London-based Piney Gir originally hails from Kansas and has for many years been a prolific and prodigious musician, spanning various genres from electro to alt-country to folktronic to 60’s retro pop to krautrock. She is currently working on album number seven! LOUD WOMEN is proud as punch to be helping Piney throw a London launch party for her new single at Paper Dress Vintage on 19 Feb, along with Natalie Sharp (of Lone Taxidermist), Samantha Whates, and DJs Ruth Barnes and Cheri Amour (The Other Woman Show/Soho Radio) will soundtrack the Suffragette City disco. In the meantime, we asked Piney 10 questions …
1. Who would you most like to cover one of your songs?
I’d love to hear what Janelle Monae would do with one of my songs. I love her fresh, original sound, she never does what’s expected, and so it would cool to hear what she’d do with it.
2. If you could add one member to your band – any person, living or dead, musical or otherwise – who would it be, and what would they play?
That’s a tough question. I would have loved to collaborate with Prince or David Bowie, both of which are pretty famed for being original and changing things up. I’d love to see what they would do to bend my perception or challenge the way I think about music. I would learn a lot from them and it’d be fun. However, they are not around so unless I conjure them up somehow with some kind of voodoo spell, maybe I’d choose to work with someone living, like Dangermouse because I love his production style, his music sounds like he’s having fun all the time. Ditto Dave Fridmann sounds like he uses the studio like a playground and that would be really great!
3. What was the last song you wrote, where were you when you came up with the idea, what inspired it, and how did it turn out?
I’m working on this new track that doesn’t have a name yet, it sounds a bit like Plastic Ono Band, chorus is a bit Elliot Smith sounding, the melody has lots of chromatics, the palette so far sounds a bit like Psapp with vibraphone and sparse bassline moving around in fourths, there is tick-tocking percussion that sounds a sort of like the clock in FAO Schwartz (that’s the toy store where Tom Hanks dances on the giant floor piano in Big). Lyrics are about infinity and beyond, playful, hopeful, but the chromatic melody gives it a dark, bittersweet twist. It’s not done yet, so not sure how it will turn out or even if it will see the light of day, but I’m always writing.
4. Which was your favourite gig you’ve a) played and b) watched?
You are full of hard questions!
a) I played a gig at Glastonbury on the Park Stage; the first year the Park Stage existed I played twice. I did the Saturday afternoon and it was great, really fun! But the unexpected gig on Sunday came about when Micah P Hinson broke his arm or leg or something? So I filled in for him. However, I didn’t know I was playing Glasto again on Sunday so I went a bit wild on Saturday night, my band agreed to the gig, but couldn’t find me. I had been out all night; I got ‘Glastonburied!’ They found me an hour before our set, I had to do hair, make up, warm up my voice, etc. and it was The Libertines secret gig right before me, meaning Kate Moss, Pete Doherty and all these hipster paparazzi people were watching my set from the side of the stage and there was an absolutely huge crowd there to see us. It was great fun, it took every ounce of concentration I had to get through that set the best way I could… so I didn’t realise that behind me Ed Harcourt was giving my band poppers on stage and a naked man emerged from The Rabbit Hole (the small stage next to The Park Stage) wearing nothing but a rabbit head and he was hopping around behind me. Everyone I saw afterwards was like ‘how did you keep a straight face?’ but in all honesty I was so frazzled from my big Glastonbury night I was concentrating too hard to fully register what was going on. It was fun and rowdy and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it, apart from maybe getting a good night’s sleep!
b) I recently saw David Byrne and it changed the way I think about live music it was so incredible. Firstly his band were not stationary, they were wearing marching band drums and wireless guitars, Bluetooth mics, etc, so they could march in formations and shapes and flow freely on and off stage, they played with the lighting and sets and it was just magical. The exciting set-up did not detract from the music, which was, if anything heightened by these layers that resulted in a pointillistic approach to music-making. It was inspiring and I was elated after seeing it. I also saw Childish Gambino in Bilbao at a festival and while the setting (the top of a mountain in the middle of summer in beautiful Spain) was stunning, it was wildly enhanced by Childish Gambino’s set, his stage presence was like that of a legend, I felt like I was seeing the new Marvin Gaye or something! It was poignant, political, meaningful, funky and fun all the same time. I was in such awe! And last but not least, Dolly Parton, she’s my fave! I have seen her several times, every time I cry during Little Sparrow. Her Glastonbury set was brilliant, and I really enjoyed when she played the O2, she’s also such a hero because of what she gives back to her community. She’s also a tough cookie and a savvy businesswoman; I love her!
