The tried and tested method for DIY punk bands is the K.I.S.S. approach (Keep It Simple Stupid!). It’s all about making things easier for yourself. It’s an economic ethos formed out of necessity. However, that ethos can quickly become a rigid principle of musical austerity, and in all honesty can get a bit boring after a while (I swear to God, if I have to make myself eat another Ristorante pizza…) Sticking with the easy is a sure fire way of being prolific (or in my case – eating a lot of pizza), but sometimes you have to make things difficult for yourself in order to really get creative.
Speaking personally as a writer, coming up with interview questions is a notoriously difficult practice, and today I am certainly out of practice (this being my first band interview in over a year). Nevertheless, the Manchester weather seems to have provided an appropriate atmosphere for an interview with a post-metal band like this.
Pijn are a relatively new band on the map and thus far have remained shrouded in mystery, despite appearing on the bill next to some big names in the game like Three Trapped Tigers and Pelican. Tucked away safely from the biblical torrent of water within the confines of the Dulcimer in Chorlton, I find myself sat with guitarist Joe Clayton and drummer/keyboardist Nick, pleasantly discussing origin stories, The Mars Volta, the art of collaboration and post-metal Christmas songs. We start though with possibly the most difficult question, one that surely everyone is dying to know the answer to…
BCFB: So tell me, how do you pronounce your band name?
Joe: Aha! It’s pronounced “pine”. Not “pigeon” or “peen”. It’s a dutch translation of the word ‘ache’. I keep trying to push for peen over pigeon. Why the fuck did we choose a word that no one seems to be able to say?
BCFB: How did the band come about?
Joe: Well I filled in for Nick’s old band – Esoteric Youth, we did some mega euro tour together. That band kind of finished and because I wasn’t an actual member, it was like I got no say. Just before [Nick] went away was when we started doing Won.
Nick: It started as a joke band…
Joe: Yeah, we’d just get together and play songs that sound like Torche. We did that and it was so stupid, it happened so quickly.
BCFB: How many gigs did you do?
Joe: Well we didn’t play any gigs!
Nick: We wrote and recorded one EP in a few hours and that was it. That was the first time I played drums since in 18 months. So it went really well, we stopped making it a joke and made it this.
Joe: [Nick] went away travelling and then it was at the tail end of last year, we were kind of like wanting to do something because my old band had finished as well and we released a Christmas single…
Nick: Oh yeah we wrote a Christmas song! Ha!
Joe: We we’re so happy with it!
BCFB: Was it a sort of post-metal Christmas song?
Joe: Yeah! Ahahaha!
Nick: It was like Journey, so many claps.
Joe: We never got round to finishing it because we couldn’t write lyrics that were quite…
[In unison]: …Christmassy enough!
Joe: Umm, yeah… Then we went on a really long car journey and listened to The Mars Volta and decided we wanted to be a proper band.
Nick: It was the whole of ‘Frances The Mute’ basically. We just blasted that out really loud and by the end of it we were like “Let’s be a real band” and that’s that!
BCFB: So do you two act as the main writers for Pijn?
Nick: We’ve drafted in a lot of auxiliary musicians but I guess it is still kind of me and Joe taking ourselves too seriously ha! We want to get other people writing things in but at the moment nobody has yet, but hopefully that’ll change.
Joe: I think it’s hard, before we’ve done anything, to just put out sort of an open invitation: “Yeah! Come and write some stuff!” and then it just turns into such a mammoth task. We’ve already got 10 people playing on something that we’re working on – an EP – and that’s just incredibly difficult to manage in itself! Everyone is scattered all over the country as well, which doesn’t help.
BCFB: I’ve heard a couple of mysterious previews you’ve put online, is that stuff from this (as yet) unreleased EP?
Joe: Yeah, I think because it’s been such a long process we recorded our bits in March, and then in bringing other people to contribute to it’s just been really, really slow. So [the previews are] mostly just to try and keep us sane ahead of the shows just to try and make something to put out there. Just bits of stuff we’re working on.
Nick: It’s a blessing and a curse that it began as essentially what was going to be a demo to put out and let people hear… we ended up being really pleased with it and thinking “oh well, we’ll add string sections to this and saxophone and we’ll get female vocalists and people from Brighton and London and all around the country!”, so it’s become almost too much to handle.
Joe: The more that’s been added to it the slower it’s been able to move. We’re just tipping where we’re almost finished, we’ve just got one last thing to get done and then it’ll be like we can breathe again.
Nick: Maybe get a small children’s choir next time?
BCFB: Who are some of the musical guests you’ve got on there?
Nick: James Mainwaring [Roller Trio, Django Django] – he’s playing saxophone all over it.
