Friday, September 4, 2020
An end-of-summer appreciation: Pinc Louds
Text and photos by Stacie Joy
You may have seen and heard hard-to-characterize self-described imaginary rock band Pinc Louds performing and busking in Tompkins Square Park this summer, steadily drawing enthusiasts as their fan base grows.
A recent Saturday afternoon show I attended featured a hopscotch contest, joyful abandon crowd dancing, a movement meditation trash outing by Dance to the People, and the current somewhat psychedelic-sounding band lineup of guitarist/singer Claudi, Marc Mosteirin on bass, Raimundo Atal on the drums, and Marlon Cherry handling percussion.
It’s an enthusiastic, albeit socially distanced audience that has shown up to enjoy the performance and I got a chance to chat with Claudi afterward to ask about the origins of the band, what draws them to the East Village, how dance and movement became part of their shows, and about why live music events are so vital.
How did Pinc Louds come to be?
In 2015, I was going through a painful break up at the same time as I was doing some musical explorations with a friend who was visiting from Puerto Rico. People ask me about the voice I use. That voice came out of those months, bouncing around in my apartment while trying to create something new and beautiful that would help me get over the end of a long relationship.
In starting a new project, I found a freer, wilder side of myself. And this creature, who had been dormant inside me, started to write all these songs.
One day in September, when around four of these songs were finished, Joff Wilson invited me to play at the 6 & B Garden. I went there with a long lab coat and no pants — the closest thing to a dress that I had — and the stepdaughter of a friend insisted on putting makeup on my face. I went on stage looking like a deranged pharmacist, jumped up and down, wailed my songs and have never looked back.
I had so much fun playing that night that while waiting for the train at the Delancey Street subway station, I took out my guitar and played some more.
The response was good enough that I kept on doing this for the next few weeks and started getting invited to parties. At one of those parties I met Ofer Bear and Raimundo Atal, the original bass player and drummer of the band. I also got a wonderful flowered dress that I still use in a lot of our shows. The dress was pink and loud and so were we. And that is how Pinc Louds came to be.
What is your connection to the East Village? What made you choose Tompkins Square Park to busk?
Apart from that first show at the 6 & B Garden and others we did later at places like Otto’s Shrunken Head and Sidewalk Cafe, my main connection to the East Village is through the Delancey Street station. That’s where I did most of my busking throughout the first three years of the band.
The people I met there, the part-time residents, the vendors, cops, MTA workers, the rats and roaches and fish mosaics have been an infinite source of joy and inspiration for me.
I’ve always felt that the subconscious of the city lies in its subway tunnels. That is where it dreams. Subway stations are a magical place where these dreams escape the city’s dark subconscious and make it into our world. I keep a lookout for these fugitive dreams and try to turn them into songs.
But playing in the subway for too long can have adverse effects on the brain, especially in the summer. So the last two summers I’ve been going around the city looking for places where I can busk and not get kicked out by the cops. I played in the West Village a lot. There’s a wonderful little triangle right outside the Christopher Street station, in front of the Stonewall monument, but the cops kicked me out of there too many times so I had to keep looking.
After not busking in the street for months during the pandemic this year, I finally decided to go out and find a spot on June 20. I had never played in Tompkins because my experience with parks has always been that if you have an amplifier, the park cops will kick you out as soon as you say “mic check.”
But ... I decided to try it out that day. I played for about six hours and had the time of my life! I immediately knew that this was the ideal spot. I played next to two cop cars and they didn’t say anything. The park regulars cheered and offered me beer. It definitely felt, and feels, like I found a new home.
How do East Village audiences compare to those elsewhere?
At least on the street, East Village audiences are more alive and more human than any other audience I know, except for maybe Puerto Rico, and of course there’s a lot of Puerto Ricans in the East Village.
And by alive and human I mean they are not afraid to dance, they are not afraid to yell out whatever they’re feeling, they are not afraid to love and they are not afraid to fight. They are here in the moment and they are here to have a good time.
