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|Written by Kevin Johns|
|Tuesday, 01 September 2009 00:00|
With their erotically charged live shows and undeniably catchy-but-naughty tunes, the Pinup Saints are sure to be a delight to music and dance fans... and a real headache for music critics. Just how should a journalist describe the Saints for the uninitiated? Are they a band? A pop group? A dance troupe? A performance art project? Perhaps I'll just go with "all of the above".
The brainchild of Mabel Palomino, a dancer and choreographer, Fede Sanchez, an indie filmmaker, Raul Campued, an underground music producer, and Nico Archambault, dancer and winner of 2008's So You Think You Can Dance Canada, the Montreal-based Pinup Saints auditioned several female lead vocalists before settling on choreographer-turned singer Wynn Holmes.
The Saints have been performing live together for years, but when Archambault danced to the group's song "Halo" while on his way to winning SYTYCDC last year, fan interest shot to new heights. With a dazzling 2009 Canada Day performance in Ottawa now under their belts, and their debut album Golden set for release on September 15, 2009, the Pinup Saints seem poised to take Canadian stages (and bedrooms!) by storm.
Raul Campued and Wynn Holmes chatted with (Cult)ure about sex, politics, music, and their soon to be released album.
How would you describe your live shows?
Raul: It's a lot of raw energy, but not choreographed energy. There is choreography for sure, because we have a lot of dancers, but it's really raw. We just do what is natural to us, and if it happens to be extra sexy then that's the kind of vibe you'll get. The songs and performance come from a very sexy point of view, but it's natural. It's not trying to push anyone's buttons, or trying to sell sex. It's just about us and the raw energy of our songs and music.
Wynn: Our vibe comes from pop, it comes from electro, it comes from rock, and a little bit of trashiness. All of our backgrounds involve putting together shows. We've got choreographers, film producers... That's why our live show is so strong. We want to create the ultimate rock show. Rock comes from sex and a kind of uninhibited energy, and I think that's what you get when you come see us live.
Your album arrived in my mailbox in a golden envelope with the download card attached to a pair of panties... You seem to be a very media savvy group.
Wynn: We're from the era of the Internet, advertising, Youtube, and all of that. Coming out as an independent act, it's just our way of doing things on our own. We asked ourselves, what is something different that we would pay attention to?"Everything has gotten extra conservative and people are wanting something that makes them feel like it's okay to be free." Raul: I've worked inside major labels and major publishers, and when you are independent from that you start to see that it becomes monotonous just to send out the same old CD package, press kits, and what not. It's interesting to do something a little different. Whether people want to admit it or not, we all know how to download for free. It's reality, so we have to deal with that and find listeners on places like Myspace. Personally, I hate that crap. On Facebook I have maybe 20 friends. I'm just not into it, but if you want to be heard, you have to be on it. Every person we know who is in their 20's and part of our potential core audience is on Facebook. They've been on Myspace. Everyone has an Ipod. It's reality, so you have to deal with it.
You've been together for a while now. Why did it take so long to record an album?
Raul: For the past four years, we've been performing as the Pinup Saints. We've been doing fashion shows, theatrical shows, and club performances forever. We started off doing remixes and covers of sexy songs that we love. We would take a Prince song or a Chris Isaac song and cover it our way. Eventually, we started doing our own original stuff. People loved our remixes and our covers, and they loved our original music. From there we just wrote an entire album of original material.
Was it intimidating to strip away the theatrical aspect of the show and present the music on its own?
Wynn: Not at all. It was more of a freeing experience. It was really neat to put it on its own, and then to add the dance back in. I originally came in as a choreographer on the project, so I'm coming at it from the opposite side as Raul. I come at it as someone who creates the live dance that goes along with the music, but obviously I love the music, or I wouldn't be doing the project. It was great to take it apart, and, instead of being in the dance studio, being in the music studio. It definitely holds its own. It was the next step that needed to happen.
What kinds of changes were made as the songs transitioned from part of a stage act to a studio album?
Raul: We don't necessarily have a core crowd that is going to listen to us. If you think this album is varied and has a lot of different genres.... a few years ago every single song had its own vibe! One song was rock, one was a piano ballad, one was classical. Because we're all interested in dance, performance, and music, we don't just listen to one style. Our songs included all different kinds of music, so on the studio album we needed to focus it a little more. Instead of having twenty styles of songs, we had to cut it down.
