Contributor’s Note: Pinc Louds is one of the most exciting bands I’ve ever encountered. If you haven’t heard of them do yourself a favor and check them out. I was lucky enough to talk with Claudi, the head of the Pinc Louds, about their history, their process, and some of their biggest influences. Fans can find Pinc Louds at the following locations:
With a band as interesting and unique as Pinc Louds, I have to know where you guys came from! What inspired you to start this band?
I used to be someone else entirely. One of the great things about NYC is that it gives so many people a chance to reinvent themselves… or to become who they truly are. I got here as a piece of clay and little by little the city started giving me shape, like the stalagmites in a cave that are formed slowly, drop by drop. Except that here everything happens faster and the cave was actually a subway station.
I began busking (“street” performing) at the Delancey st. station three years ago and magically this new music started coming to me. The tragedies, the joys, the decadence… I kid you not, the tunnels were talking to me. It was as if being underground so long gave me access to the city’s subconscious. I would play for all kinds of people every morning and I could feel their energy, what they felt, what they needed. I think that’s part of why our songs are so diverse. They’re a reflection of the city that created them.
One day I was busking and a bucket drummer began playing very close to where I was. There’s a rule among buskers that whoever arrives at the station first, gets the station. First come, first served. I argued this with the guy but couldn’t convince him to leave. He was louder than me and knew he could get away with it. I decided to play anyway. A musical standoff. I was playing, he was playing. It was noise. It wasn’t doing either of us any good. Then little by little I started noticing that our tempos were beginning to match, then the groove, and all of a sudden… I had a drummer. His name is Rai Mundo and I love him very much.
After that an upright bass player, Ofer, started showing up regularly to watch us. He wore a bear mask, so it was hard to resist adding him to the band. It didn’t hurt that he’s actually a very talented musician and a doctor of musicology at that.
If all this wasn’t magical enough, my long time friend Pele was working for the MTA at the time and began dancing to our music on his breaks. People got a big kick out of seeing an MTA worker dancing and it was a big boost of energy for us so we also added him to the band (he plays bongos and does backup vocals too!).
No one knows where Marc came from. It’s a real mystery. I’m not even sure he’s real. But he’s a great keyboard player and he’s damn cute, so I don’t ask any questions.
How do you describe your band to people who haven’t been lucky enough to see you yet?
People like references so I might say something like “Bowie, Billie Holiday, Daniel Johnston and Bobby Capó decide to start a barbershop quartet” or “La Lupe and the Pixies meet at the recreation hall of a psychiatric ward where they only play Os Mutantes”.
I know that you started playing in the subways around NYC. How did that shape you as a band?
I think playing in the subway influenced the “Louds” part of our identity. Not necessarily in terms of volume, though that too, but also visual, emotional and energetic loudness.
There’s so much going on this city, so much information to be absorbed on a second to second basis. Everyone is living their lives and thinking of a million things while they’re waiting for the subway, so you have to really give it everything every single time if you want to make a living this way.
This is part of why our show became so theatrical. I needed to engage with the commuters on a regular basis, get them out of their bubbles. To me the greatest success is when i see someone take off their headphones to see what it is I’m doing, and then they keep them off until the train comes.
What was the craziest thing that happened while you were playing in the subway stations?
The most beautiful thing was one time when everyone at the station started dancing and singing along to the final chorus of “Last Chance at Love”. It was the day of the Pride parade and the station was full of rainbows. Couples started to waltz around me with the biggest smiles on their faces. It was surreal. I felt like I was in a musical.
Craziness? I once had a screaming fight with a man who was trying to steal my tip bucket. I was playing a song and he kept getting closer and closer to the bucket until eventually he reached in and took out a fiver. I looked him in the eyes and belted out the most horrible growl, like I was protecting my cubs. Luckily, I was playing a rock song that has a lot of screaming, so I was able to do this without stopping the song. I thought my screams would drive him away, but he just started screaming louder. I had to compete. I had to protect my babies. So I jumped, I shook, I threw myself on the floor… He showed me his teeth, rolled his eyes, he spit on the floor… We continued like this for about a minute until eventually he put the bill back in the bucket and went away. The subway has prepared me for my future life as a lioness, or at least an appearance on BBC’s Planet Earth: Cities.
I know that you are from Puerto Rico, and other members of your band are from Chile and Israel and it shows in your music. Do you make a deliberate effort to include a wide variety of influences in your music, or does your special blend come about more organically?
Definitely organic, grass-fed, non-GMO. The songs just come to me (from the tunnel, mostly) and the arrangements we make together are based on what feels right for each song. It’s definitely good that we have all these different backgrounds and influences. It gives us a wider range of ingredients we can use when creating. But I really make it a point not to think about influences when composing because I don’t want to be limited by these. Nobody wants milk with chocolate powder at the bottom of the glass. We want chocolate milk. At least I do.
I read that you once said that, “a Mexican restaurant is the perfect music venue.” Can you elaborate on that? What are some other non traditional venues you’d want to play?
It’s the perfect venue for me. When I was a kid, I would go to a Mexican restaurant with my parents at least once a month and my favorite part was the mariachis. I was completely in awe of all the sound these four men could make with just acoustic instruments and their voices. The harmonies were so beautiful and the lyrics so heartfelt. But more than the music, I loved what it did to the people. I loved that music didn’t have to be something you just sit down to listen to. People would sing along to the lyrics and sway to the rhythm. They would laugh and drink and smile at the mariachis. There was a real connection. This wasn’t background music. This was humanity at its best.
What are your bucket list venues?
Playing on an airplane or a hot air balloon would be lovely. We’ve played underground, on the ground and on water (we recently played on a boat in Venice!), but never in the air. So I think we can do hot air balloon and then retire.
If you could open for any band or musician who would it be?
Cortijo y Su Combo with Ismael Rivera. They would shamefully outplay us, but i wouldn’t care. It would just be such a dream come true if that could happen. It never will though, because they disbanded in ‘62 and most of them are dead now.
I would explain the kind of music they did (it’s not slasa, it’s not bomba y plena, it’s not bolero) but it’ll be better if you just look up their song “Telegrama” and go from there. Here’s a link: