Interview: Vancouver’s Needles//Pins
On a sunny day in June during Ottawa Explosion Weekend, I caught up with Vancouver self-proclaimed powertrash band Needles//Pins. Their new album Good Night, Tomorrow was released in July of this year, and signaled a shift in the band’s sound and production. It’s more polished, and more grandiose than anything they’ve done in the past. But the grittiness quality of songwriting is still there, and fans old and new will fall right into this record.
They’re set to play House of TARG on Friday, August 25th along with Steve Adamyk Band, Audio Visceral, and NECK. Check out this candid interview with the trio, where they talk about the new album, Ottawa roots, and throw themselves under the bus.
Interview with Needles//Pins
You guys have played Ottawa Explosion Weekend before and stopped in Ottawa many times on tour. What’s your relationship to the city?
Adam Ess: Tony and I grew up in the Ottawa Valley, so we grew up about 45 minutes outside of Ottawa. So we started coming to the city in our teens to see shows, and I was in bands since I was fifteen years old playing places like Club SAW. I’ve known OXW organizers Emmanuel (Sayer) and Luke (Martin) for fifteen years or so as a result. I know Emmanuel from when he used to live in Windsor, we played with his old band called Searching for Chin. Then he moved to Ottawa and joined Buried Inside and others.
I guess the first time we played here as a band was the first ever Ottawa Explosion, it was our first cross-Canada tour. We’ve played every year since except last year, that was the only one so far that we haven’t played.
Do you get to spend much time in Ottawa when you’re here?
Tony X: It’s pretty much in and out. Usually it’s between Toronto and Montreal so we don’t have much time to take the extra night in Ottawa, we can’t lose that prime night of playing in other cities. I kind of wish we could just be here all weekend to be honest.
Needles//Pins played with The Smugglers at OXW for the Mint Records Showcase. How did that come about?
Adam: I think one of the impetuses for doing the Smuggs thing is because of Grant Lawrence’s book. It’s all part of the presentation of the book, and with the Mint Records connection we played the Vancouver show and it kind of took off from there.
Tony: Mint probably leaned on them a bit for us to play the show, I don’t think The Smugglers were begging us to play with them haha.
Your new record Good Night, Tomorrow is a bit of a different direction for the band. What is it that you are most excited for the bands to hear?
Adam: The general sound of the record, I think. It’s just such a huge sound, and that’s what we wanted out of it.
Tony: Just like you said, people are noticing it’s different and in a positive way and that’s really great.
Adam: And for us there’s no worry about that, I mean if you liked the band before then you’re going to like the band now. It’s hands-down way better, there’s no doubt about that. They’re the best songs we’ve ever written, the production is so much better, just everything. We took almost a year and a half to write and record the album, we took our time on it and wrote it in chunks, and recording as we went.
Tony: At some point we were recording and thinking, “oh good, it’s only been a year,” and then our producer Jesse told us we started in June… we were like, “oh, fuck…”
If I remember correctly, the last time you guys played Ottawa Explosion before this year there was something that literally exploded on stage.
Macey Bee: Oh shit, I forgot about that.
Tony: Yeah an amp! That was two years ago!
Macey: I think I was also on fire.
Tony: I just remember Adam was out of tune and he blamed me for it, but it actually was him. I just want to clear that up. He blamed me, but it was him. IT WAS NOT TONY, for the record. I don’t know about the amp though.
Adam: Ok then, since we’re going on the record, I am the one that coined the nickname “12 Grain” for Macey.
Tony: Oh I guess we’re recording everything now, airing the grievances. What is this, Festivus?
Have you had any other disasters happen while on tour?
Macey: I think touring with these two is a fucking disaster in general (laughs). I mean I’ve been doing it for a while now and I guess I’ll just have to keep doing it until I die.
Adam: Or until one of us dies, at least. There haven’t been any major disasters though, really. Knock on wood!
Tony: We’ve played shitty so many times, though. The worst show we ever played was in LA, and I’ll go on the record by saying it was all my fault.
Matias: You’re really throwing yourself under the bus here.
Macey: I was going to say that I played really well that night. You fucking blew it man.
Adam: That was a doozy.
Tony: I just didn’t play the right notes. There might have been some technical issues, I don’t know.
Macey: Yeah, technically your fingers didn’t hit the right notes on the bass.
Ottawa Explosion Weekend Day 4: A Marathon of Awesome Music!
