Even if the record comes out and it doesn't go down as well with the kinda typical Holy Roar fan, that's absolutely fine. We're really, really lucky that they've taken a chance with us. If good things come out of it, then that's great.
Holy Roar Records latest signing is the Manchester based music collective Pijn. Their name has been doing the rounds lately, not only because of the actual name and how you pronounce it, but more so for their excellent music, which is a heavy blend of post-rock and post-metal. When the band was up in Edinburgh a few days ago Sander van den Driesche caught up with guitarist Joe Clayton and drummer Nick to chat about the band, the upcoming new record Floodlit and more.
(((o))): Your name has been doing the rounds lately. Are you guys the ones to watch for next year?
Joe: [laughs] I don’t know. Finally we got a record coming out, which comes out at the start of the year. And given that it was New Year’s this year when we went down to London when Nick and I decided that we should start up a band again. So the record is coming out almost exactly a year later. It’s nice to see what we have achieved in the space of just one year.
(((o))): Okay, let’s do a bit of history here. Joe I know you used to be in Old Skin and Nick you used to be in Esoteric Youth, so you are all coming from a more hardcore kinda background.
Joe: Yes. We’ve all done our time in heavier bands.
Nick: We’re getting old and now we’re playing three times as long. We’re going from playing 15 minutes hardcore sets to just playing long. We basically just made the songs longer because we’re old now.
Joe: And slower, hahaha!
(((o))): You’ve been labelled with the term ‘post-rock’, although I wouldn’t want to call you guys typical post-rock, there’s definitely something else in there as well.
Nick: Yes we were wary not to just be crescendo core, like really quiet bits and then a big loud bit. We wanted to do something different I guess. So it’s nice that that’s coming through.
(((o))): I like some post-rock, but I also usually get quite bored by it as so many bands just try to sound the same. But you guys definitely have something more going on with your sound, which keeps it interesting. You can definitely hear that you guys are coming from a different musical background.
Nick: Yeah, very much so.
Joe: It’s really nice as obviously we wanted to dip our toes into post-rock things, and then I just put out a thing on Facebook seeing if anyone wanted to contribute to it. We had loads of people getting back in touch with me, offering loads of different instruments. That’s why it went from just being a band of me and Nick just jamming out to a full 10 people band that have done various things for us. There’s a guy who plays lap steel who would have been at the gig tonight if he would’ve had the time off work. There are musicians from all over the country that are doing bits for us.
(((o))): So rather than calling Pijn a band, you perhaps could call it a collective instead?
Joe: Yes, that’s what we’re aiming for. There’s a core of the three of us who can play everything we do on the record if needed and it won’t sound like it’s missing that much. But then people can also just come in if they’re available to play or write stuff for it. And we all just pool ideas and pool efforts and work towards making music and having fun.
Nick: The more people the better. Basically it’s an open revolving door policy.
(((o))): So it is a matter of wherever you might play you might have a different line up on stage and also play a different live set?
(((o))): Is there a lot of improvising happening on stage as well then?
Joe: Everything’s structured around certain bits. There are things that are slightly looser. But generally we would fill out the same sort of parts and say for example if we got Claire, who plays violin, if she comes up then we just open up a section where we just sit on this for a bit and she gets a chance to play a solo. Her parts are kinda loose anyway so she will change it up each time, there are a few little bits that she always does and sometimes it’s just like yeah let’s go wild with that. This time last week we played with 5 people, which is the biggest live line up we’ve done so far, and we had a practice before, just a couple of hours where it was the first time everyone was actually together for the first time in the same room. It felt like so, so good. That’s what we want to be doing more. Get all these extra people in and having those ideas thrown around.
(((o))): Okay, I have to ask you about the band name. I’m Dutch and ‘pijn’ is a Dutch word. It literally translates as ‘pain’. Is the name chosen on purpose, like is that the kind of feeling you have with the music you play?
Joe: Yeah there’s a lot of stuff, but I’m actually not that keen to elaborate on as it’s quite a difficult thing.
Nick: Even before we got anything out there’s been a lot of confusion over how it’s pronounced, but if anything that’s more interesting. I think the people can take whatever they mean from it you know.
(((o))): Let’s talk about the album then, which is coming out on Holy Roar Records in January. How did that come about? Did you have connections with Holy Roar through previous bands you’ve played in?
Joe: Alex and Justine [who run Holy Roar Records] are so enthusiastic about us, which gave me the confidence to go through with them to do a 12″ record release. We know it is quite a bit different from a lot of the stuff that the other Holy Roar bands sound like, but it’s amazing to be just alongside all of them.
When I played with Old Skin I always tried to play really mixed bills. Like we would be the heaviest band on this show and we played with like acoustic bands and things like that. So to be associated with a label that has all these people involved which have the same mentality, but they all come at it from different ways is really great. And to be something that slightly sticks out from that is just really, really nice. Any of the bands on Holy Roar are doing everything right now. Like Employed to Serve are touring with Black Peaks and Mare next year, like back to back which is incredible to see. We got a show with Mare as well. And Svalbard are touring with The Saddest Landscape, so yeah all these bands are doing huge things at the moment.
(((o))): So with all these Holy Roar bands doing so well at the moment, do you think it will affect Pijn as well, that you hopefully will get pulled along in that momentum?
