Local pop punks Needles//Pins have built a steady buzz over the last few years, having toured the country on a couple of 7-inch singles and a cassette. It’s no small feat, considering most acts will never make it beyond the Bandcamp demo stage. But as the trio begins the promotional stage for its scrappy full-length debut, 12:34, it’s only now accepting that it’s a real band. The rite of passage that led the three-year-old troupe to such a conclusion? The answer is simple: getting its own professional photo shoot.
“It’s a weekend of firsts for our band,” guitarist-vocalist Adam Solomonian says of the outfit’s recent experience with the camera’s eye, while taking a break from a recording session at producer Felix Fung’s Little Red Sounds studio in East Van. “We’re just posing and looking sinister.”
“We look like we don’t want to get our photo taken,” drummer Macey Budgell counters dryly with an eye-roll from across the room.
Despite those supposedly moody modelling faces, Needles//Pins—which also includes bassist Tony Dubroy—is pretty jovial when the Straight stops by the studio. It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, but the unit is none the wiser, having worked on punchy new number “Getting on Home” and a cover of Teenage Head’s “Picture My Face” since the a.m. Both tunes will pop up on a 7-inch platter for La-Ti-Da Records later this year.
Before that mini-effort lands on turntables, though, the group will issue the fast and fun 12:34. While Needles//Pins is accustomed to streamlined, bite-size offerings, the full-length format gave ita little flex room to try some new arrangements.
“Honestly, it was more just being picky about how we organized the track listing so it sounded more like an LP and not just ‘Single, single, single,’ ” Solomonian explains of the extra space.
His choice of words doesn’t mean the album is cluttered with filler and B-sides, though. Despite the sugary hooks, Needles//Pins still goes for the throat with mescaline-fuelled aplomb on “I Don’t Mind” and the ba-ba-ba-adorned “Hale Bop”. Both suggest the album could have easily dropped during the Mint/Lookout merger days of the ’90s, in between releases from the Smugglers and the Groovie Ghoulies.
Elsewhere, the group reaches for the rafters with the massive rawk riffs and simply stated guitar solos of the girl-griping “Makes Me Wanna”, while a redone “Green Eyed”, originally off last year’s split EP with Lethbridge’s Moby Dicks, amps up the energy levels of the early version with new licks and a gruffer vocal delivery from Solomonian. “My voice is just naturally raspy,” the six-stringer admits. “When I started this band, I kind of tried not to do that, but I had to embrace that that’s how my voice sounds. It just ends up working better anyhow, because it sounds natural.”
The album also includes the previously released tracks “Shaker” and “Drop It”, the original versions of which sounded much better, according to fans, on-stage than in recorded form.
“We didn’t necessarily think that,” Dubroy offers, though his bandmates hint that a thinner sound exists on past recordings. “We’ve had people say they love us live, but that the records don’t necessarily capture that.”
While 12:34 has Needles//Pins sounding more fired-up than before, what hasn’t changed is the band’s catastrophically lovelorn lyrics. Filled with miserable drunk-dial scenarios, “Green Eyed” concludes of one relationship: “You know that it’s true/I only think of you when I’m fucked up.”
The jangly garage-rock jam “Breadwinner Takes All”, meanwhile, finds Solomonian on the opposite side of rejection, getting ridiculed at a house party by a potential soul mate. It leads him to sing sweetly and stingingly, “I really want something bad to happen to you.”
“You’ve got to have that angst; you can’t get away from it,” he says. “You couldn’t write a political song in this band.”
Despite such hang-ups, everything’s shaping up nicely for Needles//Pins. On top of having both an album and a 7-inch released this summer, the group is gearing up for a Canadian tour in June. Between the travelling, the photo shoots, the interviews, and the studio time, the band has started to seem like more than an excuse to get together with friends and get loaded.
“Our drinking club has a music problem,” Dubroy notes.
That said, Needles//Pins is having fun as it enters the next stage of its career.
“We’re not forced to take it more seriously; we definitely don’t do that,” Solomonian insists. “We want to do all these things because we want to sell the record, and they’re neat to do. I’ve never done this in a band before. It’s cool.”
Needles//Pins plays its record-release and tour-kickoff show at the Astoria Hotel this Saturday (May 26).