To hear The Pinx is to worship at the altar of rock n’ roll. The Atlanta-based outfit has been spitting out thunder guzzlin’, soul-soaked guitar mana for the better part of two decades, evolving from a three-headed dragon of garage rock fury into a mighty hydra of sophisticated tone, eschewing compromise for excellence across three albums and two EPs. Rarely content to idle, founder and frontman Adam McIntyre spent the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic exorcising demons through a trio of bluesy, funky, psychedelic solo efforts that sharpened his chops and kept the flame alive while dulling the stab of quarantine isolation. After finally reuniting in the summer of ’20, The Pinx– including guitarist Chance McColl, drummer Cayce Buttrey, and bassist Chuck Wiles– charged through a rousing EP & livestream event released under the Electric! banner before heading into the woodshed to prepare for a brand new project tentatively scheduled for a summer ’22 release and what McIntyre has already dubbed the “best songs that the band has ever done.” On Thursday, March 24th, after a too-long hiatus, The Pinx return to Macon for their Grant’s Lounge debut with special guests Magnolia Moon. Adam McIntyre sat down to talk about his blues origins, the inspiration behind his run of solo efforts, dealing with the after-effects of COVID-19 as an artist, and of course, the new Pinx album!
AI- I think you and I met circa 2005, 2006, and at that point in time, were The Pinx already on incarnation two or three? When did you actually start the band?
AM- I think I started The Pinx in earnest around 2006, and that was when it was me and Jim O’Kane and Jenn Downs.
That was how I got introduced to you was through Jenn.
God, we would be nothing without her! She really got us going in terms of like, “Alright guys, so we’re gonna play at these places.” I’m terrible at booking and she was great at it, so between us, I feel like we started the band off kind of with a bang! And then once Jenn was replaced with Joe Giddings, he was ready to go out and play! During the Joe and Jim era, we probably did most of our gigs– it was around a hundred shows a year from 2007 to 2010 or ’11.
I don’t have any reference point for you before that time. What were you doin’ before The Pinx?
Before The Pinx, I was in Nashville. I had a rock band up there called Superhype and after that band broke up, I kinda wanted to show that I wasn’t just a ‘rock’ guy. So if anybody ever looks up my solo stuff, there’s gonna be some albums from the very early 2000s that don’t quite sound like what you would think they would sound like. I was tryin’ to show all these sides of things I could do– some of it was power pop and some of it was indie pop and some of it was psychedelic, and I just wanted to show, “Hey, I’m not just a rock guy.” I started touring in a Southern rock band called Les Honky More Tonkies, I was temporarily in a band that I loved called The Shazam, and between those two bands, they kinda showed me the ropes. ‘Cause I was in my early ’20s at that point and didn’t know how to do anything! Les Honky More Tonkies taught me how to tour and The Shazam showed me how to write songs.
Now, before Nashville, you’d grown up in Alabama, kinda out in the middle of nowhere. Did you grow up around music? Around the radio? Did your dad play? Did you have family members that played? What got you started?
Dad owned a guitar. One of my earliest memories is of waking up as a toddler and hearing this sound and creeping out of my room. The whole house is completely surrounded by fog– it looks like the world is gone– and I followed the sound and my dad was playing guitar on the screen porch, like playing to the fog. I watched him for 30 minutes, just completely silent, and as soon as I made a sound, he saw me, immediately put the guitar in the case. That was how it started. He acted like he had a magic wand or something and he didn’t want the apprentice to get ahold of it! And to me, that guitar was a magical item. It seemed larger than life to me! He actually spent the first 10 years of my life trying to keep me away from it, and every time he would leave the house and I’d be alone in the house, I would go get that guitar! I would go to a closet and I would mess around on it ’cause I didn’t wanna get caught touching his guitar!
Had he taken a shot at it once upon a time? And that’s why he was so reluctant for you to pick it up?
Nah, I heard from a friend of his, after he died, he was like, “Oh yeah, your dad used to take that guitar out to the beach and play it on the beach to attract girls.” That was the extent of what my dad did.
From that point on, what got you interested in the kind of music that you play? I know you’re a big MC5 guy, and The Pinx, as I knew it when we first met was straight up 3-piece garage rock.
