Needles//Pins play perfect party punk

Whether you can find the aesthetic value in aggressive gang vocals immensely faded crewcuts and streetwear-like merch designs there’s no denying that the early 2000s hardcore scene was a fantastic proving ground for up-and-coming musicians. Case in point? Adam Ess frontman for Vancouver’s adopted pop-punk heroes Needles//Pins.

Ess who formed the band with bassist Tony X and drummer Macey Bee when he moved to Vancouver to complete his PhD has deep roots in Ottawa’s punk scene.

Though he still counts local garage and power-pop heroes like the Steve Adamyk Band and The White Wires among his close friends and tour mates his roots extend into a different much more specific scene. From 1998 to 2003 he was a member of the city’s Miles Between Us a now-fabled straight-edge band whose sweeping melodic amazingcore saw them perform alongside then enormous acts like American Nightmare and Outbreak and releasing an LP on Think Fast! Records that doubles as a perfect snapshot of the era.

“Playing in that band is one of the best things I’ve ever done” Ess recalls. “I don’t know why the band ended. I broke edge but I don’t think that was a factor.” Whatever the reason Miles Between Us splintered off with Ess forming Needles//Pins in Vancouver and the other members creating Toronto’s straight-edge powerhouse Ancient Heads.

According to Ess the experience gave him a taste of what it’s like to be in a DIY band. “It was best friends trying our best to play the music we loved — same goes for Needles//Pins. Touring meeting awesome people.”

Further he recalls a palpable sense of humility from the era that he’s tried to maintain. “I also think growing up in the ’90s/early 2000s punk/hardcore scene instills a sense of the importance of community and a kind of gratefulness that I don’t really see as much anymore. Like you never hear people at shows thanking the other bands or the promoter or anything really. Maybe I’m wrong there but it’s the feeling I get a lot of the time.”

One parallel Ess doesn’t quite see between Miles Between Us and Needles//Pins is in the songwriting but the comparison may be apt: throughout Needles//Pins’ back catalogue Ess has demonstrated a coremanlike approach to songwriting. Using the limited palette of guitar bass and drums he’s managed to consistently draw exciting ideas from a limited framework. If you thought every worthwhile punk anthem was already written decades ago you’ve never heard the band’s 12:34 LP.

That record which was recently re-pressed by Vancouver imprint La-Ti-Da Records after an initial run on Mammoth Cave stands on its own as a contemporary Canadian punk classic. Now the band has completed a followup album to be released by New Mexico imprint Dirt Cult Records some time this year.

According to Ess Needles//Pins’ sophomore release is for the most part consistent with the original full-length. “I would definitely say it’s different than 12:34 but not in any serious way” he says. “There are some departures but I think the LP is pretty consistent with the songs we have been releasing for a while. I originally thought it was gonna be ‘heavier’ or ‘darker’ or something weird like that. Turns out it’s not really.”

That’s only the beginning of the band’s 2014 plans which include a European tour and an upcoming split 7-inch with another band (the details of which are “still secret”). Don’t mistake the members of Needles//Pins as careerists however. “As a band I don’t think we have ever had established ‘goals’” Ess admits. “We just try and have fun and see where things get us. So far that’s been a really good approach and I hope it continues to be.”

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