Vancouver's Needles//Pins evolves to avoid sonic stagnation

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      "Violet", the second track on Needles//Pins’ third full-length album, closes with lead singer Adam Solomonian, in his signature gruff voice, asking listeners new and old, “Do you still keep waking up the same? Do you still sing the same songs every day?”

      The answer from Needles//Pins is a resounding no. Good Night, Tomorrow has been received across the board as a sonic shift for the Vancouver punk rock group. The filled-out instrumentation, addition of new, sometime keyboardist (and producer) Jesse Gander, and a much longer studio recording process have lent the record what Solomonian calls a “poppy-rock” sound that departs from the scrappy power punk that defined the band’s earlier releases.

      But as much as the record is being branded—and praised—as one that represents change for Needles//Pins, for Solomonian, its release comes at a time of surprising personal and professional stability in Vancouver’s often precarious arts community.

      “I’ve lived where I live now going on five years, that’s absolutely the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life,” Solomonian tells the Straight. “Feeling more like roots are being put down is interesting.”

      At the time of his interview with the Georgia Straight, the punk rock prof is marking a stack of exams for the college anthropology class he teaches, celebrating 10 years of living in the city, and gearing up to play an album release show at East Van’s SBC with longtime band mates, drummer Macey Budgell and bassist Tony Dubroy, the latter one of his childhood best friends from Alma, Ontario.

      Solomonian and Dubroy met when they were in their early teens, trading their favourite punk CDs after school. They eventually reconnected in Vancouver years later, considered starting a record label, and instead decided to channel their mutual love of the music into their own collaborations.

      “Tony and I have listened to the same music and been together as a result of that for a really, really long time,” says Solomonian.

      Needles//Pins have certainly come a long way since their initial jam sessions in Dubroy’s basement, when Solomonian had his guitar shipped from Ontario, Dubroy ordered a bass off of Craigslist despite having never played a note, and drummer Budgell was recruited based on her skills on the kit and her nearby garage space.

      Good Night, Tomorrow reflects a year and a half of work by the bandmates and best friends. The studio space and guidance from Gander, whose discography includes production credits with Japandroids and White Lung, allowed for a more mature, thoughtful record than the fast-paced, similar-sounding collections of their past. Solomonian calls this a conscious choice, “in the interests of preventing any kind of stagnation.”

      “I feel like if you’re doing a third record and it’s not an observable departure thing, what are you doing it for?” says Solomonian.

      Despite necessary changes, Solomonian says day-one fans have been receptive to the band’s new sound. The core element driving the music is still at its heart: the relationship between the three founding members.

      “It’s kind of a blanket comment that I get a lot, they’re like ‘Yeah, it’s really different, but you can tell it’s you guys making it,’” says Solomonian. “There’s that distinctiveness to the way the three of us play music together that carries through and I like that.”

      Even the title of the album reflects the themes of change, repetition, and cyclicality that run through all 11 songs—as does the album cover of a half-sun that could, depending on one’s interpretation, be rising or setting. The driving guitar riffs on tracks like "Violet", "Boil", and "Back to the Bright", suggest the forward momentum behind the group’s evolution. On "Back to the Bright", Solomonian admits he’s “still not convinced of the shape we’re in.”

      It’s been a year of big changes for the group. Ahead of Good Night, Tomorrow, they released their first music video—a hallucinogenic experiment gone wrong in the band’s recording space, a shoot that Solomonian admits was a hellscape of overheating, stress, and general discomfort. But he says they’re all happy with how it worked out.

      Needles//Pins and their city have changed since Solomonian moved here 10 years ago, and he admits that sometimes the oppressive nature of Vancouver’s geography, climate, and cost of living play a role his art.

      Despite all that, Solomonian says Good Night, Tomorrow is a hopeful record.

      “That kind of ever-looming fear of eviction broadly speaking, not necessarily even from the apartment you live in but from the city in general, I think that is definitely going to shape what people are doing and commenting on in their art,” said Solomonian. “But people do survive, they make their way.”

      Needles//Pins’ continued musical output and growth stand as a testament to that resilience. They’re gearing up to tour the states this summer, and head back to Europe next year.

      But Solomonian is adamant that the most important aspect of the group’s success is the joy they get out of playing together and the drive to keep creating. The slowed down recording process this time around reminded them all what they loved about playing together in the first place.

      “It’s been really good for us, it’s re-solidified the importance of this band in our lives,” says Solomonian. “We’ve just gotta do it. It’s a good alternative to the struggles of day-to-day life, whatever those may be. We just get together and play music.”

      Needles//Pins plays SBC Restaurant on Friday (June 30) and the Cobalt on July 18.