5. Recommend a record and a book that you think our readers might not have heard of.
I don’t presume to know more than anyone else about music and books but I can tell you my jam these days is old-school world music. I have been listening non-stop to a Spotify playlist I’ve made featuring Fadhili William, Eden Ahbez, Mulatu Astatke, Dixie Kwanka, Lord Kitchener (he always sounds so happy), Yma Sumac (her voice is insane it’s so good!), Joose Keskitalo etc. In fact here’s a link to the playlist if you want to hear it.
Books, let’s see, I am currently reading an anthology of American Indian Myths and Legends, I am part Native American so I’m enjoying delving into my history a bit. Also, these stories are mad! It’s really obvious that Native Americans smoked peyote and chowed down on magic mushrooms because these stories are a trip and a half; yet they are created to explain the mundane… like farming, animals, seasons and weather is all explained with these totally crazy stories. I highly recommend it as an alternative to fairy tales, great bedtime reading.
6. What’s your best piece of advice for young musicians?
Umm… just do it! Don’t doubt yourself, don’t second guess your creativity, follow your muse, listen to your heart. Do it for fun, and do it because you love it. Don’t do it to ‘make it’ or ‘get signed’ because it’s a rough road and can be really hard sometimes; sometimes people won’t get it, and that’s hard but it’s okay and will make you stronger. Do it because it’s who you are. If you gotta do it, you gotta… it’s just in you, right? Don’t give up.
7. Your top 3 most beloved albums ever – go.
It’s tough because there’s so much music I love! But the albums I’m choosing are old I guess these are tried and tested and have stood the test of time, I have listened to these records so many times for so many years they are a part of my lifeblood now. But there’s shizzloads of wonderful new music that I’m obsessed with too! I guess these albums below are formative for me though.
Paul Simon’s Graceland was one of the first secular albums my mom played in the car. I had a very sheltered upbringing and wasn’t exposed to pop or rock music really. The sounds from that album were bouncy like sunshine, but I knew what he was singing about was serious. I was just a kid and wasn’t fully grasping the importance of his links to South Africa and the double meanings to songs caught up with me later, but it was fun and got me bopping in the back seat.
Depeche Mode Music For The Masses was one of the first tapes I bought with my babysitting money from a bargain bin at the music store in the mall. It had probably been out for ages by the time I got it on sale, but it was new to me and sounded like future music to my sheltered, Midwestern ears. My friends at the time were listening to Journey and Boston, Kansas and Rush; it was like being in a time warp. Depeche Mode was dark and synthy and I had never heard anything like it. I listened to the song Stripped on that album over and over; I loved it and was also convinced that I was going to go to hell for listening to it.
3rd choice, I was really torn, as I wanted to choose a Beatles record as I am a bit obsessed with the Beatles (have been since the 90’s) but for a start, I would struggle to choose just one Beatles album (Revolver, Rubber Soul and White Album all being favourites) but I think Nirvana’s Nevermind actually shifted the way I listened to music. It was such a shake up from the shiny pop I’d grown accustomed to with mainstream ears. Madonna and Michael Jackson were mainstays of the roller rink but Nirvana conjured up that rebel inside and made me wanna learn how to smoke and drive around Kansas City with my speakers distorting from the sheer volume of it.
Honorouble mention goes to Bjork’s Homogenic, which scored many road trips across Kansas for me as a teenager and showed me how quirk and grandeur can live side by side in a song. I love this record and Bjork’s a bit of a legend. Ditto The Breeders Last Splash, who showed me that girls can rock just as hard or even harder than boys can, but Breeders still have tuneful riffs and melodies, channelling riot grrl swagger with a pop sensibility that could rival Pet Sounds. It’s good to have role models like that! There’s a whole new stable of excellent female-fronted bands that I love and it seems easier than ever for women to get out there and rock out! I’m excited to be a part of that scene and The Breeders paved the way.
