Name: PINS are Faith Vern, Lois MacDonald, and Kyoko Swan.
Current Release: Hot Slick on Haus of Pins
Recommendations: Faith - Pony by Orville Peck / Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
By Perfume Genius Lois - Nausea by Jean Paul-Sartre / Mandy (film and soundtrack).
Website/Contact: Catch up with the PINS movements on their website www.wearepins.co.uk
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Faith - I’ve always been into music, I had guitar lessons as a kid and flirted with the idea of a band for years but PINS is my first real band. My Dad played a lot of great music in the car and around the house, I liked Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison before I liked any modern music. I don’t know what drew me to it, it’s compulsive.
Lois - I learnt piano when I was a kid, and I had favourite pop bands or songs, but the moment I remember feeling passionate about music was when my swimming coach was giving me a lift home and he had Green Day’s Dookie on in the car. I had never really heard punk or alternative music at all, and I loved the energy and the distortion and what they were singing about... and I wanted to hear a lot more of it. He made me a mixtape of all different punk and metal bands, then I borrowed a 3/4 size acoustic guitar off my friend and started learning to play, that's when I started writing my own angsty songs about not fitting in and unrequited love.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Faith - When we are in the studio we always listen to music by other artists as a reference, something sonic for the producer to hear and understand what we are going for with the guitar tone or reverb etc. The amount of times I’ve put John Lennon on to explain the slap back I want on my voice. So, I suppose we are always inspired, always emulating to some degree.
Lois - I think that cycle of learning, taking inspiration and creating from life experiences never ends. I get carried away with every new thing I discover, like when we tour I always vow to move to move somewhere new cos I fall in love with the place, in one day! I flit between different things, and musical styles and try and emulate what I've heard before trying to write something new, but at heart I’m still that punk kid. What I have learnt too is as much as it's important to see and do new things it's also important to give yourself time and let your mind wander and process all the new information and new experiences you're having, otherwise you can burn out.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Faith - I think the first song I wrote 100% by myself was “Shoot You”, it was part of a double A side we made on cassette tape, our first official single! It’s extremely simple and that’s fine, I love a simple song, even now, most of our songs are still only 2 or 3 chords. Since writing “Shoot You” I’ve developed as a lyricist, particularly on our new record Hot Slick, our producer pushed me a lot to expand on my lyrics, it was like homework every day. I had to come back with something better the next day.
Lois - At the beginning I'd say confidence and skill! You have to have a bit to get a band going, and to play your music in front of other people, even your friends cos often it's very personal. I really feel like we've learnt and grown together. We started off with a basic idea of how to play and a strong idea of wanting to make music, be in a band and tour. So, we supported each in other in learning how to do all that, how to write songs, and how to use all the gear you need to make that dream come true. Having done all that, you can start to worry more about details, how to get the exact right synth sound, or where to add accents or harmonies, what key something should be in.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Faith - Making a small studio set up at home and understand how to use it has probably been the most crucial thing in terms of the quality of demo I can make, I started with an acoustic guitar, 1 mic and GarageBand and now I have something a little more advanced. It means I can write and record all of the parts to give a clear indication of what I want to achieve with a song. Often parts of the demos end up being on the final tracks.
Lois - We've never had a fixed studio space to record, just to practice/write - and they've always been small, dark and damp. I have a home studio set up, but it's quite basic. Logic and laptop with mics and guitars, keyboards. My favourite pedal is the Behringer vintage time machine. It just sounds so dreamy. I've got into Techno the last few years and have been getting into synths as a result, I have a feeling I'm going to keep building that collection, my favourite is the Korg MS-20. There are so many more I want and I'm determined to build my own at some point. Although my dream instrument is probably a grand piano, with a needlessly flashy gold or mirror interior.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Faith - It’s interesting how AI-generated music now has the potential to create ‘hit’ after ‘hit’ and it’s cool we get to see how that develops but I like to think music is fundamentally human and comes from the heart. Humans excel at song writing, at the lyrics, at how they play their instruments and use their voice. Take Bob Dylan and the song With God On our Side as an example, so simple and beautiful, it’s from the soul and no machine can replicate that.
Lois - Humans are very good at making machines that help us achieve what we want. Once we have mastered something, we invent a machine that does it just as well or better, to free up our time to get better at something else. In terms of creativity it's brilliant, the first electronic music was creative people using a set of functional objects for a new purpose - to make music. Once a door is opened, and more and more people start to see the potential in the idea who knows what you'll end up with? Kraftwerk used knowledge of electronics to develop a completely new sound, and changed music forever - and for the better. Now there are people working with AI confidently, Holly Herndon, Ash Koosha and Grimes even - I can't wait to see it all unfold.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Faith - I use Logic. I only need a laptop, interface, a mic and a couple of instruments to be able to make fairly developed songs and I suppose having all the loops and samples literally at my fingertips, where one sound leads to another, means that I am bouncing ideas off the computer programme.
Lois - I use Logic to record too, when it comes to making sounds I spend hours just playing with an idea. That doesn't always come together to make a song - but you have to explore the idea to know if you'll ever need it. I've been learning Maxmsp, you can build literally whatever you want or need in there, I've made vocoders and effects pedals, and now I've started to make a vocal synthesiser. Once I've got that going I would love to make an AGI version - but it all takes time. Before I was working on this, I would spend hours doing the same with massive chains of pedals, sending guitar or keys through them and seeing what weird effects I could get out of there. I have lost hours of my life to endless distortion loops.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Faith - The way we write is to either be in the same room as each other and jam something out. We usually make a rough recording of and then one of us will start to develop it at home and then email the track to the rest of the group and the next person will pick it up and develop it further. Alternatively, one of us writes and records a song at home and then sends it to the rest of the group and we develop it together when we are next in the rehearsal room. We’ve grown up with everything being quick, sharing too much sometimes, I try and sit on my songs for a while before sharing them with anyone, try and be my own filter.
Lois - I love collaborating, and PINS is definitely my longest standing collaboration! You get to know each other inside and out, and it can really help you focus what you're doing and work faster. Collaborations for me usually develop from a shared passion so it's great way to explore an idea or interest you have, with art or music I like getting in a room together and talking around the idea or jamming. I play in another band too and we're all based in different countries, so it makes it loads easier to be able to email too, cos it means you don't have to wait till the next time you see each other.