“I don’t think we wanted this record to be angry for anger’s sake,” reflects Pinch Points’ Adam Corcoran-Smith. The guitarist is referring to the Melbourne post-punks’ incendiary second album ‘Process’, which is unflinching in its address of climate violence, class inequality, police brutality against Indigenous peoples, and anxiety triggered by the news cycle.
Joined by bassist Acacia Coates and guitarist/band manager Jordan Oakley on Zoom, Corcoran-Smith is speaking to NME at a particularly despondent time – even by the standards of the last two years. A few days before our call, Putin had invaded Ukraine; US politicians decried that war on the same day that its own military carried out deadly airstrikes on Somalia. Severe floods were making their way down the Australian east coast; the death toll has risen to 22 at the time of publication.
So Pinch Points are understandably full of rage – but for good reason. “We’re angry because there are things in the world worth having and improving,” Corcoran-Smith explains. “So that negativity comes from positivity, if that make sense.”
While disaster continues to be clouded by elites’ doublespeak – Putin’s “special military operation” in the case of Ukraine; politicians’ “rain bomb” in the case of the Australian floods – Pinch Points’ lyrics are sharp and direct. The record is full of sardonic, vivid storytelling, encapsulating a time in history where rational anxiety is abundant. “It’s a pretty raw album,” Oakley agrees.
The lyrics of ‘Process’ dance between depressing cynicism and hopeful reassurance. On ‘Capital’, they sing, “Don’t know if we’re gonna drown or burn to death first” while closer ‘Relentlessly Positive’ tells listeners, “You are valuable, loved, precious and human.”
Pinch Points sing straightforwardly about some extremely unstraightforward things – social ills that are consequences of white supremacy, patriarchy and late capitalism. “We’ve had lots of discussions about the lyrics in terms of what’s the best way to approach these topics, which are almost too big and too complicated to put into a song,” says Oakley.
The complexity of Pinch Points’ task is exemplified in the foreboding track ‘Virga’, which begins with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s infamous coal demonstration in parliament: “This is coal: don’t be afraid!” With their rallying chant, “The ball keeps on rolling and the flames are all around,” Pinch Points rationalise a widely felt fear of Australia’s investment in fossil fuels, a fear that the country’s leader actively tries to tamp down.
“I remember us having conversations before recording ‘Process’ and while we were finishing writing it about how to tackle the uncomfortableness of some of the topics,” remembers Coates, “but ultimately Anna [Laverty, engineer and co-producer] helped us in this regard as well – you can’t sugarcoat an uncomfortable topic into a more palatable way of talking about an uncomfortable topic. That was a realisation we had to have.”
This lack of sugarcoating peaks in their anti-police anthem ‘Copper’, a volatile track that ends with the battle cry “A! C! A! B!” “I was climbing out of lockdown, trying to get back into the news cycle, and realising that another fucking 90-odd Indigenous people have died in custody since that song was fucking written,” remembers Corcoran-Smith. “If we’d included statistics in [the song], it would be out of date on a weekly basis – which is horrible. But sometimes I think it’s worth being angry and at least showing people that they’re allowed to be angry about it too.”
Oakley adds, “By writing confronting stuff and laying on the table some of the deep flaws of this fucked country that we live in, ultimately that can be helpful and can play some small part in creating a society where things might be able to change.”
“You can’t sugarcoat an uncomfortable topic… That was a realisation we had to have”
Pinch Points’ prior releases – 2018’s cassette ‘Mechanical Injury’ and 2019’s LP ‘Moving Parts’ – were recorded and mixed by Corcoran-Smith in his and Oakley’s sharehouse sunroom. Corcoran-Smith remembers long nights staying up until “stupid o’clock in the morning”, tinkering with their mixes. “You fully set the band’s tone and sonic world,” says Coates to Corcoran-Smith, “and I feel like Anna did a good job of picking up on what we’d started.”
Rather than smashing out another record in a weekend, they recorded ‘Process’ over six days, bringing in revered engineer Laverty to record, mix and co-produce the album. “We went in treating it as if there were five people instead of four,” explains Corcoran-Smith. “She was good to rein us in as well,” adds Coates. “We have a few with shifting tempos at different parts of the songs … she would pull you back to reality.”
Moving out of the sunroom and into the studio was a natural transition for Pinch Points, but they’re grateful for their DIY roots. “I think it was really helpful doing DIY releases at the beginning, just to try your best to see the vision through to the end,” reflects Oakley, who also happens to be the presenter of PBS FM’s DIY-focused show ‘Underground Love’.
Pinch Points’ members are all threaded through the dynamic web of Naarm’s music scenes. Coates is the co-creator of Green Your Noise, an online calculator that helps touring musicians keep track of their carbon footprint, and she shreds guitar in power-pop trio Slush. Drummer Orsini is an illustrator and plays in indie dolewave band Jungle Breed. Smith, formerly of fuzz-rock act Gee Seas, records and mixes for local bands – most recently for The Vovos and Girl Germs – and creates Xerox poster art.
Asked to recall the formation of Pinch Points, Cocoran-Smith says, smiling: “ I almost think of it like, you know, in heist movies where they have to assemble the team.” He had spotted Coates playing bass in the mind-meltingly fuzzy band Wasterr at The Curtain Hotel, eagerly introducing himself after her set. “It was our band meet-cute,” jokes Coates.
He secured a drummer who would soon leave the country, making room for Orsini (absent from this interview due to family commitments) to join the team. Oakley – Corcoran-Smith’s highschool friend and housemate – joined after listening to his roommate spend “so much time whinging” about his hunt for a guitarist. “I’m right here,” Oakley playfully re-enacts.
When asked what their dreams are for Pinch Points’ future, NME hears little excited giggles from all three musicians. “This year is starting to feel really packed and exciting,” answers Coates, “and it’s a weird whiplash from all the lockdowns, but it’s very cool.” They’ll launch ‘Process’ in April at The Corner Hotel with Mod Con, travel to Europe to play some shows in September, and more.
“That’s why the songs are written the way they are: so we can have a freak-out while playing”
Pinch Points are known for captivating, high-energy live sets – their sound brings to mind the disjointed riffs of party-rock band The B-52s, the political storytelling of Rhode Island band Downtown Boys and the soaring guitars and razor-sharp vocals of Cable Ties – but listeners might be surprised to hear that nerves still hit the band hard.
“I get, like, bone-shakingly nervous,” explains Corcoran-Smith, “just for the second that we walk out.” He imitates his own shaking hands, and Coates adds, “You really need your fingers to work for this music, too!”
“I guess [anxiety] gets the fingers moving,” reflects Corcoran-Smith, “that’s why the songs are written the way they are: so we can have a freak-out while playing.” If there were ever a band to freak out with at the end of the world, Pinch Points would be a top choice.
Pinch Points’ ‘Process’ is out March 18 via Mistletone Records. The band tour Australia in support of the album in April