For those in the know, Australia has remained an epicenter for aggressive guitar based music. With no shortage of bands, one of the most exciting to emerge from the underground as of late is the Melbourne four-piece Pinch Points. Released in March on Exploding in Sound, their second full-length Process is a prime showcase of their Billy Childish-meets-The B52s sound and should dig in its heels in any self-respecting music critic’s year end list.
Recorded with Anna Laverty (Courtney Barnett, Nick Cave, The Peep Tempel) back in 2021, the record finds the balance between humorous social commentary and shining a light on more sobering issues—such as atrocities committed against indigenous people by the hands of the Australian government and the alarming toll the climate crisis is taking on their continent.
Listening to the record, you can hear the band operating as a gang out to achieve their righteous goals. With clean jangly guitars and ragged rhythms, you can hear the voices of members Adam Smith (vocals, guitar), Acacia Coates (vocals, bass), Isabella Orsini (drums), and Jordan Oakley (guitar) bounce off and respond as if in conversation with one another. It makes for a listen that feels connected to humanity at a ground level with no allusion to the artist being above the listener.
Ears to Feed caught up with Smith and Oakley recently to go through the tracklisting of Process to get their insights on how they wrote and recorded the album.
“Reasons to Be Anxious”
Adam: I think I started writing the words to this just as COVID was kind of showing up in Australia actually and kind of cut it started kind of coming from a perspective of the like, there’s so many things that you can do online now that like a lot of people were getting ready to go into lockdown or thinking we might be going into lockdown, which we did, obviously. But it was funny that I found it funny that everyone was really stressed about it. But there’s so many things like you can literally live your life from home, you can work from home, you can get your food, all of your groceries delivered. You have absolutely no reason to leave your house. But then, I guess it’s kind of funny because that’s where it started from. But then at this stage of the pandemic, I feel like the song comes across completely differently. Like it’s a bit of a bit of a switch I think by the time we kind of recorded it because we’ve been through a few lockdowns. I think that kind of energy got into it.
Jordan: It started as a COVID inspired song but containing other things. It wasn’t always just COVID song. But then, once we’d been through the pandemic, yeah, it changed to be generally a bit more about anxiety. For a lot of people, that seemed relatable. I think there’s always going to be a bit of a pandemic element, but we also really didn’t want it to be a COVID-y song because when it came out, I think we’re all very, very sick of just talking about it and wanted to try to not think about it. That’s why we made the video clip that was just a friend dancing because I feel like that’s just gonna sum it up. It’s fucking wild. Let’s just dance and have fun.
Adam: Oh, yeah. This was an Acacia song. The whole thing.
Jordan: An Acacia special.
Adam: An Acacia special! I think with this one, we spent a lot of time working on the structure of it because it has kind of not too many different parts but a few different kinds of connected bits. I think I remember that because we did like a few sessions of pre-production with Anna before we recorded the record and I remember this one going through a few kinds of morphs and changes, which is really satisfying. Does that sound right, Jordan?
Jordan: The lyrics are mostly Acacia and then I guess we all just added a few suggestions or whatever. But it was always this song that we were playing around with and I feel like Acacia wrote that first baseline quite early on in the writing period. It was a while ago and then it took us a while to slowly fine tune it and tweak it. But eventually, we got there. I think it comes across really well as a fun song referencing climate change and consumerism and like has some musically interesting parts and it finishes with a nice little wild descending guitar thing. It’s one we haven’t played live yet, either.
Having these two songs sequenced back-to-back was a really nice touch. You get the anxiety of the consumer and then the perspective of the evil corporation causing the anxiety.
Adam: I think when we were doing the track listing, there was a bit of a back and forth about like, “is it a bit too obvious to put them back-to-back?” I think eventually once we actually had the recordings and we just listened to them, It was like no, this is actually a good thing to start with.
Jordan: We opened with reasons to be anxious. And it’s like, We’re anxious! This is what’s happening. And then the next one is like, this is one of the things that causes us stress. And then the album kind of goes through some of those things.