Yeah, I kinda discovered the MC5 once we were already going with that direction. My first time on stage, I was probably 9 or 10 and I sat in with an R&B band called Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces. They had a hit on Chess Records in the ’60s, “Searching For My Baby”! Those guys let me up on stage with them! And then they did it again a couple years later! When I was about 14, my mom introduced me to the owner of a blues and jazz club in Montgomery, and after that meeting, as a teenager, I would go and sit in and play on these blues jams with all of these Chitlin’ Circuit guys that had settled down. So all of my first experiences were playing with the black folks that had been professional musicians around Montgomery.
After I moved to Nashville, I wondered if I could do more than just blues, you know? I wanted to branch out and write songs and that just got… I don’t know, it kinda got honed by the Atlanta scene. They want you to be yourself. They want you to be as big and loud and brash and dirty and energetic, and they don’t want you to be just like somebody else ’cause they’ve already got that person. Try to just be yourself to the 10th power, and that’s honestly what I was trying to do with The Pinx.
The main run of the 3-piece– you and Joe and Jim– did Look What You Made Me Do and Southern Tracks. I know Joe had another opportunity to go on to, and Jim had had some health issues and kinda went a different direction with his life. You went out and did some things with StoneRider. I saw you out with that group, but I never thought that The Pinx were over– had you considered hangin’ it all up then?
Well, I’d never wanted to stop doing it. Things had to get put on hold. Jim was having issues and he stopped returning my calls and booking requests. I was like, “Well, I’m not exactly sure what’s happening, so I’m gonna just start producing a bunch of bands, and I’m gonna keep on writing songs for The Pinx.” I produced StoneRider, I produced The Howlies– they were a garage rock band kind of like a more polished-up Black Lips. I produced a bunch of bands around Atlanta during that period, and I kept on writing songs. And those songs became the next record, Freedom. There’s probably really two or three records worth of demos that I did during those three years that we didn’t do anything. I culled the very best of them that felt like an album together for Freedom. And I was really happy to get going again!
Couple of big things about Freedom– an album I love– not only did you beef up the 3-piece, and I won’t even dive completely into all the special guests on that album, but this was the first time that you made a record with the guy that would become one of your main collaborators, Chance McColl. You also made a decision to start writing more personally, as opposed to thematically.
Absolutely, the focus changed right there because I realized that I was tellin’ a lot of stories. I’d tell a lot of stories on stage, I’d tell a lot of stories backstage– and they didn’t have anything to do with the songs! I decided I could write songs about some of these stories, and then the act on stage could be like 20% standup comedy and the rest of it the songs that I’ve introduced. I’ve got some ridiculous stories that go along with the songs on that record, and I felt like it would be a good idea to have story songs. I try not to write about stuff that I don’t know about. I really try to write about things that I really know that really happened to me– things that are really going on in my heart– and I hope that makes it easier to connect with people other than just like posturing and, “Hey, we’re a great rock n’ roll band– come see us!” It’s like, “Well, what’s the meat? What is there to actually grab onto?” I really wanted to give people some more meat, somethin’ to latch onto that would maybe stick.
And tell me about beefing up the sound going from a 3-piece to a 4-piece. Was that just evolution? That was just gonna happen?
Yeah. I wanted to retain the big sound, but I wanted for there to be some more polish– and a lot of the time, I’ll write two guitar parts for a song just off the top of my head. “This one goes like that, that one goes like that, but how am I gonna do it live?” Chance and I had been workin’ together a little bit on his solo stuff and I was like, “Chance, we work really well together. Why don’t you just do this with me in The Pinx? Take about half of the guitar solos, you can come up with your own parts, I’m not gonna sit here and try to micromanage, you just do what you do while I do what I do.” And I feel like it’s worked pretty well.
Did that relationship grow when you guys started making Sisters & Brothers?
Yeah. His involvement was very brief on Freedom because the bands came together at the very tail end of making that record. Sisters & Brothers is live in the studio– kind of like the new record is live in the studio too!
Bear Pause– is that your studio?
I want get into the quarantine trilogy, but tell me some of the other stuff you’ve been doing at Bear Pause.
Really, I gave up on doing it as a commercial venture. At this point, it’s where I go downstairs and do demos, and sometimes the demos turn into what’s on the record. You can hear when I’m making a demo versus when I’m making something that I know is going to be on a record. I did three solo albums in 2020 in the span of five months. The very first one is intended to sound kind of lo-fi, sound as rough and dirty as possible, it’s a blues record. And then the next one is like a psychedelic funk record along the lines of Parliament Funkadelic, it’s extremely George Clinton influenced. It sounds a little bit more hoppin’! And then the last one in that trilogy is intended to sound like something from the Minneapolis funk scene– and I mean Prince, The Revolution, The Time, Jimmy Jam. That one to me sounds as good as anything that I’ve ever produced in a “real” studio. I just spent more time on it
I didn’t know until we just had this conversation, the background that you had in blues. So I don’t mind telling you that The Devil Got My Soul took me by surprise. Is that something that you had always wanted to do and just had never taken the opportunity to?