In just a month and a half of playing at Tompkins, I’ve made friends, I’ve made enemies, I’ve had people defend me from a guy with a bat who wanted to take my tip bucket, I’ve had a guy teach me how to fight, I learned how to read tarot cards, I’ve been given flowers and silverware and mysterious phone numbers and dirty notes and Argentinian empanadas ... it’s been absolutely wonderful.
Do you compose all your songs or do you also do covers?
Most of what we play is original songs and improvisations. I like the challenge of getting people to listen and stay for the whole show without having to reel them in with songs they already know. But if there’s a song that is very special to me, like “Si Nos Dejan” by José Alfredo Jimenez or “John I’m Only Dancing” by David Bowie, we’ll learn it and try to give it a Pinc Louds touch.
On social media, you often encourage your fans to come out and dance and at this concert, you had Dance to the People to perform a “movement meditation.” Why is dance a key component to your art?
As someone who’s done mostly rock- or pop-oriented music throughout my life, I never saw dancing as an integral part of the live concert experience. Of course it used to be one of the main motivations back in the origins of rock & roll, but growing up in the 1990s it just wasn’t something that was expected in a show, apart from maybe the occasional mosh pit.
Also coming from Puerto Rico, I would associate dancing with salsa or merengue music, and I was always put off by the rules one was supposed to follow in order to dance these genres.
Fast forward to 2016. I brought the Pinc Louds project to Puerto Rico where I was invited to play at a bakery/diy music venue. I played the same songs I had been playing in NYC, but for some reason people were dancing. And it was so much fun! It’s so amazing to feel how the music you make can affect the movement in a room; the stops and starts and flows in people’s bodies, what it makes them do with their hands and feet and eyes...and not only that but to know that nothing is set in stone. That you can change the speed, the groove, the intensity and the dancers will too. It is a real conversation. The most primordial conversation.
I love groove-based music that can make you dance, but I also love rock songs with a structure and a story and catchy melodies. So to be able to combine both those things is, to me, as good as it gets. I don't feel we’ve achieved our full danceability potential, but we’re definitely working on it.
I spied a plethora of instruments at your concerts including what is either a set of mbiras or kalimbas, the guiro, lots of percussive drums, in addition to guitar and bass. How do all the parts contribute to the unique Pinc Louds sound?
I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t really know music theory and half the time I don’t even know what chords I’m playing. I just go for what sounds good. So, many times I’ll write a song based on where the instrument I’m playing takes me. I’ll play around with a kalimba until I find a pattern I like and then I'll add a melody and so on.
And whatever that pattern and that melody are, I know it is due to the sound of that kalimba and how it made me feel and where it took my brain in that particular moment. If I had done the same thing on the guitar it would have been a different song.
The different sound textures also give the songs different personalities. So I like that if you go to a Pinc Louds concert you won’t be listening to guitar-bass-drum songs the whole time. I get bored easily with music, so I feel that bringing in different sounds will help keep the attention of anyone in the audience whose mind might be drifting off. Gotta keep people on their toes!
What’s next for the band, and how can people keep up with you?
I don’t think anyone knows what’s next for anyone at this point, with all that’s happening in the world. But for now, we’re definitely going to keep busking at Tompkins Square Park at least twice a week (usually Wednesdays and Saturdays). I’m trying to bring other bands to play too. We’re lending our battery-powered amps, mic stands, etc. to performers that want to join us, especially engaging artists who are honest and passionate and really want to connect with the audience and be a part of this community.
Apart from the park, we’ll play anywhere we’re invited. We’re trying to get as much playing in before winter returns, especially since we don’t know if music venues will reopen soon.
If venues don’t open, we’ll have to go back playing at home, doing Instagram and zoom shows, which is not my favorite thing to do since I can’t see if I’m making anybody dance or even smile...
You can keep up with the band on Instagram here and Facebook here. Contact them directly via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for the band in Tompkins Square Park tomorrow (Sept. 5) afternoon.