Adam: I guess that’s the whole record. It’s just “Reasons To Be Anxious” parts two through 10.
Adam: There were a lot of discussions in the band, I think we spent a lot of time second guessing where we were at with it. I remember in pre-production when we were with Anna, that stuff kind of came out and we asked her for her outside opinion. Because the song is about indigenous deaths in custody. She was like, “It happens. It’s true. You’re feeling uncomfortable about the song because it’s an uncomfortable topic, not because it’s a bad song.”
I guess the song starts off as a little bit of a big piss take. I think a lot of our songs use a bit of a humorous aspect to deflate the tension around stuff. But I feel like in this one, starting with that and then and then leaving it from the first chorus and not coming back to it at all is like kind of more of a way to instead of using the humor to release the tension that kind of it’s there to kind of bounce the tension off of. You start from that point and it goes, Oh, well, no, this is actually not something that you can really joke and laugh about. Originally, the lyrics were going to have actual statistics in it. But the statistics are out of date. Ideally, the song would not be topical, but it is. Which is fucked, obviously. But it’s not as though writing the song is gonna make the problem go away. But I think it was just kind of a bit of like, this is something that frustrates me and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m just gonna shit out the anger that I have around it into a song. Then we workshopped it from there. But it didn’t really change too much. I think the lyrics have been in my phone for two and a half, maybe three years now.
It feels like if there was a clever punchline to the song it would almost defeat the purpose.
Adam: Exactly. I guess the closest we get is more out of frustration, but the second verse is just a list of places and prisons. There are so many. When I was writing the song, I was disgusted by how much I was spoiled for choice with it. There are so many of them that I can just go through and pick out ones. I could cherry pick a rhyme for the verse.
“Am I Okay?”
Adam: I think this one was, not written, but definitely set up [in a way where] we definitely need something after the depression-fest of the first four songs. I started writing it just because it was more literally like a “note to self” kind of thing. This basically started as a list of things that I think I should do for myself. Acacia and I had been texting a lot. And it often comes up where one of us says, “why don’t we just follow our own advice?” A lot of people have spoken to us about it and said that the song touched them, which is nice. But I feel like from a Pinch Points perspective… I don’t know about you, Jordan, but I feel like this is kind of the most like not the most heartfelt but the most [mimics air quotes] “soppy” song we’ve written. I don’t think “soppy” is the right word. It’s the most “something” song that we’ve done.
Jordan: I feel like, songwriting wise, on the first EP and the first album there are a bunch of songs that are like more character driven songs, which we sort of moved away from in this album. But then there’s the ones which are pretty classic us, talking about a topic in our own really unique sort of way that is very self referential and self aware. Then you’ve got things on this album like “Copper”, which is just mostly the topic and it in its entirety. Then you’ve got “Am I Okay?” which is the other end of it. [It’s] way more just focused on us and introspective and I think also pairing that with maybe a slightly less intense sound musically and being a little bit more jangly and emotional or something like I think it ended up being a song that was quite different. But, it still had a reference point to all of our other music and people really liked it. I think it was received really well and I’m so glad that we made it a single and made a really great video with it. I felt like we did it justice from the very beginning of when we started writing it.
Adam: I think it’s good to ask yourself, “Am I okay?” Because you’re worth looking after. The world is a horrible place. There are all these horrible things that are happening. But from a moral perspective, if people didn’t mind, then we wouldn’t write songs about it. For example, if none of this stuff actually pissed us off, if we were different people or if humans were different … At least for me, for some of the songs, the anger comes from the fact that I know the world can be better. That’s the positive side that leads to the negative side.