The Saturday of Ottawa Explosion Weekend is an annual marathon of amazing music. The music starts at 12:30 and goes past 2 a.m. I am no runner, but if all marathons were this awesome I would certain take it up.
By the time I made it down, the all-female trio Old and Weird from Halifax were setting up. They had a very interesting sound and what was really cool was how often they switched instruments. Each member played a few songs on the drums throughout the set, which I had never seen before. So they did in fact “Show Me Something” I had never seen before. They also performed a pretty cool song about Kurt Cobain (video above).
Next up was Ottawa’s Grime Kings. Fresh off their Stanley cup victory, ok sorry that is a very lame joke. If you were ever concerned about the future of music in the capital, look no further for hope than this band. They are making strange, progressive and experimental music and I am not sure if they are all even of legal drinking age yet. They are somewhat disorganized at times and have a hard time with tuning (self-proclaimed) but I really like what they are doing musically. Oh and boys, you don’t just tease a crowd and say you are going to play a John Mayer cover and not deliver, you owe us. Hahaha.
One of the many new discoveries of the festival for myself was the most excellent Idle Bloom from Nashville. They have a psych-pop sound with a female lead and two female backing vocals which all work tremendously well together. They opened with the very cute and heartfelt song “Day You Were Born,” and played a great set from there. I am very glad they made the long trip to Ottawa.
It was now time for the Dirt cult records showcase. Kicking it off was Feral Trash from Moncton, New Brunswick. The lead singer/guitarist seemed to be fighting through an illness as he had to look away after almost every verse or chorus to cough, but it didn’t hold them back. They played fast catchy music with no big filler between songs. There is no better example of this than their great track “Dead Weight” (in video above). It is so good and such a sweet sing-a-long song.
As Monty Python would say, now for something completely different. Noisy Ottawa rock duo Big Dick followed up. Like or hate their name, the band plays a perfect mix of heavy music with catchy moments excellent for crowd participation. I am a sucker for their track “Medic.” Drummer, Dave Secretary, introduced a song by saying “This one is new so it’s going to be awful.” The song actually kicked ass and I am now anticipating another amazing release by the duo. Favourite moment of the set was when they hit the first chord of the very rocking “Colours” and Davey’s face lit up and he quickly joined them on vocals.
One of the things about Ottawa Explosion is you discover so many amazing bands which is awesome, but you also run the risk of falling in love with a band that may never return to Ottawa. Sometimes though you discover a band and they blow you away so much you make the effort to never miss them when they swing by. For me that is Needles//Pins, who absolutely killed it last year. They played a great mix of new and old, songs like “Best Friend,” “Pulse,” “I Don’t Mind” and “I Heart Your Drugs” which all blew me away. But it was also great to hear their new songs, which fit in great with their set. Trust me, see them, buy their stuff, just don’t miss out on Needles//Pins you will not be disappointed; they are one of Canada’s finest. Thank you Vancouver for giving us such a great talent.
Up next was the explosion of the festival. With the band running late and the crowd looking restless Emmanuel took the mic to announce the unfortunate news, “I am sorry to tell everyone New Swears won’t be playing as they were rushed to the hospital. They tried to repel down the building to the show and fell.” As the crowd laughed, he assured us “They are all dead it’s not funny.” But then thanks to a Ottawa Explosion Weekend miracle the boys covered in bandages, dirt and wearing hospital garbs crawled onto the stage. The always crazy, destructive, costumed, high energy local garage punk band really got the party going. As they began their set, organizers started throwing inflatable beach toys (including a shark, mats, beach balls, flamingos, etc) into the crowd. The place was whipped into a frenzy of dancing, singing, crowd surfing and moshing. New Swears gave us a taste of their new album set to be released later this summer, playing a couple of tracks off it. They also found time to play all the favourites including, “Two Darts,” “See You In Hull,” and “Paradise.” With time running out on their set and probably needing to be hooked back up to the IV, they closed with a rambunctious cover of Bob Segar’s classic “Old Time Rock N’ Roll.”
After New Swears it was time for the Dirtnap Records Showcase. My buddy Matias covered the hoyl cow knock my socks off showcase, which included Voicemail, Sonic Avenues, Steve Adamyk Band and The Marked Men, read it here. I then made my way to Avant-Garde for some more great bands. First up was locals Dead Weights. Their set was such a party. A smaller venue and so many of my friends packed in singing every word. We also got to see the first, and probably last, crowd surfer in the bar’s history during the line “I’ll pick you up” from their song “Fall Down,” thanks JS. The boys played a great set with many of my favourites from their new album Dead Ends and Closed Doors, such as “Barely Breath” and “Friends First.” It was also sweet to see the guys from Montreal’s Panic Attack join them for the last song.
