth-form I was in string quartets and orchestras and wasn’t really into popular music. I was confused – I was listening to Mozart and Debussy and finding something in that, but when I was 16 I bought Arcade Fire’s first album and I loved the instrumentation.
And, in terms of current favourites, which bands do all of PINS agree on?
F: We like a lot of the same current bands like Crystal Stilts, Frankie Rose and Beach House.
A: Beach House was the band that made me want to be in a band. I saw them live and I just knew I needed to do music. A week later I got an email from Faith.
Why were you so adamant that PINS had to be an all-girl band?
F: I feel that we are very close and we can be brutally honest with each other in a sisterly way. We spend a lot of time together and we have a bond which maybe a boy could fit into, but it never felt appropriate for that to happen. We can relate to each other because you get a lot of shit for being in a girl band.
It does seem that female bands can be pigeonholed a lot more quickly than bands containing blokes. Even at this stage of your existence, how much thought do you give to the image you are projecting?
F: Well, we already know we will be [pigeonholed]. We will be compared to Dum Dum Girls or Vivian Girls and it is fine as we love those bands anyway. We do want to cultivate an image on stage. We think you can dress up and wear your best clothes. Also, we use our own projections because we really enjoy the whole experience of going to a show. If anything, we want to take the visuals further and do more with them. But, we do think the stereotyping is a bit pathetic. If you go and watch a boy band, you don’t stand there and think ‘they look like Kings Of Leon’.
Your debut single is out soon as a double A-side – why did you choose those particular tracks?
F: We thought ‘Shoot You’ would be the single initially – which is the poppier song – and the other song, ‘11th Hour’, would be the b-side but it is the latter which is the one we are focusing on and the one we want people to hear. It is more about what PINS is. It has that noise but it is textured. We are releasing it as a gold cassette. It will be a very short run, just to see how it is received by people. We recorded it half in our practice room and half in Anna’s cupboard in her flat.
Do you have a huge C.S. Lewis-style cupboard or was it recorded one person at a time?
A: One at a time. But it is not a standard IKEA wardrobe – it is almost a walk-in wardrobe.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: Only that we were hoping for a Smash Hits-style set of quick-fire questions.
Well, we could do one. Shall we, just to commemorate the momentous occasion of your first ever interview? Here goes. So, what’s your favourite food?
F: Anna is the best cook I have ever met in my life. We are all vegetarians in the band and she makes awesome one-pot dishes.
A: It’s less washing-up.
F: So, I’m gonna go with Anna’s chili.
What’s your favourite TV show?
A: I’ve always loved Top Gear. [Faith gasps in disbelief] I have. You can watch it any time.
So, Faith, who is your favourite Friends character?
F: It’s between Ross and Chandler, but I am going to say Ross.
And your favourite Top Gear presenter, Anna?
A: [Long pause] Richard Hammond, okay. I’ve said it. [Cue much laughter] He’s quite cute and quite small.
Which is the best holiday destination you’ve been to?
F: We both went to New York together, so I’ll say New York. [Looks at Anna] Shut up – you are going to say Thailand aren’t you?
A: No. West coast Australia – out in the sticks – as there is nothing there.
This is a proper Smash Hits question – who was your first pin-up ‘heart-throb’?
F: Was yours a woman?
A: Nah, I was too young. [Pause] Actually, it was Kate Winslet. All my friends liked Peter Andre.
Faith, who is your favourite singer?
F: Buddy Holly. It’s not a Smash Hits answer but we covered one of his songs at our first gig.
And Anna, who’s you favourite bass player?
The single ‘11th Hour’ / ‘Shoot You’ is out now via House Of PINS.