Well, my first band was a blues band! When I moved to Nashville, I changed the focus of that ’cause in Alabama, if you have a band, there’s a fairly good chance– or at least there was when I was a kid– that it’s a blues band or a blues rock band. I don’t know why, but when bands start out there, it’s basically like Cream and Hendrix– it’s gonna be a blues power trio that plays a little bit of rock n’ roll and does some covers and does a lot of 1-4-5 blues. I was kinda known in Montgomery as one of three teenage guitar heroes or whatever. The other guys had different focuses and we were all out at the same time as Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Jonny Lang and all that. I hit 19 or 20 and I just didn’t wanna be one of them anymore! I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to not just be a blues guy like, “What if I actually can do all the stuff that I’m listening to? Why am I limiting myself?”
Fast forward and I’m 40, 41 years old on The Devil Got My Soul. As an adult, I’ve never done a blues record when it’s so obvious to me that I’m a blues guitarist. I’m a blues guitarist in a rock band or I’m a blues guitarist in a funk band or I’m a blues guitarist in a doom metal band– I identify myself as that. So I’m just putting myself in different contexts to see if I sink or swim. And I’ve been doin’ that since I was in my late teens.
Tell me about, “Do The Damn Thing” and Wayne Kramer appearing and doin’ his best T-Bone Walker impersonation!
Right?! I played guitar for Wayne Kramer. He called me to play the Fred “Sonic” Smith parts for a couple of shows that he did in Georgia. I sat in for a show with the reformed MC5– the MC50– when they played at Variety Playhouse. Wayne is a mentor and a life guide for me. It’s invaluable for me to be able to text him when I’m havin’ an issue and have this guru write me back and be like, “Hey man, don’t freak out about this. It’s fine. We all go through this.” Or, “Hey Wayne, can you throw a guitar solo on this song? Sure, man! He’s kind of like a dad-type force in my life at this point. And I know (laughs) that’d probably make the hairs on his arms stand up a little bit, but we both know that it’s true!
The other album you did, You’re Doing It Right, you’ve written that it came out of a trip– a psychedelic, hallucinatory trip– and somehow, I actually missed that one when it came out. So I’ve only recently spent a little time with it. With the exception of the funkier tracks that you have on there, the rock tunes recall old school, 3-piece Pinx– did you do that on purpose or did it just come out that way?
The early Funkadelic records are a mixed bag of early ’70s funk and there’s a bunch of rock tracks there. You know, Eddie Hazel was always pushing to be more rock– and Funkadelic actually did a country record at one point– so to me, all of that stuff was fair game. After going on this massive soul-affirming trip, I just wanted to do whatever the hell I wanted to do for a record and not worry about how the whole thing gelled– especially knowing that George Clinton didn’t sweat it!
Well, you take the funk a step further on Black Planet, which I actually spent a lot of time with! Tell me about deciding to write that particular album. And then when you were also dealing with things personally, professionally, physically– a long haul bout of COVID-19 that greatly affected your mental health as well?
Black Planet is still six months or so before I had COVID– and I don’t know, Black Planet’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had making a record! I wanted to see who am I when I hang up who I think I am. I said that badly, but look, our personalities are nothing if not a series of decisions that we would normally make. If somebody comes up to you and offers you raw squid, and you say the same thing that you’ve always said before, which is no, then you’re adhering to what you know your decisions about yourself are. But if you toss all those decisions out and find a new way to be yourself? I just tried to take everything off like, “Is this really my soul, or is this personality stuff that I’ve learned and picked up through my life through trying to avoid traumatic things? How much of my personality is around trying to stay away from pain?”
So I just did whatever the hell I wanted to do on Black Planet and served this completely different vibe. Like, “What if I’m limiting myself by being this or that? What if I could just be Prince?” (Laughs) ‘Cause he just explodes as soon as you hand him an instrument! He gives you everything! He gives you everything he could possibly be all at once! It’s limiting for me to go, “Oh, I’m just gonna be Prince,” but that was not limiting for Prince. Prince was, “I’m just gonna be everything!” It was a really nice exercise for me– and extremely self-indulgent!
