by James Olson
VANCOUVER – Needles//Pins are in the midst of what might be the biggest year of their career. Their third record, Good Night, Tomorrow, is set for release on June 30; its creation an epicenter of change for the Vancouver based punk band. Recorded at Rain City Recorders and with a new producer; Good Night has presented the band with a host of new opportunities. The pop punk trio composed of Adam Ess (vocals/guitar), Tony X (bass), and Macey Budgell (drums) has been a consistently fun fixture of Vancouver’s local music scene. Crafting catchy, high energy tunes, Needles//Pins serve as the perfect soundtrack to chain smoking and shotgunning beers in the parking lot behind your favorite East Van music venue.
After releasing two enjoyable yet sonically similar records, the recording process for Good Night served as a genuine opportunity for the band to grow as a unit. “The previous two records we had done were completed in five days. You’ve got 10 to 12 songs and you bang ’em out in five days. You’re really kind of rushed in that regard and there’s always something you notice after it’s done and you’re listening to it and you wish you had time to make changes,” X explains. “This approach allowed us to listen to things as they developed. There were things that we absolutely went back and looked at from previous sessions…it was nice to have the space and ability to reflect on the products that we had.” Ess and Budgell agree the new process enabled the band to take the time they needed to fine-tune each track as they were recorded.
After recording with Jordan Koop at the Noise Floor (now located on Gabriola Island) for their previous two releases, Needles//Pins elected to go with Jesse Gander at Rain City Recorders for Good Night. “It had nothing to do with Jordan. We just switched up everything that we did,” says X. “We decided we weren’t gonna make the same record again for the third time. We needed to move forward as a band. Because if you’re not moving forward then what do you do? We needed to do something different. Not because of bad experiences. We were super happy with everything we had done up to that point. We definitely had to expand.” The results of the band’s hard work shows upon advance listen of Good Night. Tracks like “Violet” and “Back To The Bright” crystallize the ragged everyman character of Ess’ lyrical and musical voice, supported by uncomplicated yet emotionally direct playing by X and Budgell. The band at once conjures the nostalgic, wistful roots rock of Gaslight Anthem with the careening, ramshackle energy of Titus Andronicus and early Against Me!.
Gander not only served as producer for Good Night, he supplied keyboard work throughout the album and has since joined the band as their officially unofficial fourth member. While scheduling doesn’t permit Gander to appear on stage with Needles//Pins for every performance, the band is nonetheless excited to bring him into the fold and he played his most recent live show with the band last month on stage at the Commodore opening for The Smugglers.
As part of their recent signing with Mint Records, joining a roster including the likes of Tough Age, Jay Arner and The Evaporators, Needles//Pins are on the verge of releasing their first ever music video for the anthemic and confrontational “Miracle.” Directed by Mike Babiarz, the band is vocally optimistic about the final product but they all agree the shoot was hellish. Two savage 12 hour days of shooting included turning the band’s jam space into a makeshift bomb shelter, fire alarm shenanigans and annoying the neighbors with their after hours playing. “It was fun for two hours and then it was like ‘We’re fucked,’” X chuckles. Budgell adds “We’ll find out if it was worth it when the video comes out. If it sucks I’m never making a music video again.” The band intends on releasing it just before they head off to Ottawa Explosion in mid June.
This summer involves a lot of touring for Needles//Pins, including dates at the aforementioned Ottawa Explosion and Sled Island in Calgary, along with a full mid-west and east coast tour of the U.S. When BeatRoute last connected with Needles//Pins, the band had just returned from their first European tour. Ess says the band plans on traveling across the Atlantic again in spring 2018 but the trio were absolutely brimming with tales from the road. An isolated village in the Czech Republic was the site of one of the most memorable Needles//Pins shows. “We played at this barn that had been converted into a legion where the front bar area was full of old men watching hockey and chain smoking,” says Ess. “And the back was this huge concert hall. We got there and we were like ‘What the hell is this?’” According to Budgell, everyone thought that they were in the wrong place. “We were on tour with Sonic Avenues at the time and I remember looking at Seb from Sonic Avenues and he was so bummed when we got there. I told him that the night could go either way, it could be amazing or bad. He insisted it was going to be bad. It wound up being the best show of the tour. It was wild,” Ess concludes.
Longevity can often be rare to attain for a band, particularly with the same lineup intact. A lot can happen over the course of five years. The last time Ess connected with BeatRoute in April 2013 he provided an enthusiastic view on the Vancouver music scene. Four years on, Ess’ perspective has certainly changed, but his attitude remains optimistic. “I think Vancouver has changed a lot. I also think that we’ve changed. I will readily admit I’m out of the loop sometimes. A lot of time has gone by since we started this band and we’re not necessarily engaged in the up and coming stuff,” Ess says. “I see that Music Waste is still happening and every time Music Waste comes out there’s a whole list of bands I’ve never heard of before on it and I think that’s awesome. That’s indicative of the fact that people are still doing things and that’s really great.”
The camaraderie shared between the three original members is palpable. Throughout the interview, Ess, X, and Budgell were constantly laughing at themselves, recalling a variety of hilarious episodes and good times shared as a group of friends making music together. As Needles//Pins approach a decade working together, Ess’ summation of what has kept the band together speaks volumes. “Be friends before anything else. That’s the way we’ve always approached it and it’s been great as a result of that. I don’t know what other way we could have done it,” he says. “It’s always been that way. We’re more like a family and it’s been that way since day one. The band is what we do together.”
Good Night, Tomorrow marks the end of the first phase of Needles//Pins career but the beginning of a new one. With the addition of a new member and a greater focus on growing as a band, Needles//Pins have said “good night” to old habits. Tomorrow, new opportunities.
Needles//Pins play their album release show for Good Night, Tomorrow at SBC Restaurant (Vancouver) on June 30cover story, Needles//Pins, SBC, SBC Restaurant