It’s been nearly six years since Atlanta rockers the Pinx released their last record, Southern Tracks, and to hear band mastermind Adam McIntyre tell it, there’s been a lot of road stories and hard living in that intervening time. Tonight, however, longtime fans will finally get to experience the band’s latest evolution as they celebrate the release of their new LP, Freedom, while opening for the grandmaster of surf guitar, Dick Dale, at the Earl.
Freedom will melt your boot straps to the floor. Don’t worry, you won’t need to go anywhere. You might not even notice as the album hot wires your inner soul, making you flail about like a bobblehead in a sandstorm. It permeates the ear canal like the sweltering heat of the Sahara. Each song is the promise of an emerald oasis. However, as soon as you get close, they vanish like a mirage as the next one comes swinging out of the nearest hilltop, dragging your sun-bleached bones up another dune. Then, as you reach the precipice of that next hill, McIntyre’s harmonies will swirl down upon you like a barbershop quartet of vultures floating through the wavering heart of the desert. It’s a hell of a trip.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing McIntyre about Freedom and the road which led to the making of this album. So please enjoy his unique thoughts and I hope to see you at the Earl so you can find out for yourself why the Pinx are just one more reason why rock and roll refuses to die.
It has been quite sometime since you have released an album. What was the catalyst behind this new collection of work?
Short answer: Lemmy died. Long answer: I’ve been doing four-track demos of new Pinx songs for four years and about a year ago I got serious about making time to start sorting through the 30-40 song snippets trying to find my favorites. I needed a theme and the theme that bubbled up out of watching The Prisoner (the 1967 Patrick McGoohan tv series) was Freedom. I found that theme running through a lot of stories I like to tell friends at parties and backstage, so those became full-fledged recordings.
As I neared the end of recording the album, I realized that I probably needed to leave StoneRider to avoid screwing over both them and the Pinx. StoneRider had big plans and it looked like the Pinx would get put on the back burner again in spite of all my work. I’d been wanting to go whole hog with the Pinx for a couple years anyway and Lemmy’s death was the final straw. Rock is dying and it’s my favorite thing. I can’t bitch about it dying and then not do something about it. It’s a lot of fun for me but I also have a stronger purpose this time around.
What was your writing process like and how did the process of its production further color the compositions?
I wanted everything to reflect that this record is my musical happy place, so it all had to be that, first.
I came up with riffs by the dozens on my phone and on my four track, which I still use for simple ideas. I had loads of lyrics. I set aside some time to start making sense of what I had and I had like 20-30 songs four-tracked, in varying stages of being good, “interesting” (a nice way of saying mostly not good), laughable, or kickass. The ideas I considered kickass got pushed to the front and I gave them subjects and titles and either finished them or started over with a clearer direction, pillaging the best bits of the other songs to fill out missing pieces. I made four track recordings of them and sent them to friends like Dwayne Jones [Order of the Owl] who had expressed enthusiasm for helping me make the record.
I straightened up the lyrics as we tracked guitars and drums, trying as often as possible to have that performance be the live foundation everything else was built on. The process of recording is almost always my songwriting partner, so that final step of tracking and adjusting the lyrics to fit what got tracked was effectively the end of the process. Some things began as obvious odes to certain influences but became muddied and blurred and turned into something else, which I always let happen. It beats that thing where you hear something and it’s just… distractingly close to something else. Like “Oh, this IS a Marvin Gaye song.”
Who produced the album, who is featured on it, and how did these people shape the final product?
I produced it and did almost all of the guitars and all of the bass, all the lead vocals, yadda yadda. If it ended there, I’m sure the record would be like getting in my armpit and holding your breath. There were lots of contributors, though. Here’s where I’m almost certain to forget really key players that I love and without whom this record wouldn’t have the spark it has. But I’ll try not to miss anyone. Dwayne Jones, who I was in Demonaut with had been in my ear since the Pinx began about playing drums for me. I put him to work on this record! I’d originally intended to have several guest drummers including my elder son (whose drumming helped me come up with the “Sun House” chorus riff) but in the end, my best friend Amos Rifkin was the only other drummer on the album, on “Southern Gentleman.” Dwayne claimed the job of drummer.
