The Pinx: An oral history of Atlanta's latest, greatest stoner rock trio

Atlanta's latest exuberant rock and roll songwriters are part of a family tree that includes everyone from Wilco to Mastodon

Pinx By Adam Bennett2
Photo credit: Adam Bennett

Much of the Pinx's self-released debut CD, Look What You Made Me Do builds on the thump of a kickdrum, riffs and bass to underscore the feelings of elation that dominate the album. But visceral hooks are the guiding light here for the Atlanta stoner rock trio of singer/guitarist Adam McIntyre, Jim O'Kane (drums) and Joe Giddings (bass).

The CD's opening number "The Desert" swells with guitar bombast while the band members play as if their lives depend on it. Rock exuberance a la Sabbath, Zeppelin and Queens of the Stone Age puts an emphasis on skewed pop, which comes across in the bellow and chug of McIntyre's guitar on "The Owl" and "Killing Me." The only down point is "Change Me," a broken-hearted, Billy Corgan-style downer, but it's only a momentary lapse in a maelstrom of tight, hard rock songs that burst with melody.

Chad Radford:  I was surprised by how much of a groove-driven. rock sound you guys harness on your CD. The Pinx made me think it was going to be a punk band.

Adam McYntire:  Punk! I know that genre! Like the Jam and the Clash? That's where my knowledge of punk ends. Never really got into it. I grew up in Lower Alabama, where Ike Zinnerman taught Robert Johnson how to play like he'd sold his soul. My parents encouraged a fondness of Led Zeppelin, and my older brother introduced me to quirky stuff like Devo.

Jim O'Kane:  Well, I guess your preconception that you'd be listening to a punk band is more of the reaction I hope we'd get from spelling the name with an "x" instead of "ks." I think that's what I was hoping would happen.

And, that's all I'm responsible for is the ‘x.’ If I remember correctly Adam had a band in Nashville or Montgomery that was once called the Pinks. When I first met Adam, he immediately had me sit down and lay down a drum track for "Am I Your Lover," which is on the record but never played live. He then wanted to pay me. That weirded me out. Additionally after a couple more visits with him at his house, he told me he had the rest of the band in place. When I asked who it was, I didn't really get a straight answer. That weirded me out too. So, I sort of disappeared on him.

A few months later, Adam and the rest of his band lost their drummer. So, I called up Adam and said I was interested again. He wasn't too thrilled because I think he thought I'd bail on him again. I told him I wouldn't and I think I've kept my word. But, by that time, the band name was in place and was already being called Adam and the Pinks. At shows I liked to carry around a sharpie and cross out the "A" in Adam and the whole word "and" so it just read "Dam the Pinks."

Adam once explained to me that he liked the contrast of the word Pink and our heavier, hard-hitting music. I understood, but still didn't like it. I just always thought it gave off the wrong impression. At some point, we dropped the "Adam and the" and just went with "The Pinks." I still didn't like it. So, in emails between the band and in correspondence with the outside world, clubs, etc., I started spelling the Pinks with an "x" as my own sort of personal protest. I guess it just quietly stuck because other people started to spell it that way including Adam. So I suppose an undiscussed compromise had been reached. After all, we had more important things to get on with, like make music. So, what's in a name? Not much. That's just how it happened. As far as our name goes, you can just call us Adam, Joe and Jim.

CR: There are some pretty strong hooks and pop songwriting going into the songs on Look What You Made Me Do. Was that a conscious move?

AM: Joe Giddings and myself have had our internships as pop songwriters (if your definition of pop is more Ray Davies than Lady Gaga); I just spent a decade in Nashville, where the song, verse-chorus-hook-and-repeat is the most important thing. I rebelled against that when I first arrived in Atlanta, so what we have is something more riff-oriented like QOTSA, older Flaming Lips or Secret Machines which relies a lot on a loud kick drum and the bass to get the point across. I've come back toward hooks and melody a bit since we started. I've realized that you can grab people with a hook without being corny or losing the fun. At this point we're working on stuff with leanings toward the Faces and Humble Pie, maybe the Pretty Things. For all the name-dropping, we actually put a good bit of thought into catching these influences and hopefully keeping them from being blatant. They might still be obvious now but I promise that we'd be bored if we weren't trying to learn to be ourselves as a band.

So there's the pretentious bit about influences! My point is that we just aim for rock and roll, get real drunk and wind up somewhere on it. As sober guys we try to give you something more.

