Meet the underground doowop jazz group that is celebrating the city’s spirit one show at a time.
There’s something radical and life-affirming and transformative about Pinc Louds’ music.
Take, for example, “Haunted,” a song from their debut album Delancey St. Station, but which they initially released on their self-titled 2017 EP. What starts out as a gentle, heartbroken, guitar-plucked remembrance morphs into a riotous excavation of nostalgia and time and change. There’s a moment of quiet around 2:40, followed by a brutally tender, hopeful new beginning. The song resuscitates itself, builds itself up, then explodes with bliss and abandon. In the fantastical world of Pinc Louds, such evolutions can happen.
Pinc Louds is Claudi (guitar, kalimba, vocals), Ofer Bear (upright bass), Rai Mundo (drums), Marc Mosteirin (keyboard), and La Pele (backup vocals and percussion). The original members of the self-described “hardcore acoustic doowop” group and “imaginary band”—Claudi, Ofer, and Rai—met a few years ago at a Day of the Dead party. Soon after, the band became an underground sensation—and when I say underground, I literally mean underground: Pinc Louds built a community of fans and collaborators busking in the Delancey St. Station, which they still consider a home of sorts.
Musically, Pinc Louds is an ecstatic blend of rock & roll, soul, pop, funk, and jazz. Claudi’s vocals are crisp and charismatic and campy and crooning, full of sliding, exaggerated vowels, raspy vibratos, and impassioned wails. Aesthetically, Pinc Louds is something of a DIY garbage arts and crafts fair, replete with handmade outfits, sets, and props. The band also performs with dancing rats and cockroaches, singing trash cans, and the F train, among other multispecies guests. All of this metropolitan garbage glee calls to mind Philly-based artist Jenny Drumgoole’s beloved Soxx character, whose Trash Day videos have a similarly festive, inclusive ethos.
Following Pinc Loud’s fictitious “mansion-warming party” at Joe’s Pub on March 1, we caught up with Claudi via email about busking, flowers, and the Delancey Street Station. Read the interview below, and catch Pinc Louds at Baby’s All Right on April 13, with support from Seth Faergolzia’s Multibird and Belle-Skinner.
AdHoc: How did Pinc Louds first meet each other? How long have you performed together as a group?
Claudi: I met the original members (Ofer and Rai) at a Day of the Dead party three years ago and it’s also where I was given my first pink flowered dress. It was a very magical night with mariachis, green spirits, and an international [choir] who sang along in perfect harmony to one of my first songs, “Last Chance at Love.” The magic has only intensified since then.
Soon after, I quit my day job and started busking at the Delancey St. Station. There I’ve met so many people who have either joined the band, collaborated or become good friends: puppeteers, tap dancers, MTA workers, rat and pigeon enthusiasts—you name it. It’s been quite an experience.
Your Joe’s Pub show started out as “Claudi’s mansion-warming party,” based on the premise that you had just inherited a mansion along with its previous owner’s butlers. But then you ditched the mansion and returned to the Delancey Street Station following an existential encounter with some caviar. What inspired this story?
Well, wherever we play, I always like to feel like I’m at Delancey. It’s where I feel most at home, to be honest. There, it’s like I’m in the engine room of the city and I can feel it’s heat and energy like nowhere else. People tend to be more real there, more alive. So it’s very common for us to turn whatever venue we play into the Delancey St. Station.
Of course with Joe’s Pub, the grandeur of the place is overwhelming and hard to cover up. It’s got all these chandeliers and waiters and general fancy-ness. So instead of denying where we were, we decided to accept it and actually take it one step further by turning it into a mansion and having the puppeteers dress as servants and dust the furniture and have a butler who welcomes the guests—really turn the show into an immersive experience.
Most of the “ambiance” is created by the venue anyway, so it’s a good way to save money too! Then for the story we thought, “What would happen if Pinc Louds inherited a mansion and we were suddenly rich?” “How would we act under these circumstances?” And the story just takes on its own life from there.
I don’t think of [messages] when I’m writing up a story, but of course they end up bubbling to the surface anyway. I think more than being about money vs. happiness or being true to yourself, [the story is] really about isolation. What depressed me most about being in this mansion was that I felt so far from the real New York City, from the people and the madness. It’s very weird how in a city with so many people we can still be very isolated and not notice what’s going on around us. We give this city its personality, but in order to do that we have to show our face. I think it’s very important to break out of our shells and connect. In my case, that meant going back to Delancey. But we all have our ways. What’s important is that we do it. Life is too wonderful not to participate in it.
You shared the stage with dancing rats and cockroaches, a singing trash can, an MTA worker, and the F train—some of whom also appear in your “Shaking” video. How do these characters fit into the Pinc Louds world?
I busk at subway stations for a living, so it’s pretty hard not to have all these things make their way into our work. I love them and want people to love them too.
Who makes all your props, sets, and costumes? What’s that process like?
Our prop/set-makers and puppeteers are Jamie McGann, Madison Berg, Jamie Emerson and Kevin Pérez. They’re all very talented and fun to work with. And what’s more, they have a very defined [aesthetic] that goes perfectly well with what we do musically.
I’ve known McGann and Madison since the very beginning when we did a mini-musical about all the great (and still perfectly edible) food one can find in the garbage. We usually get together and talk for a few hours about anything and everything until a story starts materializing. After that, anything that’s needed to make this story come alive they magically conjure up in a few weeks. I could not be happier to work with these uniquely beautiful people.
Pele wore this incredible flower vest at the end of the set—it made the stage feel like it was in bloom. There are also flowers on the cover of your 2017 EP, and on your dress. Do you see Pinc Louds as having any connection to the season spring?
[I’ve] never thought of that, really. I do like flowers though. They attract insects. I like insects. Once I was busking in Paris with my flower dress on (the one with the pattern on the EP cover) and a lady bug came flying to me and placed itself on my arm. It stayed there for a full hour and I felt so proud that it had chosen me. That dress is special.
The vest Pele wore was made by the incredible Daniela Fabrizi. That girl knows what she’s doing!
What do you like about performing live? What does Pinc Louds hope to achieve with live performances?
I feel more alive when I perform. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t. Recording is all fine and dandy, but there’s nothing like playing live and seeing how people react; making people dance; making real human connections. Even more so in the subway, where people don’t come predisposed to listen to you and you’ve got everything to prove. But both there and in venues, our goal is to bring a little bit of life into people’s lives; to get them out of their brains and feel real feelings. I want to show people that magic is real and that they can make some at home. That’s about it.