Seven-piece Aussie punk-rockers The Pinheads have been on the scene for four years and, when not putting on one of their famously wild live shows, they can be found ten-pin bowling and eating slimy pizza in the suburbs of the Illawarra. In May they released their hotly anticipated debut self-titled album and the band are on the verge of their first overseas tour, supporting the album with three shows across New Zealand.
I caught up with guitarist Luke Player while he was sitting in the band’s leaky shed where they record all of their music. The band’s charmingly DIY approach to making music – seven guys in a shed kicking ideas around until something feels right – is emblematic of their rise as a band. Luke is still a little stunned at The Pinheads evolution from seven mates “just pissing around”, to band with a growing reputation built off the back of their “must-see” live performances.
“We sort of fell into making music. It was all so accidental. Before becoming a band we had this weekly ritual where we would spend every week at this bowling alley for a game and some half-priced pepperoni pizza. We had a few instruments lying around, but only half of us even knew how to play them. We just started recording songs on GarageBand before we even knew how to be a band or play live, but eventually people started asking us if we wanted to play live. We had this thing at the bowling alley where whoever lost that week had to be called ‘Pinny’ till the next game, and as we needed a name we thought The Pinheads was the obvious choice.
The Pinheads music draws you in. It’s raw and authentic, and is a result of the band actively seeking to recapture the feel of their live performances in the music that they record. Their sound is also a little hard to nail-down, and is a byproduct of being in a band with so many members.
“We’re a bit all over the shop. We’re making Aussie rock and roll but there are some elements of punk and a bit of a 60’s sound as well. Every person in the band came into it with a fairly broad range of music interests and different tastes and ideas, but I feel we draw a lot of influence from bands like The Rolling Stones or The Saints and our love for live performance which we we feel is just as important as making the music itself.”
The band tries not to take themselves too seriously and looks to have fun when on stage, feeding off the energy of the audience during their wild performances, “If we’re feeling it and the crowd’s feeling it, there’s this great thing that happens. Like an energy, and it’s pretty fun to be around it when that happens,” and contrary expectations, Luke and the band more often than not, can be found trying to find a quiet place to get into the zone before going out on stage.
“You can’t be around everyone backstage with seven people. If we’ve got some time and are not running late to the show you’ll probably find us looking for a quiet corner getting our outfits on or putting on some glitter. We also tend disappear before we’re about to go on – someone will always have snuck off and be waiting in line for a beer.”
The Pinheads are constantly touring, and are excited to be able to bring their live shows to New Zealand, but back home in Australia, life on the road has seen the boys have a few interesting encounters.
“While driving north after playing in Sydney, at about 2 or 3 in the morning, we took a road we’d never taken before, looking for somewhere to camp. We saw a car in the middle of a ditch. We pulled over and found a woman in the front seat, she didn’t seem physically hurt but we asked her if she needed help. She was pretty calm about it and was like, ‘yeah, I guess so’ and said her house was only about 50 meters up the road. We didn’t say anything but we knew that was bullshit, there weren’t any houses for an hour or so, so there we are all under the car trying to push it out of the ditch and we’re all thinking the same thing – this woman has been acting really weird since we met her, are we sure that she not just going accelerate over the top of us? We got her out and she left without saying a word. It’s hard to explain but it was just such a strange moment. We didn’t say anything for a while after that.”
Music aside, the band also have a shared interest in the occult and the inexplicable, and this has seen them eschew music for podcasts while touring.
“With seven people, the music situation in the van can get a bit dangerous so we like to pass the time listening to a lot of podcasts. We subscribe to ‘The unexplained’, which is a podcast about UFO mysteries and another one called ‘Lore’ about folklore and scary stories. We’re all interested in UFOs and a few of us have had sightings – seen some unidentified flying objects – while on the road. Not sure what they were but I guess that’s the definition of a UFO.”
With a successful album release under their belts and their first overseas tour only days away, Luke isn’t taking any of this for granted and is keen to soak it all in and make the most of the limited time that he and the band have in New Zealand. A fan of the iconic Flying Nun records and bands like The Clean, Luke’s gutted that the band wasn’t able to find the time to book in a trip to Dunedin, but that’s on the top of the list for when he next returns. In the meantime, he and the band are keen to get stuck into the New Zealand tour. He’s is quick to point out that this group of best mates is living their dream right now and he’s excited to pay back their Kiwi fans for all their support.
If you’re a fan of energetic and engaging rock music, make sure you check out The Pinheads while they’re on tour next week.