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Oldham's own Mojo Pin have only been together since December last year, but have managed to release two lots of material since then in the form of extended plays. They play poppy grunge with attitude and its been said they sound like a cross between indie heroes The Libertines and legendary grunge band Nirvana. Featuring Ellis Hodgkiss on bass and lead vocals, Neil Eskins on guitar and Jacob Connor on drums and backing vocals. Ellis and Jacob have been good friends since starting their first band way back in year 8 of Saddleworth Language College. Mojo Pin needed a guitar player and so sent out a request in college. Neil was quickly chosen due to the duo's past relationships with him at various musical events such as Saddleworth's annual Rock Night. After the first practice in early December 2010, the band sensed their potential as a three piece and all ideas to have a fourth member- a lead singer- to complete the line up, were revoked. Now they just needed to release some music and their first EP "Force Of Habit" was released in April this year. It was around this time that the band played their first gig which took place at Oldham's Jackson's Pit. The band have been playing roughly a gig a month since and have also released a second EP titled "Sour Fruit". As two members of the band leave for university, there will be a slow of pace but there will be soon even more to talk about as the band vow to continue.

CALLUM: Backstage at Academy 3 with Mojo Pin, you are?

NEIL: Neil Eskins
ELLIS: Ellis Hodgkiss
JACOB: Jacob Connor

CALLUM: So you've released two EP's recently, the most recent one was 'Sour Fruit', so how do you go about putting the songs together? Or deciding which songs go on those EP's?

ELLIS: Well, with the first EP that was mostly a case of getting our four, most refined songs and putting them as a recording together, show people a bit of our sound, but I think- I don't know if these two agree- but I think with the second EP we had a bit more focus and I think the four tracks you find on the Sour Fruit EP are much more together than the first one, much poppier.

JACOB: With the second one, I thought we had a lot more ideas and we just chose our favourite ideas to build on and then even from then when we'd worked on a few of the ideas we, y'know, changed them, got rid of them, whatever, until we got the four tracks we've got now.

CALLUM: How did the band form and how did you all get together and start the band?

JACOB: Me and Ellis have been in quite a few bands together, but, we asked Neil.....

NEIL: Yes, through friends at college I suppose, but I've known Jacob for years and I think I taught Ellis a Nirvana song in year 8?

ELLIS: You taught me nothing!

NEIL: So yeah, we've slightly known each other, then they just asked me and then we had our first rehearsal

ELLIS: It was in January wasn't it?

NEIL: In January

ELLIS: Probably December

NEIL: Yeah December-ish and we've been carrying on since then

So fairly fast paced then?

ELLIS: Yeah, like I said me and Jacob have been in bands since being about ten. Not ten, that's too young- twelve. We've been in bands since about then and this is the fastest paced one, its the first band where we've had a collective body of work to release which is something I'm really proud of, I mean, I'm just really proud of us with the space we've got and the quality of stuff we've done.

CALLUM: It's an interesting name Mojo Pin, where did you come up with that?

JACOB: That was Ellis so I'll let him tell that story

ELLIS: First gig, we needed a name cos the venue were ringing us up asking and ultimately it boiled down to getting a phone call while Jeff Buckley's album 'Grace' was on. Track one- 'Mojo Pin'. While looking around the room for ideas I thought 'Mojo Pin' will probably be the best option, so I went for that as opposed to it being dining table or kitchen chair.

CALLUM: So, do you think being in a young band in Manchester especially means that you get a lot more support than say you came from a different area that wasn't so music orientated?

ELLIS: Well, obviously Manchester's got a great musical history and I think a part of that is carried over even now were there is a lot of support for unsigned bands. I think its not as well advertised as it could be personally, I mean in past bands we have struggled especially being young but, I don't know. Perhaps in more student cities like maybe Leeds or London, of course it's really good for it, you get a bit more support but I don't feel as though it's gone against us much, I don't know.

JACOB: The only problem I think that we've had is- cos we're not from the centre of Manchester, getting a gig in Manchester's fine but....

ELLIS: Getting a crowd

JACOB: Rallying the troops, y'know getting the crowd, sometimes is a problem, but no from the actual music scene no. I think its quite good you get plenty of places to play. Good places!

CALLUM: I know that you and Ellis are going off to Leeds pretty soon, do you think the band will continue, will you continue doing everything you are doing at the moment?

JACOB: Yeah, definitely, it's only, like, forty minutes away...

ELLIS: We're obliged to. We've got a festival slot in January, we don't know many details about it yet, but we've been booked for it - not a big festival, sort of in the city one, but we've been booked for that and at the end of the day, if we want to do gigs, obviously we've been doing about a gig a month really and we probably won't be able to keep up that slow momentum, it'll probably have to slow down a bit but it'll be great going to Uni cos we'll be able to book gigs in other cities and sort of spread ourselves a bit, but also, Uni terms are short, we can book gigs inbetween terms and play them.

JACOB: It's really not far from Manchester to Leeds, if we book a train or just book a gig, we can practice the day before.

ELLIS:  And like we say, we don't live in the centre of Manchester, we live a bit out and then from Manchester - its a forty minute drive to Manchester but it's a forty minute drive to Leeds each way so its no problem.

CALLUM: This is your biggest gig to date, I'm assuming at the moment. D'you get nervous before going on?

NEIL: I think on our first gig, we all got a bit nervous 'cos people were paying to see us, and we got quite a few people but I think since then we've become more comfortable, and we are quite a tight band, so not many nerves these days.

ELLIS: I have to say, that first gig, that was extremely nerve racking for me because obviously being the lead singer of the band, it was my first time singing and at that time I wasn't very good. I've got better now through practise, but at that time I was very nervous about it. You can't blame the guitar for your voice, you can't blame equipment, so I was pretty nervous about that, but now I sort of get nervous walking on stage, but its more a little bit of excitement more than anything.

