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A Portrait of The Pinstripes

While unwittingly so, local 3-piece, The Pinstripes represent a new wave of Melbourne’s post-lockdown punk artistry. Their recently released debut EP, Fish On Land articulates the anxieties in adjusting to adulthood with a colourfully sharp poetic license that’s instantly relatable and wrapped in a creatively composed garage style. Moments before launching their EP at Café Gummo, we sat down with Hettie Zygier (vocals, guitar), Sunny Brearley (drums) and Bella Persano (bass, vocals) in the back beer garden to find out about their organic origins and anti-pinstripe attire.

Forming just prior to the pandemic, The Pinstripes were born from the ashes of Persano and Brearley’s prior foray at a band; “We tried to start one a few years ago which just kinda went nowhere. It was called Too Busy because we could never find the time to rehearse. Nothing’s changed, our timetable’s fucked. A year after that Bella messages me asking if I wanted to start a band and she said Hettie would be the singer and we just went from there”. Harnessing the amazing vocal chops of Zygier, the vocalist was soon faced with the prospect of playing guitar and song writing for the first time; “I thought she was just joking. We had known each other for ages but I’d never really written songs and I was like, ‘how are we gonna start a band and not have any music?’”

With Persano also being required to adapt to her first experience playing bass, the trio fell into their first song with organic ease following some fallout from Zygier’s fresh ink; “I wrote ‘First Tattoo’ on the way to our first practice because I had just gotten one. The reason this was bubbling up was my mum got upset about it and I was really angry. I wasn’t thinking, ‘what do I write about’, it felt very natural”. In satirising the rebellious symbolism of a first tatt over an upbeat melodic jangle, it set into motion a song writing philosophy the band would utilise in erecting their EP; “Maybe it was easy because I hadn’t done it before so there was no expectation. I was gonna do it and there’s no wrong answer because I didn’t think it was gonna go anywhere. I feel like if you decide that it’s funny you’ve got less inhibitions because it’s supposed to be stupid”.

After recording the single for Zak Brown’s Critter Records’ Demos 1 tape, Brown asked if they had anything else they wanted to set down. Over the course of a couple of days Fish On Land was prepared, itself marking a cohesive first entry for the band. Bearing the strident catharsis of ‘Release Me’ and the post-punk drive from the title track, the record details the adversities of adjustment, alienation and internal angst set against a vivid tapestry of artistically alt-grunge; “These are the first 5 songs we wrote together in order. Initially Hettie drove the lyrics for the first four songs which helped tighten everything up”. As reflected on the ominous outpouring of the collaboratively composed ‘Quench’, the band has naturally become a completely communal effort; “Now we’ve got 4 or 5 new songs where it’s a more evenly distributed process. The songs aren’t just written individually between us, we write our songs altogether”

Best evidenced in their live form, newly co-opted arrangements such as ‘Blue Rectangle’ dive further into the trio’s eccentricities, as Brearley tells; “It’s about a swimming pool and how my dog thinks I’m gonna drown when I’m swimming. He runs around the pool freaking out. Knowing that I wanted to start writing I thought it could be funny. I also like saying ‘blue rectangle’. I studied architecture so a nice blue rectangle is a dream for me”. An ode to SPF protectionism is a further testament of the band operating as a unified organism; “That’s the most recent one we wrote together. I feel quite strong about keeping your skin safe and I did some research into how tanning even became popular and there’s a line that goes, “20th century marketing, COCO Chanel on a cruise, proof of living a life of leisure, a deathly pleasure, the desire to burn’. That’s because she brought tanning into popularity and there’s photos of her being tan and it became a beautiful thing somehow”.

Battling with the difficulties of beginning a band throughout the lockdown, managing hectic schedules to slot in practices after busy days of Uni on a Thursday night and overcoming the angst of cancelled gigs, The Pinstripes have relished the role of stepping onstage; “We’re at a pretty comfortable place with a full set because initially we thought we didn’t have enough songs. We haven’t found it that hard to book gigs. It’s really nice and it’s just so local and friendly”. The all-female trio note mixed feelings when discussing the necessitation of the gender-diverse quota required by venues; “We think maybe because we're a girl band, apparently there’s a quota. It’s obviously good but it’s sad you have to do that, it can’t happen naturally. Well, whatever. Fuck the quota but also if it means we get a gig… (laughs)”. Selecting their band name speaks further to the trio’s antagonism of male-dominated musical tropes; “I was thinking about The Kinks. Pinstripes are a very male attire but it’s such a classic British rock, 60’s, male sounding thing. I feel like, us being an all-girl band, we’re playing an ode to classic rock which isn’t an all-girl idea, it’s very masculine”.

Crowd from Cafe Gummo launch

Founded on each member’s solid musical footings, The Pinstripes have harnessed each other’s musical idiosyncrasies to articulate what they may not have been able to individually. Rather than opt to appease the masses, the trio bring their own eccentricities to the fore in a way that we look forward to being captivated by further into the future; “We were saying today that every single gig everyone wears such different clothes but in their own style. This was why we thought we gotta change the name because if we’re The Pinstripes we gotta wear pinstripes and we freaked out. How could you be called The Pinstripes and not wear pinstripes?! But that’s what we're doin’, the revolution! One night one wore polka dots, one wore houndstooth and the other wore checks and we’re just like fuck the pinstripes. Breaking expectations”.

Fish On Land is available everywhere with T-shirts and CDs available at their gigs!


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