Adam: “Haruspex” was coming from a similar place as “Copper.” I remember coming across the word “Haruspex”, which is “haruspicy” was something that the ancient Romans did where they would basically divine the future or the will of the gods or whatever, from the entrails of animals. And I remember hearing that word, and then just kind of in my brain, connecting it with the fact that it felt like in a lot of Western countries and in Australia there’s gendered violence and women dying particularly at the hands of partners. It’s such a constant thing. But that only felt to me, particularly in Melbourne, like it the conversation only really moved forward whenever the whiter, the more attractive, the younger, the more public the place…. the more of a news story that any particular death was, that was the only time that the conversation actually moved forward. It felt like everyone recognized that it was a problem. But whenever you wanted to kind of move through the conversation again—like in the media—you just had to wait for another woman to get killed or another person to get assaulted in fucking parliament. It was almost as though these people existed solely to help the media kind of get through the whole process of getting into the discussion, rather than, you know, for example a woman getting killed by her partner at home in a poor neighborhood. It’s just not a story. There is at least one [woman] in Australia dying almost exclusively at the hands of their partners every week, usually in a domestic “at your own home” situation. That doesn’t move the conversation forward. It’s kind of funny that it’s the actual statistical outliers, they’re the ones that get the attention. Not the attention, but that they’re the ones [where] it gives people the license to talk about it, which is odd. As though you need a license to talk about it? It’s such a fucked up situation.
Jordan: It’s quite an Australia-centric song. I think it was inspired by the 2019 bushfires that were pretty huge. Which is obviously not an Australia-centric problem. I think it wasn’t long after that, the West Coast wildfires were raging in the US. I’m wondering if there are any Australian-isms in terms of lyrics? There’s a bit of jargon in there…
Adam: There had been the ‘29 bushfires which were, ironically, I think, at least in Melbourne, it got everyone kind of ready and used to wearing masks. People were fucking buying and wearing in KN95 masks because the the air was pretty fucking bad. In the middle of the whole process, the whole saga of it, our Prime Minister left the country for holiday. He didn’t tell anyone and then basically showed up in fire ravaged communities. Not really to lead, but more kind of for photo ops. Basically, cornering people. He grabs this young woman’s hand and pulls it into him so that he can shake her hand and get the photo while while she’s telling him to fuck off. It was so gross. The history of the whole thing is that Scott Morrison, our prime minister used to be the treasurer. When he was the treasurer, he brought to Parliament a lump of coal. I think this song just kind of came from a point of frustration because the climate discussion in Australia has just been toxic and the the Liberal Party— which for America, the Liberal Party in Australia is our center right party—they basically weaponized climate change and energy security and all that shit to try and win elections over the last decade, which has meant that no progress has been made.
In 2010 or ‘11, we had an emissions trading scheme! At the time, it was recognized as the best way to do it, which is basically charging people for polluting. We had that and then we got rid of it. And now the Liberal Party wants to spend $200 million on a fucking gas fired power plant in New South Wales, because it’s smack bang in the middle of the marginal seat, right. And the Labour Party, which was our center left center party, has kind of been wedged on it and they’ve committed to fund it as well. While our country is on fire and the entire top right hand corner of the country is under five feet of water. We want to build more coal mines in the Adani coal mine in the Galilee Basin which would be like the second largest coal mine in the world, in terms of actual total shit that it will be pulling out of the ground. It’s another frustration.
It’s like looting a ship that’s already sinking.
Adam: Yeah! It’s like, it’s like saying the holes are good for a ship, right? “We need more holes!”
I love the way you all trade off vocals on this song. It’s something you don’t really hear done this way outside of hip-hop.
Jordan: This is a funny one!
Adam: It’s basically just a sequel, or a prequel or an insert to “Shibboleth” off the first record. Structurally, it kind of fits in with the bridge of that song. I think we had the riffs sitting around for a bit. I sang the first verse because I’m singing that bit in “Shibboleth.” Then the next bit is [sung by] Acacia because I had to move into a different guitar part that I can’t sing over. And then the next bit, Izzy sings because Acacia has to move into a different baseline that she can’t sing [over]. So, it was kind of a limbo. At each point it was like, “Well, who has the least complicated pot to play? You can sing it!” But yeah, I think that was fun as well just to kind of crank the amps and go full ACDC on it, which is really fun.