JACOB: I don't get that stage fright I wont be nervous tonight, I'll just have a pint.

CALLUM: So in the band, who writes the songs? Who sits there and writes the lyrics for the songs?

ELLIS: Well, generally what will happen is one person out of me and Neil usually will bring in a riff to practice, then me and Neil will work on it quietly, volumes turned down and then we'll bring it to practice and Jacob will put a drum beat behind it and we'll get to hear the dynamics of it. Lyrics wise, usually, I think its fair to say, its usually me, but I've never been against someone writing lyrics, but with the second EP the doors opened a bit and  there's even songs that we wrote as more jamming rather than sort of, individual writing like 'Little Crush'.

JACOB: We structure the songs once we've got the riff, so we might originally come up with an original riff that we lead on to summat else and then knock the original riff, like, off and change it y'know.....

ELLIS: I think a big part of our songwriting has always been trying to get riffs which sound like the influences we're into and then for me personally, its putting them into pop song structures. I've got something against bands which think people want to hear a five minute-to six minute long song every time they play a song. I think its best to keep it compact and thats always been part of our songwriting.

JACOB: And I always think it's got to sound natural, so even if we might write another part for another.....we're completely open to change it, so it sounds like that, say if, it sounds like Neil plays his guitar basically.....

CALLUM: So who were your musical influences when you decided to get together, create this band, decide what sound you wanted, where did that come from?

ELLIS: I think we enticed Neil into the band with the name.

JACOB: Enticed!

ELLIS: With the name, we enchanted him with the name Nirvana which was thrown around quite a lot when we were sort of saying, this is the sound we wanna get and I think in our first few practices as well, we played a sort of- not heavy stuff but more sort of sludgier and more Nirvana-esque stuff but I think we very quickly turned a bit poppy but not in a bad way but in a way in which we were comfortable with.

NEIL: Yeah, I think a lot of our influences from our past - cos we've all been brought up with parents shoving music down our throat I suppose, so Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Ramones and so on. I think we just got our main influences out when we were writing and so on....

JACOB: You can probably see the influences, when you listen, different influences from different members from each song.

ELLIS: Well there's also- one thing we've got a lot of comparisons to the sensational group Pixies, which is good because Pixies are a major influence on me, they've taught me how to write songs by listening to them. And obviously it comes across, but its not a bad thing, its not something I particularly mind people noticing that, hopefully, might be looking optimistic but maybe people will listen to Pixies who havent done. In that no importance, forward slash, influence at the moment.

CALLUM: You've only done four or five gigs at the moment, but which do you think has been a highlight or which has been a really bad gig?

JACOB: For me the highlight was probably just the first one, we had a good crowd and it was our first gig. Going on, we just wanted to see what it was like, its like jumping into the deep end really

ELLIS: Throwing in the water.

JACOB: It was, yeah, it was different 'cos we usually take a lot more time before our first gig but I'm glad that we went ahead with the first one like we did, it was definitely worth doing for me.

ELLIS: I'd sorta agree with that, I'd say we had the first gig or we did a gig at a small festival, not a massive crowd at all, it was a really local festival. I thought we played really well then and it was just one of those ones were it was such a shame we didn't have a bigger crowd cos thats the time I thought we played best on stage. Worst gig, I feel rude, I feel rude. It was really nice for the guy to organise, but we played, like it was really, really nice, a really nice thing but this guy organised a charity gig and it ended up being like a band practice but at half seven.

NEIL: He just didn't have many people there, it wasn't enough people I suppose, and it was an assortment of groups, I mean it finished with a boy band.

JACOB: We were supporting a boy band!

ELLIS: But y'know you gotta do these things!

NEIL: We're not complaining

CALLUM: And finally, because you're from around Manchester, say you had a dream festival in Manchester and you had five bands that would go onto the bill, which five would you pick?

ELLIS: If Neil says Oasis, ignore him. if we can...shall we start from the headliner and work downwards? Cos I'd say if you were gonna do a festival headliner, from past or present, they can be dead stuff? I would say, you'd probably want like New Order as your headliners. Internationally massive band.

JACOB: Then I'd probably say, next down, The Smiths.

NEIL: I'd love The Buzzcocks somewhere there

ELLIS: Yeah The Buzzcocks would have to be on- I reckon The Buzzcocks before The Smiths, yeah just before The Smiths. Happy Mondays before Buzzcocks, that'd really get the mood going and then maybe we should choose a more modern recent one?

ELLIS: Manchester's become more of business city rather than a music city.


ELLIS: They'd be pretty interesting at a big open-air festival.

NEIL: Yeah, I wouldn't mind them.

ELLIS: WU LYF, they're...

JACOB: A new band

ELLIS: People have probably heard of them before now, but they do everything themselves like they're...

JACOB: Commendable

ELLIS: Yeah, commendable, I really like them but you can't hear them at all in our music so y'know, don't go searching for it.

NEIL: Although, the new songs....

ELLIS: Oh yeah, one of the new songs is a bit like that, but nah, WU LYF, going to The Buzzcocks, no, WU LYF, Happy Mondays, Buzzcocks, Smiths, New Order. Thats our dream festival from Manchester.


ELLIS: Who do you have?

JACOB: Transmission?

ELLIS: Joy Division? You can't have Joy Division if we've got New Order, that's against the rules.............STONE ROSES AWWW!

JACOB: Stone Roses! I'd say we've forgotten about a lot of bands there. There's too many to choose from!

ELLIS: We'll stick with our original five.

NEIL: Manchester has a great history with bands so anyone, anyone, we'd be happy playing with.

CALLUM: Okay, thanks for that guys.

Interview by Callum Barnes 02/09/11
Band composite photo set by Rachael Elliott

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