8. What are your musical goals?
I just wanna keep making music and I wanna keep doing my thing the best way that I know how. I actually was having a really hard time prior to writing this new album (You Are Here – it will come out later this year), lots of big life stuff went pear-shaped, I was made redundant from my day job (I worked as a music supervisor in advertising, which is a whole tangent story I won’t go into now, but I could probably write a Kill Your Friends style book about it) and on the same day my label dropped me (with a bluntly-worded email), what kind of hideous stars aligned that day? Friends then let me down, people close to me got cancer, another friend died, I had my own health stuff going on with hospital visits, blood tests, MRI scans, it was the lowest of the low… and it can be really damaging to put your heart out there in song form and to feel like it’s not connecting, it’s like Mercury was constantly in retrograde or something. It’s not that I’m after validation or fame; it’s more that as an artist my music feels incomplete if I don’t share it, like that’s the final part of the creativity equation. So I had resolved to just quit, to stop making music, I felt it was too painful to lay it all out on the line like that to have people treat it like something disposable. But the funny thing was, I couldn’t stop. Songs kept popping into my head and lyrics kept forcing their way out of my pen, I tried to ignore it, but it was pounding like a tell-tale heart, so I had to write this record, and it came out in its most organic form. I had a lot of fun making this record and now I’m just excited to share it and I’m not going to get hung up on if a music bizz person screws me over, or a record label boss is kind of douchey, maybe I’ve developed a thicker skin (a silver lining from all that bad stuff). This album is pure expression and comes from the heart, some of that pain is in there, and so is the optimism that comes with the pain, it’s whole and it’s human and I’m proud of it… if it does well, that would be great! But that’s not why I do it, I do it because it is simply ‘in me’ to do it, it’s who I am. So my goal is just to be able to keep on doing it. A nice team (a label, PR, plugger) would be living the dream, but I think most importantly I need to just work with lovely, likeminded people who appreciate and respect my vision.
9. What’s the most important thing we need to know about your band right now?
I am the luckiest girl in the world because I have such a sweet band and amazing, talented people I can call upon to sing with me, play with me, write songs with me, and generally have a laugh on the tour bus with. My band consists of my best friends. I’m 1000’s of miles away from home; so they really do feel like my band family. It’s like I have a bunch of crazy brothers and sisters. We have been lucky to find each other and we all have fun together.
10. Give your top 5 contemporary bands/musicians.
Okay, top 5 contemporary bands/musicians…
- Gaz Coombes – I absolutely love him. Supergrass were great, but he has really evolved and developed his solo career in such an amazing way, it’s been fun to watch his music grow! His style has evolved from Here Come The Bombs to Matador to World’s Strongest Man, and I’m excited to see what he does next. I also think lyrically it’s great that he delivers what I see to be a feminist message with a masculine voice, speaking to all types of music fans and generally doing some good out there in the world. Wounded Egos has a lot to say!
- Goat Girl – are so fun! We played Jools Holland with them (with Gaz Coombes, okay, I do sing BV’s with him!) anyway, when we met them, they were sweet and fun, and their music is artful and cool. I wanted to join their band, ya know! They seem to be doing it for all the right reasons. I am pleased to see how well they’ve done with their debut album and can’t wait to see what they do next.
- Melody’s Echo Chamber isn’t super new (first album 2012) but they are still making new albums and I think it’s great. I love how chic and French she is, how cool it all sounds, they are also not afraid to mix it up with strange meters and time signatures and they use really great space-age sounding synths atop organic rock-tinged tunes, it’s a fusion I can get behind. They kinda remind me a bit of Stereolab, who I also love.
- Cate Le Bon is amazing, I’d love to take guitar lessons with her, and I also think her Welsh accent sounds so cool; oddly a bit like Nico and the Velvet Underground. He lyrics are quirky without being twee, they are twisted and knowing, the music has cool, laid back appeal and the riffs, by god her guitar riffs, they will haunt you once you’ve heard them. I also love her side project Drinks that she did with White Fence.
- Willie J Healy – I super love him. He sings on my new album (you heard it here first folks, ‘cuase it’s not out yet!) he’s just such a sweetheart and he oozes so much talent. He’s always writing, creating and striving in a way that is very natural. His songs have this slacker rock vibe that makes me feel cool just listening to it, but the songs are quite technical, despite sounding slacker, they are seriously great! I think he sounds a bit like Pavement or more angular moments of Dinosaur Junior, but Willie J is a lot more refined than your average slacker rock, he’s quite muso! Actually so are Pavement and Dinosaur Junior, so maybe the term ‘slacker rock’ is an oxy moron, ha!
Catch Piney Gir live at a very special LOUD WOMEN show on 19 Feb 2019 at Hackney’s Paper Dress Vintage, along with Natalie Sharp (of LoneTaxidermist), Samantha Whates, and DJs Ruth Barnes and Cheri Amour (The Other Woman Show/Soho Radio)