Sunday, September 26, 2010


Since the fall or hiatus or break up, whatever it maybe (each member calls it a different thing) of Bloc Party, we have seen front man Kele Okereke storm into the clubs on a successful solo tour. Drummer Matt Tong is taking a break from music, bassist Gordon Moakes formed a band called Young Legionnaire and guitarist Russell Lissack is playing in the band Pin Me Down. Pin Me Down actually formed while Bloc Party were still in existence, Russell along with Black Mustache singer Melina Mepris started the band for fun in 2007 and found that they had something aside from just a gag. The band has released a few EP's and this past spring released their self titled debut, I had the chance to speak with Melina about recording, working with Russell and the band's style. Take a look at my interview with Melina below..

How did you and Russell come together to form Pin Me Down?

My former band Black Moustache opened up for Bloc Party in NYC before BP released their first album. Their manager had called me, asking if their guitarist could borrow my amp at the gig, so I turned up at sound check and the guitarist in need was Russell. Russell and I started talking about guitars, gear, and music we liked and he’d had never been to NY before so we became friends from there. We started writing music together several months later, when he was in NY for a longer stint, just as an experiment, but we liked the results.

Was it a bit nerve-racking working with Russell from Bloc Party?

Well, when I met him, he was a guitarist in a band that had released a really promising EP, but Bloc Party wasn’t the big name that it is now. I was also in a band and we’d also recently released an album, so there wasn’t a huge discrepancy between us as people or in our experiences playing music. That said, it’s been really nice seeing my friend work hard and reach crazy heights with his band and perform in amazing places to rapturous approval. It couldn’t have happened to nicer people.

After playing in Black Moustache, how is this project much more diverse from your last? Or is it?

Black Moustache was part of the electroclash movement and Spencer Product [the NYC DJ] was the singer and local downtown legend. The music was electronic, but gritty with big riffs and the songs had a sense of humor. While I was in Black Moustache, I started writing pop songs with Russell for a girl to sing – I knew the songs weren’t right for Black Moustache, so we formed Pin Me Down as an outlet for these songs. It wasn’t something serious. It was just something fun to do in between our regular music schedules. Incorporating elements of “Pop” music in rock really wasn’t popular at that time

What was it like recording your debut?

The most difficult aspect was the scheduling and getting the two of us in room together for more than a day at a time. We’ve written a lot of songs so we had to narrow down about 12 to record and then fine-tune them in the studio. It was fun but stressful. We did most of the recording in 2 weeks with overdubs afterwards, but then went back in the studio a second time to record some more songs.

The band has been active on and off since 2007, why did it take so long to record your debut?

Again, scheduling was the main problem. We’d finish some recording and then Russell would be gone for a year on tour with Bloc Party and at the same time, I’ve also been busy in graduate school for the last 2 years. We were both proud of Pin Me Down and wanted to be available and involved with the record release. So we had a to wait for a time when we could both be there to promote and perform.

Your music and style is very fun, how much fun are you having being in this band?

Well, one of our aims with this project was to make a fun record; pop music for rock kids, music that people could dance to. I spent a lot of time writing dark, depressed rock songs so this was a conscious move to do something else. I grew up listening to female musicians like Patti Smith, Chrissie Hyde, and Courtney Love and skipped 80s pop singers completely. When Russell told me that my voice reminded him of Cyndi Lauper and Kate Bush and I started listening to both of those ladies, I began to see how I could use emotion and a pop vulnerability to sing for this project. It is fun to rock out on stage playing these songs; it’s definitely different from our main projects.

How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before?

I like to call it “apocalyptic pop”…. What would it sound like to be a diamond in the rough, or the last sparkly object amidst a landscape of destruction?

We have seen a slew of male and female duo’s over the past few years, acts like The White Stripes, The Kills, Blood Red Shoes. How is Pin Me Down different from those acts and what do you bring to the table that they do not?

Ummm… I like all of the bands that you mention. The boy-girl combination wasn’t really a planned strategy – we were friends that liked to make music together. Because of the type of music we wanted to make, it made sense for me to sing and Russell is such a good guitarist and instrumentalist that we didn’t want him to hide in the background, so we thought it would make the most sense to make PMD a duo. We looked up to classic acts like the Eurhythmics, where both members are equally important.

Do you think it was odd for Russell to go from being a world famous headlining band like Bloc Party, and starting off at square one again as openers for acts like Yeasayer and others?

I really can’t answer that for him, but in my experience, there’s something special about playing new material in smaller venues where you can see the expressions on people’s faces and whether something is amusing or repelling the audience. I feel like that’s often where my most fulfilling performances unfold.