Piney Gir is gearing up to release her 6th album, the erratically cased "mR hYDE'S wILD rIDE". There's no denying Piney's style is eclectic, with a host of influences peppering her upcoming release, but what shines through is her passion for just creating. She's just come back from Japan, where she hung out with Gaz Coombes (his touring band feature on the album), so we decided it was about time we caught up with her.
Contactmusic: Where did the name Piney Gir come from?
Piney Gir: Piney is a name I made up when I was very small. Nobody knows where it came from, but people would say "What's your name little girl?" and I'd say "Piney!" Sometimes they'd give me a confused look and look to my parents to see if that was true. Other people accepted that I had this name. My family called me Piney as a nickname growing up. And the Gir part is because I never could say girl properly, so I'd say "I'm a GIR!" because I had a bowl hair cut and never wanted to be confused with a boy. So a common sentence from 2-3-year-old me is "I'm Piney and I'm a Gir!" So, when it came to having a stage name I realised I already had one...
CM: How long have you been in the UK and why did you decide to make the move over from America?
PG: I moved to the UK over 10 years ago. I had just earned my music degree and didn't know what to do with it. I knew I didn't want to stay in Kansas and I didn't want to go to New York, Chicago or LA because that seemed to be where everyone went after uni. I had spent a semester in the UK on a foreign exchange programme and I loved it, so I came back, took some evening courses at St. Martin's and worked in a cocktail bar to meet people and just figure things out. I ended up in a synth-pop duo called Vic Twenty, which was my first band. It was then I realised indie-pop music is something I wanted to do for real.
CM: mR hYDE'S wILD rIDE is your 6th album, how is this different from what has come before?
PG: mR hYDE's wILD rIDE is a culmination of many styles but has a coherency to it. I think it's quite riff-led, melody-driven, indie-pop with a few psychedelic, kraut-rock moments. There are crunchy, grungy guitars and shiny, analogue synths filtered through valve amps and vintage space echo. It's a fusion of organic and synthetic sounds; it's all very "present" and "real" sounding. These sounds were created in a room, not with midi or a desk. I love how tactile this album is. Previously I have done an electro album, 2 country albums, a folktronic album, and a retro 60's hippy, beat-pop album. I like all types of music and all types of music influence me. I am inspired by new things, but all of these albums have things in common... melody-driven songs with lyrics that tell a story, and big hooky riffs.
CM: Is there a theme to the album?
PG: There are some loose themes, yes. The Mr. Hyde bit refers to the duplicity within us all, there are two sides to everything and everyone: a Dr. Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde. A lot of these songs refer to darkness and light, there is optimism in bad things and there is darkness in good things. Nothing is pure, nothing is black and white, we live in a colourful world and colourful things happen to us every day and sometimes we handle it like Jekyll and sometimes we handle it like Hyde. The Wild Ride bit refers to my favourite ride at Disneyland "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" because life throws us all kinds of roller coaster moments and sometimes you just gotta go with it & enjoy the ride! I also like the Britishness of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, because I ended up here in Britain, something I couldn't have foreseen when I was riding Mr. Toad's Wild Ride for the first time at Disneyland, aged 9, ya know? Which leads me to the sense of nostalgia, there is definitely an air of memories to this album. I use music to process what's going on in my head and in my heart and I've reached a reflective stage in life, I guess this was accelerated because I lost someone that I care about when I was making this record and losing someone triggers you to look within yourself, to assess your life and where you are, where you were, how you got there, and figure out where you are going. Life is just a journey and you get from it what you give... and I think that's the moral of the story with this album.
CM: The album has a bright alt pop feel to it - what do you think of the state of pop music at the moment?
PG: Thanks! & I love pop music (some of it), but as an industry it feels very much like a big machine that is manipulated by big companies, big egos, big fat marketing budgets and Saturday night TV shows. I don't curse the pop machine, I don't love it either, I don't really feel like I am part of it. It's sort of like marketing Barbie or Hot Wheels or McDonalds, the product could be anything, in this case it's pop music. I make music because it's in me and I have to make music, it's what I do and what I feel most natural doing. In an ideal world lots of people would discover me, like what I do, buy my albums, go to my shows, but I don't feel I'm competing with mainstream pop music. Pop is a totally different product and it's created for a totally different reason. It ticks a box, and sometimes I enjoy it, so I'm not going to diss it. I don't feel affected by it personally as an artist though.