JO: Well, in the early days, they were all a bunch of songs from Adam's previous solo records. So, I didn't have anything to do with those. But the drum parts that were there weren't for me, so I just kind of re-arranged them as how I heard them in my head. Luckily, the 3 of us get along pretty well, and I've never really been contested about new interpretations of his old songs. These days it's a bit different. As a whole, we all kind of write on our own and then bring it to the table for the rest of the band to put their stamp on it. I think this works best for a couple of reasons. One, is that for my own songs, I'm more limited in my ability with a guitar in my hand than behind a drum kit so it's better for me to try and iron out a whole song on my own and bring it to the band later when it's totally done. Otherwise I end up delivering this "hey check out this jam of squiggles in A that goes like this for a while and then like maybe this part"...and that's just a disaster. I can do that alone in my basement instead of subjecting someone to that torture. After all, they are my friends. Second, I like it when Adam or Joe brings something that's more or less finished too. That way, I know what drums they hear in their head when they wrote the song. From there I can expand on that but still keep their original intentions and spirit close to my heart. And lastly, those two can bury me in a songwriting contest, so I'm much more interested in their songs than my own. And again, they just pretty much let me have at 'em like a dog to a t-bone.

JG: When I joined the Pinx I'd known Adam for a while and thought he was working on another solo project. I tried to help writing prior to joining but it didn't click ‘til I actually became the bassist. The first song all three of us wrote together, "the Desert" was conceived almost entirely off the cuff as a product of our jamming together. There's a lot to be said for chemistry since it became the lead off cut on the record. The new songs we're writing are kinda pouring out of us as we now have a voice that we can call our own. A Pinx sound. Sometimes we bring parts of a song to one another and we all work together to link new bits to finish it. I've brought a 3/4 finished song to Adam and he'd grab another guitar and say, "how bout this?" and it was done in 20 minutes. It's easier being a new band because we haven't been pigeon-holed into a genre. We know what we are - a rock and roll band writing rock songs.

CR: What were you doing in Nashville? Did you move there to pursue work as a musician?

AM: Lord no. No, I definitely could not get work as a musician there; there are tons of great bands out of Nashville but the industry there is entirely country-based, and I never identified with country until very recently. I was a blues purist as a kid who then moved into songwritery stuff and then rock and roll. I won't fully lie; I did do some session work but I never got paid for it. I went to Nashville to go to college and then just got sort of stuck there. I found it a very depressing, closed-minded town. I tell them that every time we go back to play, actually. They love it. My quintessential Nashville experience came from a woman at the bar next to me who complained that the band she came to see that night was no longer on the bill with us. I said "I'm Adam from The Pinx - how much did you pay to get in?" "Five dollars." "If you hang around for twenty more minutes, I'll give you a twenty-five dollar show. If you're not entertained, I'll give you those twenty-five bucks." "No thanks." And she got up and walked out. So basically, "no thank you, I don't want to be entertained. I just want to complain and then go home and watch TV. I'm a bitch."

CR: How did you end up in Atlanta?

AM: My family had to move for my wife to get her PhD and like any traffic-fearing Southerner I resisted the idea of coming here at first. We've been here for three years, I think, and this environment has caused a lot of good things to happen for us. I can't explain why, maybe I'm still in the honeymoon phase, but I really like it here. I feel encouraged to be myself.

CR: Have you guys been in other bands around town?

AM: Joe used to be in Gonzalez and Jim used to be in the Blood Vessels so they know a lot more about metal than I do. I consider the move's last stuff metal. So I have heard the Sabbath thing before - not going to disagree! I just don't know much about it.

JO: Sweet Jesus, that's a lot to ask. A buch of bands in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI, and San Francisco that you've never heard of. The one I liked the most though was this band in San Francisco. It was a punk band called the Mighty Shoes.

I put that up for historical purposes years ago and am glad I did because the other guys saw it and it brought back some good memories. In Chicago while growing up and going to college in Ann Arbor, I spent a couple of summers playing with this guy who I met through The Chicago Reader and his friend. Their names were LeRoy Bach and Jay Bennett who both ended up in Wilco. Jay's recent passing bummed me out horribly.

Here in Atlanta one of the first bands I joined was this band called Entropy, but it's not the one that's currently using that name. I think they're more of a jam band and ours was around from 96-98 or so. It was a kind of Smashing Pumpkins kind of thing. We did well here in town and even got courted by Sony, RCA, and TVT, though the TVT thing was from friends in Crawlspace (now Sevendust), and I think we just got a phone call from them and that was it. Eventually the interest from the other 2 wained as well while the band started to have personal problems before difusing completely. That's when I quit playing music entirely for almost 3 years.

However, meeting Scott Rogers (Penetrators), Dusty Watson (Agent Orange), and subsequently Scott's brother Brian (Penetrators), changed all that. They pretty much got me playing again. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be talking to you now. Brian's recent passing bummed me out horribly.

It's been a shitty summer.