That’s interesting to hear you say that about yourself though because I’ve seen you perform live– I don’t know how many times– and rarely, if ever, have I seen you not leave everything out there on the stage.
I appreciate it. I feel like folks don’t know that (laughs)!
Well, then they ain’t watchin’! They ain’t payin’ attention ’cause every show I’ve ever seen you do, it’s been like that!
It comes back to like, “Well, what if I’m not doin’ that on the record?” It’s hard to get people out to come see you live if you’re not 1000% yourself on the record. I’m just trying to continue to find ways to do that. Somethin’s gotta stick!
That album, Black Planet, you already had that in the bag before COVID-19 had come around?
The Devil Got My Soul was recorded over March . You’re Doing It Right was recorded in March and April, and Black Planet was recorded in April and May and June of 2020.
When did you get sick?
I got sick a year ago yesterday.
Oh! And that has been an ongoing saga? You were a long hauler for a while and you’re still dealing with the after-effects of that?
I don’t know that I’m ever gonna fully be better all the way, for sure. In my case, I know that it very likely affected my brain permanently. I’ve had depression since I was small– my best friend drowned when I was like five! And I didn’t know how to deal with it! I didn’t deal with it! It stayed exactly where it was. I got very down about it and I kinda stayed there. There’s no reason to stay there just because somebody died– you don’t have to stay in that mode forever. They don’t need you to do that! But I held onto it. I carried it around like luggage, and then my best friend got killed when I was 15! That trauma went right on top of the other one. I had four more best friends die before the time I was 22, and I’m not saying that that’s the reason, but just on the surface from things I experienced, these little traumas kinda add up. And if you never deal with them and you kind of keep on goin’ down and goin’ into a corner about it, it’s gonna get you eventually. So I’ve had that, I’ve had lifelong depression and over the last 10, 12, 15 years, maybe, I’ve been dealing with it a certain way, which is going through therapy and tryin’ to do the right things for myself.
Since COVID, it’s a different experience. It’s a very different experience. The depression got about four times worse. It became far more aggressive, and I had to add medication to the routine. I’ve been on medication for that since the day we wrapped doin’ the instrumental takes for the new Pinx record. And my lungs have not been the same. I have asthma now! I just live with asthma, and I’ll have an asthma flare-up, which will cause my lungs to burn and just generally not work right for about a week and a half, two weeks, which I gotta tell you when I was recording vocals for the new album, that was kind of a big deal! I had a lot of massive headaches because there wasn’t enough oxygen for me to sing and exist at the same time. So it was really a bear tryin’ to get those vocals done through one of these episodes! I’m havin’ another one right now– I’m on the tail end of it– but you know, I don’t appreciate COVID (laughs)! It would be really great if once it’s gone… It would be nice if it was gone, but in my case, it’s gonna hang around for a while.
Before we tease the new album, let’s not gloss over the Electric! EP. That became the next full-band project for you and The Pinx. You did a bunch of build-up for that, not only recording the album but then doin’ the live performance that was streamed– and I believe people can still watch?
What did you want outta that one? Was that just an opportunity to get everybody back together and legit just rock it out?
Kind of, yeah! I didn’t do the three solo records because I thought that I was gonna be a solo artist now. I did those, well, for my own mental health because as soon as I would be in the studio recording, I’d feel fine! And if I took a day off from recording, ooh, that depression would come in! The recording is my medicine. I spent several months recording stuff and going on this journey, putting out these three solo records that are all very different and I’m still writing Pinx songs during that time…
There’s a difference for you in writing a Pinx song and writing these other songs? It’s not just a stylistic shift?
It’s a question of branding. I want my rock stuff to be The Pinx, and I want The Pinx to be my rock stuff. I could do whatever I wanted to do on a Pinx record, and that would be fine, but I don’t ever want to have somebody pick up one of our records and be confused about what they’re getting. I’d certainly like to challenge the listener a little bit and I don’t want all the songs to sound exactly the same. Like a DJ or makin’ a mixtape, I want the songs to flow and have some variety, but I don’t ever wanna stretch the premise so far that you wonder, “Did I grab the right record?” You would certainly get that feeling if some of the songs from any of my solo records suddenly appeared on a Pinx record. It would be confusing, possibly off-putting. Maybe I’m being a stickler, but I like the Pinx to be a defined thing in some way. I like that to be rock. So typically if I write a rock song, why am I not giving it to The Pinx?
