Pins: More than just a girl band

FAITH HOLGATE doesn’t understand the fuss. “Everyone is going on to us about being a ‘girl band’,” shrugs Holgate, lead singer with buzzy Manchester guitar act Pins. “We didn’t realise people would make such a big deal of it.

Is it a big deal, really? The response is certainly strange. Phrases like ‘girl band’ are thrown around extremely easily, as if it’s a trend or something. It certainly isn’t a big factor for us. We do not see ourselves in those terms.”

She was less surprised at some of the comparisons that have come the way of Pins, who formed just two years ago. Every time she reads an article about Pins she sees another name added to their alleged list of influences. New wave, 1980s indie, ’60s girl groups — Pins have been compared to them all. Holgate smiles, amused at the myriad of artists to whom the quartet are routinely likened.

“We hear that it’s Phil Spector-esque,” she says. “Then people say we remind them of something from the ’80s. And we are compared to artists from the ’90s such as Elastica. You hear all sorts. I suppose that’s natural. We listen to music from across all those decades — it makes sense that elements of those sounds would make it into what we do.”

Holgate has a background in fashion and initially found it difficult to get the project off the ground. She’d meet various potential collaborators only to discover the chemistry wasn’t right. As false start followed false start, she began to despair. Would things ever come together?

“I joined this band and that band — nothing really worked. It was a case of, ‘Thanks and see you around’. We’d go and do two or three practices. I wasn’t feeling it. With the rest of Pins, I knew straight away something special was happening. We knew we had chemistry.”

Once Pins were up and running success was almost immediate. In the UK, journalists, bloggers and fellow musicians have raved about them and they were soon wooed by the storied UK independent label Bella Union. Being flavour of the month was an odd experience, Folgate reports.

“You have all these individuals orbiting and yet you’re not sure who is serious and who isn’t. Some of the time they simply want to be able to say they were interested before anyone else. You encounter a lot of that throughout the industry. We had people wanting to be our tour manager or booking agent in the beginning. We never could tell whether they meant it or not. It’s a while before the dust settles and you find out who is serious and who isn’t.”

Bella Union was different. Simon Ramonde, formerly of ethereal icons the Cocteau Twins, founded the label and has a natural empathy with artists. The first morning Pins sat down with him for a meeting everything clicked.

“From the get-go you could tell he was a nice guy and very genuine. It was a good option for us. He is a very down to earth sort, not at all someone on a pedestal.”

Self-produced, Pins’ debut album Girls Like Us was released in September. With none of the 13 songs overstepping the three minute mark, the record is frenetic and infused with emotion. Throughout, Pins’ debt to Manchester touchstones such as Joy Division is obvious. Nonetheless, a fierce individuality burns brightly too — it is one of those rare first outings that blows the listener away through sheer, unrelenting strength of will.

Holgate has issues with people filming their gigs. Not because the singer is zealous about preserving her songbook’s ‘sanctity’. She worries it leads to an unsatisfactory live experience.

“It causes a barrier between performer and audience if there is a line of people trying to film. I don’t really like that.”

She is more relaxed about the availability of Pins’ recordings on Spotify, the streaming site accused of devaluing music by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and others.

“It’s a good way of letting people hear your stuff. I’d rather it be out there than forcing people to pay. If you want the record, great, because you get a physical object and maybe better sound quality. Ultimately, I’d prefer if audiences had a chance to experience what we do. I think we benefit from that.”

At the moment Pins remains a part-time activity for all four members. Holgate works in design. Should the group’s profile continue to soar, she is aware Pins may soon require her full time attention. “Doing it full time would be a best case scenario. I would love for that to happen. Of course, you have to be realistic — we have to make sure we make our rent money as well.”

* Girls Like Us is out now. Pins play Pavilion, Cork, next Wednesday; Bourkes, Limerick, Dec 5; Workman’s Club, Dublin, Dec 6; Róisín Dubh Galway, Dec 7


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