The rest of our new lineup came on board as we wrapped the album up, but Jon Lee lent his backing vocals to a few songs, Chance McColl plays the other guitar (left speaker, maybe) on our MC5 cover, “Baby Won’t Ya.” Noah Pine from StoneRider plays all the keyboards you hear. He did great. Ruby Velle lent her soulful backing vocals to a few songs. Our previous lineup’s bassist Joe Giddings did the immaculate vocal harmonies on “Sun House.” Will Raines from the Long Shadows and An English Place played accordion on “Ballad of the Bands.” I mixed it at the Quarry with help from Thanos Elias and Brian Carter mastered it. Nick Bach took the album photos and Keith Brogdon did the album art and layout. I explained to everyone involved that this record is intended to be my most joyful spot and that they were invited in to take part in that joy. I didn’t give them tons of direction, I just let everyone do their jobs in the way that made them happiest. In return, they put so much of their soul into it.
You have creamy, bittersweet rock ballads like “Blue Dream” and crowd crunching, full-throttle anthems like “Rock All Night.” What are your thoughts on balancing these wandering tones and how do you go about bridging them together on the album?
It’s 80% uptempo rock, 20% slow rock, which is the balance I feel like playing live right now. The question of “but why” — why have a soul vibe on “I Got the Cure” and why are we evoking Exile on Main Street on “Blue Dream” — because it serves the songs and those puzzle pieces are important parts of me. I’d be lying if I didn’t claim a bit of soul, R&B, and especially blues as close members of my musical family and dominant parts of my past, more so than rock and roll. So I embraced them and invited them to the party. Rock and roll is disgusting when it’s only influenced by itself anyway.
The Pinx is a great, memorable easy to spell name. Why spell it with an “x” and how does the title of your new album relate to the concept of the Pinx?
Our old drummer Jim O’Kane erased the “ks” from the blackboard on stage at the Star Bar one night and put an “x.” I walked in, saw it, and I think I clapped. It just seemed right. It wasn’t a color anymore and we stopped using Russian communist propaganda art for our flyers. It freed up the whole project to be something else.
I guess my concept of the Pinx came from my time in Les Honky More Tonkies when I lived in Nashville. I have some great road stories from my band but Les Honky was always a powder keg of insanity attracting insanity. There were so many scary moments that turned beautiful — almost dying twice in one night in a snowstorm in the mountains, some scary bikers spraying a 12-pack of beer on us on stage… in appreciation — so many people telling us to keep going and never stop rocking. They’re pretty much hated in Nashville but loved around the Southeast. I learned how to talk to the audience from Johnny Pyro, how to get into and out of trouble from Joie Todd, how to respect simplicity and honesty and how to be myself and have a great time, and how to invite the audience to have a good time — all from that band.
When I moved to Atlanta I wanted to keep going. More rock and roll. More fun. More stories. More LIFE. So I made a rock and roll band that could be honest and not tongue-in-cheek like what was so popular at the time. I’m showing y’all what I love, and you can either take it or leave it but I won’t be apologizing or making any excuses about what it is.
This town seems to have reserved a space for us. I cut into it ten years ago and I’ve had nothing but an amazing time ever since.
How alive and well is true blue rock and roll in Atlanta to you?
I know a lot of musicians who would love to play records for you all night. I know a lot of bands that have a love and need to go do what they do with energy and enthusiasm. Some of it sounds real down and some of it is very in your face and fast but Atlanta loves rock and roll. Atlanta saw where I fit in right away and basically told me to please do what I do… but bigger and louder, please. I’d say it’s just fine.
For some in Atlanta, it’s been a tough scene over the years. So, how do you plan to cut into the current scene and how do you feel this newest contribution will be received?
This town seems to have reserved a space for us. I cut into it ten years ago and I’ve had nothing but an amazing time ever since. There’s nowhere here I want to play that I haven’t played and I know all the bands that I love. I’ve recorded some of those bands. But when I started handing out advance copies of Freedom I got a lot of the same feedback: that this was what they needed at exactly the right moment. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to claw back to the big stages, but that’s exactly what the plan is. Let’s do this thing. Let’s have a lot of fun and get people dancing, not just headbanging, not looking at their phones, but engaging. My mission isn’t one of trying to “make it;” it’s to entertain and provide a soundtrack.
What would you like your fans to know and what can they look forward to in the future?
PinxStax is coming.
The Pinx will perform tonight at the Earl when they play in support of Dick Dale. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $30.