Nick: In the same way we’re very, very lucky to be on the same roster as all these amazing bands. Even if the record comes out and it doesn’t go down as well with the kinda typical Holy Roar fan, that’s absolutely fine. We’re really, really lucky that they’ve taken a chance with us. If good things come out of it, then that’s great.
Joe: It’s already done so much for us. Like the first play was on the Radio 1 Rock Show, which is mad. And he got the name right as well! There’s just a lot of things that could be happening and it’s really exciting to actually be at that point now where we’ve been saying from the start that we wanted to play a lot of shows and being this collective approach where we can chop and change the line-up, and it’s always going to be the same kind of core. So hopefully we will manage to get out there as much as possible.
(((o))): How did you record the album with so many people involved? Were you all together in the studio to record the album?
Nick: Everything was recorded by Joe, but we were able to move around and do remote recordings with different people. Like with our violinist we drove up to Bristol to record in her space as she couldn’t come to us. Other people did come to us in multiple different studios in Manchester. So it was a really long, drawn out messy process.
Joe: Yeah it started with just a demo. Nick and I had two songs and I just wanted to try out some fancy mic technique or something. And I was like it’s my band so we may as well book two days in the studio, but I think we did it in like a day or something. We tried out a couple of bits and we were finding out things that sounded good. So we then booked the next weekend and from then we started splashing it out and stuff like that. Yeah it went form that to playing a couple of shows and we had some things in the sack. One of the guys from Group of Man, who we did a couple of shows with really early on, he was like you should record that one. And I was like I wasn’t thinking about it, but then we did and now it’s on the record. So it’s really been a kinda natural sort of thing, which is really not how I’ve done things before. With Old Skin it was like this is exactly how these things are, everyone learns their bits, we just had it locked in and then we’d record it.
Nick: I think we finished writing the music that closes out the record the week of recording it. It was very loose. So we’re lucky that it’s gone so well, hahaha!
(((o))): Besides the material on the record, have you already started working on new material as well?
Joe: We’re working on something extra which the Holy Roar subscribers will get. And basically the first half of the set that we’re playing at the moment is us trying out things that we’ve had written and we just feeling it out live and then changing things, like making things longer or shorter. So at the moment there are six 5 minute-long bits and we’re in the process to decide what to work on. Playing them live is the best way for us to know what we kinda can get away with. So there are a few bits that we know that have to be used for something. The plan is to work towards an album. Because there’s all this faff for like 20 minutes of music on the EP and I’m just like this is not enough. We really need to give everyone like an hour.
Nick: We’re also very, highly self-critical of ourselves. So everything that will eventually be on the next release we’re keen to have it be only solid grade A material. So if it doesn’t cut it on the road when we test things at shows, if it doesn’t make us feel excellent, then it won’t be put on the record.
Joe: We already had a few songs where it got to the point where we could try and play them and then we realised that they were actually not good enough. So instead of putting these on the back burner we just completely scrap these and start fresh and then just try out different things. And then there’s the guy who plays lap steel for us and he also works on things which he’ll send over and then we start building up on that. So rather than it always starting with a little bit that I’ve written or Nick’s written, we’re getting everyone else in and contribute stuff. We’re actually working on something now that our violin player has improvised a short section for and we’re going to work with that.
(((o))): You said you played with quite mixed bills when you were with Old Skin. Do you feel the bands you play with now are a lot different than what you’re used to?
Joe: Absolutely. In Manchester we played at Gorilla with Pelican, which was our second show. And this is a huge, super professional venue. Our first show was at the Deaf Institute in Manchester with Three Trapped Tigers. These are all really proper venues. Old Skin wouldn’t have ever been able to play the Deaf Institute, because it’s a bit more highbrow than like a hardcore or punk band would be. And Gorilla has those sort of bands, but a lot less often. But as we’re spreading our sound across with like hardcore bits, and droney bits and long nice piano sections and stuff like that, which means we can kinda chop and change the set to suit a venue or to suit the bill.
Nick: Or not…
Joe: Yeah, or we could just be as obnoxious as possible, hahaha!
Nick: Like when we play with a load of soft bands we will be the loudest band on the bill.
(((o))): As it’s the end of the year, can you tell me which releases have impressed you this year?
Nick: Pinegrove. They play very soft, kinda jangle emo almost country stuff. They’re on Run For Cover Records.
Joe: They’re lovely. I tried to go to the Manchester show, and the person in front of me got the last ticket. So I was slightly disheartened, just walked away miserably and watched their Audiotree session at home.
Nick: The Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas album is excellent. And I am a huge fan of the Frank Ocean album. The new Oathbreaker album is really, really good too. They’re excellent guys as well.
Joe: Personally for me the Earth Moves album. I recorded and mixed that release and I still listen to it.
Nick: The new Conjurer is excellent as well.
(((o))): Do you guys want to add anything?
Nick: We would like to give a big thanks to the Holy Roar people. And all the people that are having us up.
Joe: And anyone who’s already listened to us as well.
Nick: Pre-order the record!
You can pre-order ‘Floodlit’ on digital download, CD or LP through the band’s Bandcamp page here. ‘Flooslit’ will be released on January 27th through Holy Roar Records.