For the past 10 years, Vancouver’s Shearing Pinx have maintained a singularly shambolic vision. Fueled by agitated energy and churning waves of art-punk mutilation, they have carved out a catalogue of unfathomable depth. Though the band spans several eras, lineups and crisscrossing side projects, they can be summed up with a classic quote from John Peel about The Fall: “Always different… always the same.”
Following countless releases on guitarist/mouthbox Nic Hughes' Isolated Now Waves imprint, plus titles from the likes of Not Not Fun Records, Divorce and Bruised Tongue, SHPX ring in a decade of devastation with the People LP on Psychic Handshake. Between skin-flaying shredding and lurching low-end, the band’s current powerhouse trio dishes out warped grooves in the Ciccone Youth/Royal Trux counter-tradition.
The towering stacks of the SHPX merch table can only be topped by the miles members have logged on the road, so it made sense to ask for a few memorable tour tales. Hughes spins a pair of yarns below, followed by a harrowing, life-changing story from former guitarist Erin “Les Beyond” Ward.
Nic Hughes: Once SHPX were invited to play a gig in Seattle, or maybe it was Olympia... I can't remember. We drove down in a Mazda MPV minivan named Reuben.
"I guess this isn't a joke?” asked the officer.
“No,” we said.
We rolled up to the U.S. border crossing and there was a pretty heavy line-up. We crept along until all of a sudden, only about four cars from the crossing point, the van overheated and water spewed everywhere. There was a plume of steam billowing out of the hood. We were like "fuck..."
The van wouldn't start. We had to push it through the border!!! A Japanese couple in line behind us helped us push it up to customs.
“I guess this isn't a joke?” asked the officer.
“No,” we said.
So, we had to push it through and coast down the hill to a gas station. There, we figured we could jimmy the hose that was leaking and try to carry on. Boom! The van started and off we went. Pretty much two minutes later, it overheated again. We coasted into a rest stop. It looked like we were screwed and had to call a tow truck to get back to the Canadian border. “Fuck, part 2.”
We pushed the van through the Canadian side where another tow truck waited to take us back to Vancouver. The van ended up being too expensive to fix, so we got rid of it.
It cost about $500 to not play a show.
The Pope of Perversion
Nic Hughes: SHPX went on a tour of the U.S. in 2010 and we arrived in Baltimore a little early. Jeremy and I (we were a duo at this point) decided we'd go find a record store, being the rabid collectors that we are. I knew of this cool bookstore called Atomic Books, and had heard John Waters gets his fan-mail sent there. I thought I'd leave him a love note or something.
After our browse at a nearby record store, we noticed a huge line forming at Atomic. We investigated, and a reporter told me John Waters was doing a meet and greet for his latest book, Role Models!!! What luck, we thought!
So, we got in the line that was already stretching around the corner. Suddenly nothing else mattered: not the show we were going to be late for or the other band we were on tour with. All we cared about was meeting the Pope of Perversion. While in line, a woman in a full body tracksuit pushing a stroller while talking on her cellphone crossed the street and nearly got hit by an oncoming car, which honked at her. Never missing a beat, she flipped the driver the bird and shouted some profanity at him. He peeled off and the lady behind us said: “Now that's Baltimore! Where do you think John Waters gets his inspiration? Hahaha.”
Finally, about an hour or more later we were the second to last people in line to meet the King of Trash. I don't even remember saying much... Just feeling so nervous and what not. I think I asked him what cool dive bars I should check out and that I'd like to send him one of my movies.
We got our picture taken with him and off we went back to the show. “Holy crap! We just met John Waters!!!” We screeched the whole way back to the venue. The other band was furious that we took the van for so long with the double whammy that we met J.W., but honestly, nothing could’ve brought us down off that high of bad taste.
The Right Thing
Erin Ward: After playing a show in L.A. with our friends Abe Vigoda and Mutators, who we were on tour with, a bunch of us were hanging out at a local friend’s house having a few drinks. Timmy, our roadie, decided to walk to the end of the block with a couple others to get some beer. After a while, we noticed they had been gone a long time. A local kid joked that they’d probably been stabbed.
About two seconds later, Timmy stumbled, half-carried, through the front door. The people with him said he’d just been stabbed. Everyone just laughed it off, thinking that they’d heard us joking, but they hadn’t. He’d been stabbed in the back for a six-pack of shitty American beer.
Everyone at the party reacted differently. I remember a couple people hitting the drinks pretty hard, others panicking and not knowing how to respond, trying to reassure Timmy in stressed, rapid voices, and general chaos. I’d had some first aid training years ago, and for some reason I reacted quickly. I yelled for someone to get me a towel to put pressure on his wound, and started bossing people around - "Call 911!” “911 is a joke, it doesn’t work in this part of L.A.!” “Fuck, what?! OK, we gotta get to a hospital then.”
Somehow we wound up in someone’s car, me in the back middle seat with Timmy held tightly on my lap so I could keep pressure on his wound. I’m sure the driver had been drinking. I remember that Timmy was so thin, and I could feel his heart beating so fast. The girl in the front seat was trying to say The Right Thing to Timmy, over and over again repeating “it’s gonna be OK”, but in a such a way that you didn’t believe she was convinced.
At the hospital, the staff were awful. Just awful. Nobody seemed to care that he’d been stabbed, implying that Timmy was a drug-seeker, that his stab wound wasn’t even enough to merit the hospital visit. They were more interested in whether he was insured (he was). I pretended to be his girlfriend so I could stay with him. No way was I leaving him to fend for himself with those horrid people. I don’t really remember having doctors visit us. We must have, but I remember having to argue with the staff a lot, so we must have seen some. Eventually Timmy was given something for the pain, and he fell asleep in the bed.
As I watched over him, watching the jaded nurses ignore patients and roll their eyes at each other, I used the time to reflect on how I never ever wanted anyone I cared about to be in such a place. I never wanted to feel so useless, and I started seriously thinking about becoming a nurse. It’s funny because earlier on in that trip Timmy had been talking about how he wanted to become a nurse. Maybe that’s what put it in my head. I don’t know.
After a long night, sleepless for me, Timmy was discharged the next morning. Thankfully the knife missed everything and as far as I know Timmy was left with not much more than a cool scar. Maybe some psychological trauma, though. I know that night changed me. We drove to San Diego that day to play a show, and the tour finished as planned, like nothing had happened. But here I am some eight years later, back home in New Zealand, and I’m a registered nurse now.