I think the first band I got involved with was this band called Push. Did a bunch of shows with them, but I had to leave because I got laid off my job, and I needed to find work and not dick around with music. After that, I hooked up with some old friends and had a band called the Dirty Bradfords. Now that was a good fuckin' band. But, wouldn't ya know it, one guy blows off one too many practices without calling and that's the end of that. I also played with Betty Rebel which was a really fun band and I miss all those guys a lot. After that and before the Pinx, I played a few shows with James Hall and 2 with the Rock City Dropouts. I liked playing with James and Jett and CC of the Dropouts.

The Blood Vessels are a super fun band, but a bit crazy. You put Brent Hinds, Paul McQuillan, Steve McPeeks and myself in a room and some sort of shenanigans will erupt within minutes. Although I think things are a little more reserved than say when we first all hooked up. But those guys are fun as hell to play with and I particularly enjoy the kind of classic rock vibe that band has. The problem is Brent and Paul are on the road with Mastodon for most of the year and Steve's pretty much busy playing bass in every band on the planet. So, when the planet shrinks enough for Masto and Steve is probably when there'll be another Blood Vessels show.

CR: What about you, Adam?

AM: A little here and there, helping folks out. I recently joined The Forty-Fives, which is fun as hell. They'll probably kick me out for looking like I'm in the wrong decade.

CR: Do you have a favorite song on Look What You Made Me Do?

AM: Look man, I'll level with you - I celebrate our entire catalog. I'd have to say maybe either "When A Man Loves A Woman" or "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" because god... there's just so much emotion. See, you can't reference Michael Bolton anymore and have it be funny. Real answer? Just one? "Am I Your Lover." It's really misrepresentative of what we do live but it's an interesting little song with a fun bass line, fuzz guitar, and the drum take on the album is from the day I met Jim. I said hello, nice to meet you, we talked for a while and then I made him record drums on that song. That was his audition and it wound up on the album. I love stuff like that.

CR: Tell me about the Ben Harper show that I keep reading about?

AM: The story I heard from Ben was that Variety Playhouse gave him a short list of Atlanta bands and their myspace pages and he went and listened. He didn't know we were totally unknown here, he just chose us based on our songs and our sound and then ... this was amazing... everybody treated us like we were a real band or something. In fact, they carried equipment for us - I blushed, frankly. I'm like "this is my sh*t, don't take it" and they're all "I know, Mr McIntyre, I'm the stage manager." I'm used to playing in smoky little bars where bikers spray beer at you to see how you'll react. What's all this white wine and chicken wings doing in the dressing room? And why do we have a dressing room? We thought it was a joke until we walked out on stage, and even then we were still giggling at the ridiculousness of ourselves in that situation. You know how you can hear someone smile on the phone? That's the sound the audience at the Variety Playhouse made when they saw us walk out there all giggly and stupid. So that's how I found out who Ben Harper was, and I will fight anyone who says he isn't the nicest man they've ever met.

We didn't do a lot in Atlanta to promote ourselves because frankly, it was a lot of work and not that fun. One club wants you to pay hundreds of dollars for your tickets up front and then YOU sell them yourself. The band's job is to be awesome and compelling on stage, not to vend tickets. Another club won't book you opening for bigger bands because you don't draw well. Last I checked, that's exactly how new bands make new fans - opening for established bands. So frankly it was awkward and silly here and just a lot more fun to go out of town and have adventures on the road. Going off and having adventures is exactly what we do best. So... we forgot about Atlanta and as I was mixing the album and getting all excited about its release, some Atlanta folks asked if we had broken up, right as we were at our busiest and, I thought, most visible! Oops.

CR: What do you think about all of the “garage rock” and “power-pop” references that I keep seeing in reference to your sound?

AM: I think all three of us in the band will agree that Todd Rundgren's power-pop masterpiece "Couldn't I Just Tell You" is one of our absolute favorite songs. We all love a song, we love the craft of it and love hearing something truly inspired. Joe and I have individually been saddled with the "power-pop" label for so long that I'm pretty much at the point where I'm going to pop someone in the left titty if I see it in print one more time, but folks are clearly picking up on that being a part of us. Now that I'm in the Forty-Fives I'm finding out a little bit about garage rock and its current relevance to what the Pinx have been doing, and I think people are just trying to be nice and suggest that our big dumb ‘70s rock shouldn't conjure images of some slack-jawed troglodytes boringly loitering on stage. We're more like excited little puppies that just want to run and run and run, and that's what Garage Rock is like. I promise however that we're just trying to get better and better at being ourselves, at resolving our songwriting side with our rock side, and putting on a good fun show with plenty of misadventures along the way.

The Pinx play a CD release party on Fri., Sept. 4. Free. 9 p.m.  Star Bar. 404-681-9018.


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