Introducing: Tim Kinsella and Jenny Pulse’s “Whinny”

The husband-and-wife duo premiere three versions of their latest track.

Limitations have always been integral to the way we work. Having said that, sometimes we need to break away from our path of process, especially at the onset of a record. Work with different gear and play it “wrong.” In a stuck moment, I thought it would be fun to play this vintage mono synth (miniKORG 700) through an obscene amount of pedals attempting to fake polyphony. 

Hal Blaine’s beat in “Be My Baby” is iconic. Musicians continue to rip it off, and will do so until the end of time, for good reason — it’s undeniable. I’ve always been a huge fan of The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las, and other ‘60s girl groups of the like. It was high time to write a song inspired by this love.

Tim wrote deceptively complex lyrics full of craving. Lyrics that you could imagine being broadcasted on the radio, but your ear catches a surprising word, and then another, and then another. It was so fun to write melodies to the words and edit them to widen this contrast of seemingly normal versus absurd surprise.

As singer-songwriters know, writing melodies with a single instrument changes the way you sing. The other day, I learned a friend of a friend began to sing differently because they picked up a guitar. I tend to lean into the ballad genre when I play piano. I learned it when I was a kid, so it’s a sentimental instrument. On the other hand, I didn’t sing publicly until I was in my mid-20s. I’m a more confident singer today, but even while writing this record I had a lot of that performance anxiety to overcome. The piano and vocal version of “Whinny” is me playing piano in my office and singing late at night. I couldn’t find a way to replicate that feeling in the final version. I don’t think either is better than the other, and maybe they’re not so different, but I see and hear it!

I thought it would be interesting to share these various forms of the song to show a process. What at first might have been scraps became a song. And not just a song — a song on our record that we made a single. Small moments are enough to build a song on. Just keep prodding at them. Mix together various demos. There’s always a way to use a little bit of everything you make, even if it’s a snippet.
— Jenny Pulse


“Whinny” began as a nine-minute noise jam, Jen layering improvisations on our miniKORG through 10 effect pedals onto a 4-track. I edited that down to about four minutes, then Jen added the piano chords and vocals to that edit.

From there we agreed that we wanted to nudge it into having a Shangri-Las “Leader of the Pack” kind of feel. It took a long time and many iterations to get that exactly right, and the Shangri-Las feel eventually became more subtle.

So the main point here is that the weird garbled noises that occasionally pop through in the final version of the song are not ornamentation, but actually the foundation from which everything else sprang. We are excited to supplement this song with two earlier versions that show distinct steps in its development. This is an extreme, but accurate demonstration of how the entire album came into being.

The video, same kind of thing. We pulled clips that are each charged with some kind of personal meaning to us, and then warped and processed and twisted them. We had no specific overall intention or end goal, just kept wrestling with it ‘til it felt right.
— Tim Kinsella 

(Photo Credit: Marzena Abrahamik)

Tim Kinsella & Jenny Pulse have spent years making thoughtful and unpredictable art, whether musically, or under their given names as writers and visual artists. Kinsella’s most well-known bands being Joan of Arc, Cap’n Jazz, and Owls, while Pulse is a vocalist, electronic musician, and producer who has released dance-oriented pop songs under her own name, in addition to experimental soundscapes and field recordings as Spa Moans. Their new album Giddy Skelter is out September 8 via Kill Rock Stars.

(Photo Credit: Marzena Abrahamik)