I really enjoy the mostly-clean approach you generally take towards tracking your guitars. It really helps to understand the dynamic of the band.
Jordan: Thanks. We’ve tried to stay pretty true to that over the course of the band. Almost so much that putting a bit of gain on the guitar sound is almost like a big “no, no.” It was good to embrace that.
Adam: This one was another old one. Lyrically, I guess I was kind of just like a kind of really trying to get into the heads of when people are going on and whining about cancel culture. I was like, “what is the bogeyman that these people imagined hiding under their staircase?” And so it was basically kind of just writing from that perspective. Like, “We’re listening to everything you’re saying on your phone! We’re writing down every little thing that you say! We’re coming to get you!” And then I just kind of folded the song in at the end [by asking]: Aren’t we supposed to just be a bunch of inner city lefties? Why are we so scary? Why is there such a problem?
I think that’s getting back like actually, funnily enough, back to back with “King Rat”. It’s actually moving back into that older kind of character driven writing of like, who’s the voice? Who’s the person that we’re singing at? Who’s the person that we’re being? I think it was meant to be a bit of a self caricature.
Jordan: It was fun to play around with that little baseline and change the way that it’s in the bar. It’s just a real simple shift. But I think it’s relatively pretty effective. The tempo as well was something that we played with trying to get that right when we recorded it, because we just had this loose idea of like, we’ll just slowly get faster, and then maybe slower and this bit. But then Anna was like, “Okay, what are you actually doing? Is there a lift at this point or is it gradually getting faster over this section?” It forced us to be a bit more conscious about what the hell we were doing with the tempo, which was super helpful because now, whenever we practice it, it’s [we ask], “Alright, what are we doing to slow in that section?” Like, just making us think about those added layers which results in hopefully a better performance and recording.
Jordan: Another early one that we were playing live ages ago. I don’t know if it was one of the first few that were written and yeah, it’s a song that I really thought was really powerful. And I suspected maybe got put towards the back of the album because maybe it ended up not being as powerful as we thought it was initially.
Adam: Especially after the rest of the record, It feels more bouncy. I feel like it’s got a bit of a bump to it.
Jordan: I know we’ve talked about lyrics a lot. But with “Capital” specifically, the whole idea behind “praise be” and “my cup runneth over,” I can’t remember the inspiration for it.
Adam: It’s Bible stuff. This is connecting climate change to capitalism. What’s the word, prosperity theology? I don’t know if that’s the right term. I like using those kinds of biblical or more religious phrases because the song kind of repositions them. The song starts with, basically you’re over caffeinated by the way you’re working too hard. All that stuff like “my cup runneth over”— it’s not in a good way! I feel like because as a kid I was never really very religious… My family’s not really, but we’d go to church every now and then with my grandma, who was also not very religious. She just likes going to church. Her dad was a priest. So, it feels a bit cheeky and naughty to me, but it’s not really. I don’t think anyone’s going to listen to this and accuse us of blasphemy. It just felt like a good chance to be snarky and have fun. Because I think that kind of snarky kind of pisstake-y tone I think is the best way that we’ve found so far to have a song that feels upbeat, but is not.
Adam: Inspiration-wise, It was definitely coming from a place of affirmation. But I think when I was working on the idea, it was wanting to kind of get into that kind of common humanity aspect. It doesn’t matter who you are, I know we shout about all this stuff. Maybe you don’t agree with this. Maybe you do. I think it also just came from a point of being kind of a little bit tired or feeling a little overworked in feeling just kind of angry and indignant about so many things. I just wanted to remind people that people are people! You’re a person, but there’s also other people. I felt, in that sense, it kind of suited a bit of a listicle slash ranty approach. But I think very early on, when we very first started talking about tracklisting, we were all pretty much on the same page very quickly that we wanted this to be the last song.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.