Joe: We’ve got a friend of ours who who used to play cellos in orchestras. Now she’s got a bit more time she was like “Yeah I wanna get back into making music!” and I was like yeah! That’s the saddest instrument, let’s get that in! Next week we’ve got a guy playing lap steel guitar who kind of just messaged us out of the blue. He just sent us a demo and we were like woa! We’ll have this. This girl called Claire Northey who plays violin, she plays gigs quite a lot around Manchester. We had a section of text written that’s on [our] shirt and we turned it into a sample for the shows. And then because we were trying to think of ways to be more pretentious, we got our French friend to spend weeks translating it word for word and got another French friend to do a reading of it.
BCFB: When is this due for release?
Joe: We were aiming for around about now [June] but I think it’ll be…
Nick: Maybe around late August?
Joe: Something like that…
Nick: It’ll be a self-released thing. Although we’ve had a couple of labels say they’d want to do something. To do that for our first release, it would be a bit too self-indulgent [for them].
Joe: [We] just kind of want to get going, even though we’ve had quite a few cool shows and stuff I don’t really feel like we’ve got it locked together yet and having something tangible like a release that people can listen to will make it feel more official.
Nick: Make it feel more real.
BCFB: You’ve just done a string of shows in Europe, how was that?
Nick: It was good! Again, another case of us biting off more than we could chew early on just for the hell of it.
Joe: It was ace, we got to go out with Group Of Man, who are friends from old bands; they were so much fun! We had done two proper shows in the UK and then were immediately thrown in with a new band and got to go to another country.
Nick: We have been quite lucky, the first show with Three Trapped Tigers, very lucky to get that. I guess the promoter took a fairly big gamble considering we had no music – and still have no music! A lot of good will.
BCFB: How did that show go down?
Nick: Great! Although a little daunting to be playing before Three Trapped Tigers who can run circles around anybody.
Joe: First show with a backstage area, thinking this isn’t the way you’re supposed to do it! You’re supposed to start off in a mate’s lounge or something.
BCFB: Has it been a conscious decision to go in ambitiously from the beginning with this band?
Nick: I think i’d rather try to do too much and fail.
Joe: It just keeps it interesting. I had some horrible realisation about how many years I had been playing in bands. I was kind of just going round in circles. We just wanted to…
Nick: Push our luck?
Joe: Yeah, see if it pays off.
BCFB: I totally agree, i’ve got a lot of friends that have hit 30 or above and they’re just sick of doing the same circuits all the time.
Joe: It wasn’t a particularly conscious thing where we didn’t want to do that, it was more that we wanted to try… see what we could do.
BCFB: To push yourself?
Joe: Yeah definitely.
Nick: It was two weeks before our first show and we still hadn’t played with a bassist [Luke Rees of Doctrines fame handles live bass duties], it was literally just me and Joe.
Joe: [Having the live shows] brought out the best in us, that pressure to get it right.
BCFB: You mentioned Torche before as one of your influences, any others in there?
Joe: Well, Torche was more for Won and it was way too upbeat for where I guess I felt in terms of wanting to write music. I find it really hard to write unless i’m super-invested in it and have a really clear direction. So we obviously listened to the Mars Volta – so that’s the weird progressive approach to songs. I’m big into Russian Circles and Cult Of Luna and Isis [the band, not the Islamic fundamentalist group… obviously], Mogwai… Everyone dropped new albums just around the time [we started making music]. It was certainly a talking point, like what are all these bands doing? That song that sounded like Foals on the new Explosions In The Sky album, it’s just like ‘Woa! What are they doing? This is weird’. And then a week later i’m like: this is so good! Alright, ok, everyone’s doing something slightly off-kilter.
Nick: I think it’s good that there’s an abundance of instrumental bands, particularly English instrumental bands who are absolutely killing it! And if we can do even 10% of what they’re doing i’ll be happy. There’s a lot of smaller English bands that we’ve played with – Earth Moves are great, sort of like post-black metal. It’s always depressing to watch Body Hound… ahaha… like we’ll never be this good!
BCFB: I was going to say, what’s it like being a heavy band in Manchester? Do you think there is an actual heavy scene or community here?
Joe: I don’t know, there definitely was a little while ago. My housemate used to run Church Of Fuck [record label]. Around the time when that was going there was a real vibe around bands, and it was mostly all the same people, there was just something about it. …It was when Oliver put on Fuck Fest that I thought there was a great heavy scene, it just seems to have diminished a bit. There’s a lot of heavy bands but not in the sort of dark/hardcore way that we were all involved in before.
Nick: Similarly, as much as we are wanting to write heavy music, we want to write much softer music as well. We wouldn’t want to just be playing with hardcore bands. It’d be nice to play with punk bands or ambient acts.
Joe: Just trying to make it interesting for us. Kind of get the feeling that if there’s not enough bands around that you want to listen to then start something that you want to do.
BCFB: What’s your next move?
Joe: Well getting the EP finished. In the next few weeks, that’s going to be the main priority. We’ve got a bunch of shows coming up, a weekender with Earth Moves at the end of July. Just to try and play a lot.