CM: What influenced the writing on this album?
PG: This album is about the optimism that gets you through the tough stuff. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems and there is something to be said for following your bliss even when it's hard! When I started writing this album I was in a challenging place. My day job stiffed me my pay-check for three months, leaving me financially in the gutter. I had to put all of my belongings into storage and live in a friend's spare room (thank heavens for said friend!) and I took an intense corporate day job which required me to work long hours and commute long distances every day across town. This left me constantly tired and often demoralised, but I made a conscious decision to use my energy for something good. I really believe that life is what you make it, so I used my commuter time to write lyrics. I was the crazy girl on the tube singing random riffs into her phone, I would get so wrapped up with songwriting that sometimes I missed my stop - which made me late to work! I spent all my free time, evenings, weekends and holidays in the studio hashing out demos and after our time with Andy Ramsay, from Stereolab, in his south London studio we spent time overdubbing and manipulating tapes and all sorts of experiments with sounds in our little Hackney studio which was like a musical playground and I think you can hear how much fun we were having, it was such a release from the daily grind to go into that studio and play with sounds. When the album was finished, this difficult time in my life also passed, I managed to get myself back on the level again. It felt like being freed from prison and this was so joyful and liberating! This inspired the "mug shots" album cover... I had friends, family and fans send in mug shots which features on the cover of the new album. I wear black and white stripes in all the photos like an old-fashioned prisoner from a 1950's film, but I'm free, I'm happy and I'm running!
CM: What can fans expect from you live?
PG: I put a lot of effort and energy into my live shows. I like to dress up and the band will sometimes dress in themes or colour schemes along with me. I explore creative ways of dressing the stage, or sometimes I will interact with projections. I have been known to use puppetry in my shows (a couple of times) and we have done an underwater gig a time or two (which features me as a mermaid and my band as different types of fish). I'm happy to share the limelight and am very proud of my band, so I encourage them to solo or say things, me and my backing singers sometimes use choreography in the show... it's not all about me, it's about us as a collective and the experience we provide. I love it when the audience gets involved, once in Bristol the audience stormed the stage and there was no longer that imaginary wall between the band and the audience, it was great! Or once we played Bestival and it started to rain during our song "I Was Born In A Thunderstorm" so me and Emma (my lovely backing singer) leaped out into the pit and started moshing in the rain with everyone. I think you have to plan ahead for some things but you also have to go with it when the mood hits you. Music is a moving art, so we try to seize the moment.
CM: You've worked with an array of fantastic musicians, which has been your favourite to work with and why?
PG: Garo Nahoulakian has definitely invested the most time & effort into mR. hYDE'S wILD rIDE as he co-wrote and produced it, so he should get a special name-check, but everyone has their musical or conceptual gifts that they bring to the table and to risk sounding like a total hippy-sap, I really do feel blessed to work with the people that I work with. I have such a great team comprised of friends and they have such a great amount of talent that I can't possibly choose a favourite.
CM: Will there be any festivals or summer dates?
PG: Ah yes, I have my London single launch party April 23rd at The Islington... then I'm playing the Alternative Escape in Brighton on May 16th, followed by a UK tour in June. There are some festival offers on the table, but nothing I can officially announce just now.
CM: What do you hope fans take out from the album after listening?
PG: I would love for this album to resonate with people; there are some very heartfelt moments in it. I also would love it to inspire people and give them hope and optimism. It would make me so happy to feel like this album helped someone through a hard time, or made a problem seem a little easier to deal with. I am hopeful that this album will get people dancing at the indie-disco too, because there are some fun, fast tracks there too!
mR hYDE'S wILD rIDE is released 8th June 2015 via Damaged Goods.
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