Joining Dead Weights on stage was the perfect segue, as Panic Attack was up next. This was the case of another great band that I missed at Pouzza and got to see at explosion, it’s nice how that works out. They are freaking great and played a really solid set. Their 90’s era punk rock sound had me feeling nostalgic and it was a lot of fun.
Next was one of the bands that traveled the furthest for the festival, Latex Squad all the way from Hamburg,Germany. The lead singer/bassist was so very happy to be here. “I can’t believe I’m actually in Canada.” Funny enough they then played a song with the chorus “I hate everything about you.” They later joked that they were the “Ramstein of northern Germany.” They played really fun 70’s style garage punk. I really liked their track “Cyborg of Love.” It was also very cool to see the drummer sporting the new White Wires shirt.
I ducked into Ritual next door to catch some of METZ and sadly missed Dagger Eyes, next time. Closing down Avant Guarde was Asile. Their set was heavy, fast, hard, thrashy and in French, not the regular end of night act for the bar. I loved it.
As the set ended I quickly hustled over back to SAW to catch the end of the Crusades set. The band is packed with heavy hitters in the Ottawa punk scene, including festival organizer Emmanuel on guitar and lead singer/guitarist of The Creeps, Skottie on bass. I only got to see a few songs, but funny enough the lead singer of Panic Attack joined them on stage for a song, making his third appearance of the night. Busy guy.
Well there you have it, a lot of words about an absolutely amazing day! Ottawa Explosion Weekend is just the best time of the year.
Ottawa Explosion Day 3: Needles//Pins, Nervosas, Wyldlife, Thee Nodes and Voicemail at Saw Gallery
Thee Nodes at Ottawa Explosion. Photo by Andrew Carver
For Day three I once again returned to the stage outside of Saw Gallery for great shows by a bunch of bands.
Needles//Pins from Vancouver, British Columbia were awesome. The singer’s raspy voice teamed up with the trio’s energy makes for great sets. The set did not go off without a hitch though. As they began playing ”Green Eyes,” the guitarist broke a string. Davey Quesnell (Pregnancy Scares and Steve Adamyk Band) jumped to the rescue on got them a new one. Meanwhile the bass player encouraged everyone to ”Drink for a bit we will do this as fast as we can.” Songs like ”Best friend” and ”Pulse” are what Needles//Pins are all about. Great rocking songs with catchy choruses. It was very cool to see The Mandates by the stage singing along to every word. Needles//Pins play Saturday at 6:30 at Vertigo Records.
Columbus, Ohio’s Nervosas started their set by asking ”Hey Ottawa, are the local animals around? You know, the guys from the New Swears, we really want to hit their ramp.” Their distorted straight forward punk rock was excellent. I really liked the track they closed with, called ”Poison.”
Giving us a dose of old school New York style garage-punk rock with a modern edge was Wyldlife from New York City. These guys showed up to rock! Love the intensity and the lyrics of ”Sonofabitch,” and really got into the song ”Saturday Night” with the counting chorus and the clapping. The crowd was into them and they could feel it, the lead singer said ”Ottawa, you are making Toronto look bad, and that is a good thing.” They closed with ”Sidewalk Queen” and then gave out hotel info inviting people to come party later.
Thee Nodes from Montreal were complete insanity. Lead singer came out with his head mummified in toilet paper and wearing a suit. As the band set up he asked ”Are you ready to rock? That’s nice I want to cry.” The lead singer reminded me of Smeagle from the Lord of the Rings, very creepy and crazy. He constantly threw himself into the crowd and on the ground. At one point he was hanging upside down from the tent. So much energy and so much sorrow, a great example was their opening track ”Living Like a Corpse.” Quite the spectacle.
Kicking off the day was a band that formed last year at Ottawa Explosion, Ottawa’s own Voicemail. This is the second time I see these guys and really like what they are up to. Songs like ”Everybody Wants to Dance” and the rocking ”Riot,” are just so good live.
I left before Holy Cobra took to the stage to head over to St. Alban’s Church for more great music. You can check out that write up right here.
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