Wynn: I see it now as us having light and dark songs.
Raul: Yeah, for sure we have the light and the dark. There's also a good two or three genres in there that really stand out: electronic, rock, and pop. But we just love all kinds of music, and I think the main thing it comes down to is an invented sound. We don't really sound like anyone else. It's something that we've invented, because we love so many different things.
"We don't really sound like anyone else. It's something that we've invented."
Speaking of darkness, a song like "Show Me" sounds like it's right from a Marilyn Manson album!
Raul: Exactly. Nine Inch Nails. Marilyn Manson. When we feel sexy, it is something private behind closed doors, and sometimes it can go into really dark places. "Show Me" has that feeling. The performance of that song is not at all a celebration of sexuality. It's really raunchy and guttural; everyone feels like that at some point.
The album kicks off with "Rooftop Sally", which has an old fashioned vinyl sound to it.
Wynn: That was intended to be a full track, not the intro. It got cut at last minute, but there was something we really liked about the idea of opening the album with the song's intro. It ties together some loose ends on the album.
Raul: The whole retro vibe is part of what the Pinup attitude is supposed to be. We started off the album with it to show people what Pinups are supposed to be like, but then right away we switch it to something rocking and hard thumping to show where we are taking that idea now. That track will eventually be finished and it wont sound like an old vinyl record. It will turn into something raw and raunchy. The lyrics, if you see what the whole song is about, end up being a little bit naughty.
While we are on the topic of naughty... was the secret song always meant to be a secret song, or was that something that you were told was too sexy for the album?
Raul: When we were talking about finishing our debut album that song started out being our first single. We even had a video shoot for it, which no one will ever see! We shot some crazy, crazy footage. We did that song, and I think it was necessary for us to let out our frustration with the industry, at having no money to do this, at people not understanding what we are doing and calling us too sexy. We thought, fuck it. If you think we are sexy, well we're fucking sexy. You think we are pushing it? Yeah, we're pushing it! You think we are bitches? Hell yes, we are bitches! This is who we are. We love who we are. That's what that song is about. We wanted it to be the first single, but the situation changed and it didn't work out. That song has a message about how much we don't care what other people think of us, but it's at the end because when we finished the album we were like, you know what? We've written some really good tracks that people will get into without being offended by the content. This is great album and we didn't want to turn people off that, but we also need people to know that we're not going to censor what we do lyrically. We're still on the edgy tipping point of being X-rated. There are definitely some songs that aren't for kids, and that song is the epitome of that.
Is there something distinctly Canadian or French Canadian about the group?
Wynn: I still work a lot as a choreographer and I brought the album with me to New York. The response to the music from dancers and choreographers there has been incredible. I don't think it sounds like it's from Montréal. It just sounds like something people like when they hear it. I hate to sound unpatriotic, but I hope it doesn't sound distinctly Canadian. I think it's a universal sound that people are starting to tune into because it's different."The response to the music from dancers & choreo- graphers has been incredible."
Raul: I think the only thing - I can't call it 'French Canadian', but the difference living in French Canada, or Quebec, and specifically Montreal is that we have more openness to sexy things.
Wynn: Yeah. I agree with that.
Raul: I love Canadians. We've all been to the U.S., and we've met amazing people in the U.S., but there is another side to American people that is very conservative, and I do not identify with that at all. As Canadians, we are very international people. In Montréal, in particular, we have an openness to sexuality, sensuality, whatever. I think that's something that we are more open to because the core members are from Montreal. People are open to anything that sounds cool or feels good, and I think that's what French Canada, and specifically Montréal, brings to our music.
The last decade has been a very conservative time in North America. Are the Pinup Saints a reaction to that conservative culture?
Wynn: I don't know if it is a reaction to anything. I wasn't there at the beginning, but I don't think it was an attempt to go against anything that was happening at the time.
Raul: It's just more noticeable now. Everyone is trying to be a stripper. Everyone is trying to be bisexual, lesbian, or whatever, and everyone is trying too hard. It's not about that. We are just being ourselves. We're not trying to do anything. I think real people are noticing that there's something we have that is honest. Everything has gotten extra conservative and people are wanting something that makes them feel like it's okay to be free. We've become a part of that.
Golden goes on sale September 15, 20009. For more info, visit www.pinupsaints.com
Photography by Johnny Miodini