Girls on Tour: Discovering PINS' Manchester

New to Manchester? Up and coming band PINS give us a guided tour of their home turf

Feature by Helen McCarthy | 06 Sep 2013

I had no idea how much of a microclimate Manchester’s Northern Quarter really is until meeting PINS, a local foursome whose videos – artsy yet playful, impossibly cool but not intimidating, much like the girls themselves – this writer is addicted to, and whose debut album, Girls Like Us, is out this month.

A world of bars-cum-restaurants-cum-venues, record shops that are still quite comfortably in business, and creative facial hair, the 'NQ' is somewhere many students might not consider to be their first stop in freshers’ week; indeed, PINS themselves – singer Faith Holgate, bassist Anna Donigan, guitarist Lois Macdonald and drummer Sophie Galpin – didn’t really discover this hipster capital of the North until after they’d graduated. “I did realise fairly quickly that during freshers’ week you meet loads of people, go to loads of places, and after freshers’ week, you never see those people or go to those places again,” says Sophie, summing up the bizarre and expensive hurricane that is new undergraduates’ first week. The aim of today, then, is for them to take us somewhere well out of the way of the Oxford Road corridor.

First up, we chat in the Castle Hotel on Oldham Street. A treasure of Edwardian furniture and dark wood, it’s PINS' favourite place to play and drink. “You can come here by yourself and either see someone you know or make a friend,” says Faith, which is apt because she sees about four people she knows within five minutes of entering the place.

"You meet loads of people, go to loads of places, and after freshers’ week, you never see those people or go to those places again" – Sophie Galpin

Further down the road is LP-haven Piccadilly Records, where Girls Like Us will be available come late September. “We thought of it as a vinyl record, with interludes and reprises,” Faith says of the album – hence, perhaps, their excitement when discussing one of Manchester’s most popular wax dealers. Girls Like Us was made at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool, where they spent a week both recording and going to gigs; they recorded everything in the same room, as though playing live, and laid down their backing vocals around a couple of mics, completely unmanufactured or doctored.

“We wanted to make something that didn't sound overproduced,” they nod in agreement, explaining that it “was an extension” of their infectious 2012 EP, LUVU4LYF, all steely guitar and haunting calls. Parr Street seems a continuation of their keenness to record in strange places – like Salford's SWAYS Records' 'Bunker', an extremely bare space that's being held up with wooden scaffolding when we investigate.

They also show us Oklahoma, a café on Turner Street that sells trinkets and rents out world films. “I hang out in here on my days off,” Anna says in an email. “It's run by the faces behind Comfortable on a Tightrope, who put the coolest gigs on and release only the coolest bands. I think pretty much everyone who works there are in bands such as Waiters, Irma Vep, Sex Hands and Queer'd Science, to name a few.”

Their favourite thing on the menu? The group's three vegetarians suggest the goats cheese on rye bread, while Sophie, the one meat-eater, offers the chorizo toastie. The tables outside are shaded by light blue parasols, fringed with tinkling silver beads; this seems a cool place to hang with a hangover. They then tell me about Gulliver’s pub, where a friend of theirs poured a pint over regular Mark E. Smith’s head; who their favourite promoters are; what it was like being photographed by Kevin Cummins (“He’s really nice, he’s coming to our Paris show”); and, when we get to Port Street Beer House (the beer garden of which, Faith emails, “our rehearsal room overlooks... so we’ve spent many a cigarette break perving on hotties”), they get giddy over the wasabi peas and create a PINS peas edition, finding Lois’ bob depicted on one of them.

It really feels like PINS are making music in the best possible place, especially as most of them studied in the city and grew up in its outskirts. “It’s like living somewhere residential and having real neighbours, like when you were a kid,” Faith says of the area, before adding, “except everyone’s a hipster.” At the end of our tour we feel like we know the Northern Quarter better than we could have wandering about on our own: everything, including their practice room at Sunshine Studios, is within pointing distance. Lois can think of a downside, though. After eating her assigned wasabi pea, she turns to us and admits: “It is a bit dangerous living near so many good pubs.” 

PINS' debut album Girls Like Us is released 30 Sep on Bella Union. They play Leaf, Liverpool, 15 Oct