We really needed to put out something new. We originally had plans to go record an EP in a proper studio. We had done demos– and that’s just part of how we work. I’ll write a song and do a demo, Chance’ll write a song and do a demo, the guys will come over here, we’ll rehearse it, but we’ll also have microphones up for that rehearsal. I record that– I might put vocals on it, a guitar solo, or just vocals and percussion or whatever– and then we listen to that and we go, “Well, I don’t like this. That could be better.” We keep on rehearsing it and by the time we get to a recording studio to hit it, we all know what we’re supposed to be doing. Hopefully, we haven’t played it to death! We know that the arrangement could maybe need to be elastic, that things could stretch or get smaller here or there, or this part could come out. We try not to get absolutely married to what we think needs to happen. It’s just part of our process. A producer can tell us to do whatever and we’ll do it without any argument, just, “What if they’re right? What if we’re wrong?” And that happens a lot. That happened a lot on the new record. So we recorded these demos, pandemic hit and toward the tail end of me doing the solo records, I’m like, “Well, I mean, stuff is still shut down… What do we do?” So we took the demos that we had done polished them up a little bit, mixed ’em, put ’em out.
Ah, and that became Electric!?
Exactly. And then later, we went into a proper recording studio (laughs) and filmed us doing it live almost entirely without overdubs! We overdubbed backing vocals on one or two things and other than that, it’s just a regular live show. It was supposed to serve as our album release party.
I’m reluctant to dive too deep into the new album because I know that you still have a lot of planning to do for the release and I want to be able to give it its due when that happens. But first question– does it have a title? Second question is what are the current plans for the release?
To me, it is the self-titled fourth record, like Led Zeppelin IV, for example. Because it is very much our Led Zeppelin IV! It represents everything that we can do. I feel like these are all of the best songs that the band has ever done. I feel like this is as good as we can play. This is the best production that we’ve ever had. It’s the Hail Mary at the end of the football game!
You’ve been working with Tom Tapley, I think almost since the beginning, and this time around, did he take a more active hand as a producer, as opposed to you doing that yourself?
Yeah, you pretty much got that right. Tom and I have known each other since we were teenagers. He’s also from Montgomery, Alabama, and he called me one day after the first Pinx record came out and was like, “Hey, would you like to come over to Southern Tracks and record some songs? Do you have anything right now?” And I was like, “We’ve got like two songs. I can maybe bang out another two or three.” We booked that studio time and went and did it, and Tom recorded us and I mixed it. There wasn’t really any discussion about who was producing, it just happened. I went to a studio and recorded with my friend, took it home, finished it up and put it out.
I wanted to work with Tom again and I wanted to do it properly. Tom’s got some accolades under his belt now, you know? We were essentially kids the last time we worked together [drops into a deep growl] and now we’re men! I’ve learned a lot about how to produce records, how to be in a band, how to be a frontman and arranger, and I was tellin’ Tom, “I don’t want to ever produce the band that I’m in anymore. I need the producer to be able to make artistic calls separate from the band. I want a producer to be able to tell my band where we’re messin’ up and for us to be able to go, ‘Yes, sir,’ and not get our feelings hurt because of some political thing within the band.” I wanted somebody to help us make a hit record, and I felt like that somebody was Tom.
I trust Tom implicitly. I’ve known him forever. He’s not gonna screw me over. Our goal was to make a major label-sounding record at Mastodon’s recording studio, West End Sound, and I feel like that’s what we did. I let Tom do his job. I’m not in there backseat driving as a producer just because I recorded some bands. If anything, my experience as a producer sped up a lot of conversations. Tom would look at me after some takes and go, “Uh…” And I’d go, “Yep!” (Laughs) And we’d do it again! No discussion! You don’t have to explain to me what that was. We’re doin’ it again right now. I got it (Laughs)!
You were saying earlier about trying to stay away from pain and knowing you as long as I have and being peripherally aware of things that have gone on in your life, both personally and professionally, there’s one line on this new album that stands out to me: “If it don’t break your heart, are you really alive?” That one line might sum up your music better than anything I’ve heard so far.
Yeah (laughs)! I think you nailed it! Our drummer, Cayce, was talkin’ about that song [“Break Your Heart”]… You know, the band member is there for the evolution of the song from the point when somebody comes up with the riff to like, “here’s how it fits into the drums,” and he was like, “Oh man, this is gonna be like the feel-good song of the summer!” I laid vocals over it and the song starts with, “Feelin’ ’bout bad as bad as I can feel,” and he’s like, “Whoa, what?” (Laughs)
To Be Continued…