Pijn is one of Manchester’s best hidden gem. They’re a collective that drives itself from the city they live in, the people that surround them and the current and past music that has or still means something to them all year round. Way before Pijn, every member was part of a totally different scene. Be it the hardcore, metal, experimental or post-scene, they were all apart from each other. With Pijn, not only do they come together for a more “familiar” vessel, but they also open it for any and all musicians to come and contribute to the project, being they refuse to insist on defining it as a solid “band”.
After signing with the british Holy Roar, releasing Loss and having been announced as the closing act for the Roadburn x Holy Roar showcase [live review here], we reached out to have a little chat with Joe and Paddy. While listening to the record, one might think everyone in the project is either too serious or intellectual, and even though Pijn is an incredibly intelligent troupe, they cannot bear taking themselves too seriously. By far, one of the funnest interviews we did in a while. Amongst the topic of free-flowing and ever improvising action, we spoke about catharsis, layered music and much more.
Pijn is a relatively young project, how did it come about? And why presenting it as a collective?
Joe - Well, it started out as me and Nick, the drummer, just wanting to make music again. We’ve been in bands for a while and when they had all fallen apart, we wanted to try something rather than get stuck trying to have a rigid four person band. If one person isn’t free than that screws everything up. We’ll try to make it as fluid as possible. Get loads of people in and see where it goes.
Paddy - So and so, if there’s some people missing, it won’t spoil the whole thing.
J - Yeah, and it makes each show a little bit different. Half of the time, we don’t know who is going to play (laughs).
I guess it’s been known that the band has a connection with the Manchester hardcore scene. Have you been able to pull some of the older crowds to your current band?
J - Yeah, half of us are deep rooted in hardcore bands and black metal bands and things like that, and we’re opening up to loads of other people.
P - I suppose my connections are closer to the experimental music scene. It creates this tension because we’re deeply rooted in the heavy scene, and it also means we can pull things in a different direction, so it’s like we’re trying to balance our influences.
J - And we want to be playing stuff at shows (laughs) and things like that. So we’re trying to make a conscious effort to not just be doing the sort of heavy stuff we’re all used to.
P - It has been great how well heavy crowds have received us as well. Sometimes it’s been surprising the shows we’ve done with the material we’ve had. How lovely the reception has been.
I guess that one of the few similarities between hardcore and post-anything, is how both are often referred to as a catharsis. That really shows how transversal pain is to art. Do you feel that catharsis is not only an instrument but a necessity?
J - Pretty much. Every band says that playing their songs live is cathartic and writing music and channeling loads of bad shit into something that’s a bit more positive, it’s just a constant in every band.
P - And it’s not just the heavy music or guitar music. You think about people like Townes Van Zandt. It’s the same sort of thing with catharsis of a deeply tragic life. It’s a really strong inspiration to write music, it really pushes you to come up with new ideas. It’s like a language that exists outside of intellect music so you can use it to express things you couldn’t necessarily convey verbally. Something you couldn’t put your finger on it, can’t express it verbally, while you can express it through music. That’s one of the things that are very powerful, and I think that’s attractive to play as a musician, to use the language to its fullest ability.
What were some of the albums or artists you would listen to, when in need of that support?
P - Paramore (laughs). No I mean, that’s only half-joking (laughs). On a serious note, you mean for us to get catharsis, right?
J - (laughs) We listen to awful amounts of Paramore.I mean, each person has their own thing, you can tell by what we’ve been listening to in the van which is a lot of prince (laughs). But Neurosis and all of the Neurot scene as well, Hydra Head, rather than being individual bands let’s grab something from this label and just binge on that. And then, just some Paramore in between (laughs).
P- You need a palette cleanse (laughs).
You guys have composed some of the most dense and layered music on Loss, it feels so orchestrated yet very raw. When writing music, do you usually think about the live context of playing the songs?
J - Yes and no. We know that our violin player who was going to be here, had a change in the last minute and like, she can’t be at every show. She has a young child who is also on the record as well. But yeah, we know every player can’t play every show. When we’re recording or when we’re layering everything up, I’m kind of in the back of my mind going “Is this even remotely possible?”.
P - I think when the shows have a fewer people, the intensity shines through a little bit more. You’re stripped down right to core guitar, bass, drums, and it’s really raw and it can be very visceral, but when you got more people in like we have to be a bit more intellectual about how we’re going to put things together. Because writing layered music is a tricky process, it’s new to all of us but it’s a balance between what we got with what’s the record.
Even though you’re at Roadburn under Holy Roar’s showcase, the band’s sound really does integrate the festival’s vibe and aura. Do you feel at home?
J - Every year the line-up at Roadburn is just a who is who of our major influences. This year’s no different, Young Widows, Sleep playing tomorrow, Old Man Gloom, Cave In. All of these bands… Daughters and things you just wouldn’t ever expect, to have it all in the same space and the same time. Over the last 10 years, all of them have written very informative albums and I just can’t help to just absorb all of it and turn it into whatever you’re doing.
P - Looking from my perspective, the way that Roadburn is organised as a festival, you’ve got people like Peter Brötzman, again it’s that tension between the heavy stuff and also the experimental and just feels like a natural meeting place for us.
A month ago you forwarded a collaboration with you label-mates, Conjurer. Can you share some details on that?
J - (laughs) Well, it was sort of inspired by the collaborative performances that are commissioned by Roadburn. So the Octagent Festival which is in the UK, which is absolutely brilliant and the line-up this year is stunning so you should have a look at that, they asked us if we’d wanna do a performance for them with Conjurer, and we’ve been talking about it with our label-boss, wanting to do that “Look, ask all the bands and see who’s up for it” and we’ve toured with Conjurer and we know them for ages, they’re just really great guys to hang out with. We’ll get together and try to get something together rather than be just Pijn playing Conjurer songs or the other way around, let’s just start fresh. A whole new band (laughs)
Any name in mind for the project?
J - (laughs) It was under the working title “Curse These Metal Hands” which is a reference to a TV Show that lots of Holy Roar merch is based from. The Peep Show. There’s a record coming soon later this year and a few more performances, obviously our schedules are a nightmare to work with and Conjurer have like 5 weeks in the US. They’re doing proper stuff so we’re trying to juggle our schedule with theirs until we’re finally free to do stuff and than it’s wow (laughs), but yeah. It’s Conjurer being the equivalent of like Converge and Pijn being the moody, obnoxious, pretentious Isis (laughs) and Curse These Metal Hands being completely nonsensical and a bit stupid and daft and fun like Old Man Gloom.
P - But in glowing complimentary terms (laughs).
J - Oh yeah I fucking love Old Man Gloom. I’m here Santo’s singles mixer tomorrow, that’ll be great (laughs).