Interview: Pinkshift Picks Up ’00s Pop-Punk Torch

Posted: by The Editor

Baltimore rock band Pinkshift only has a few songs out there so far, but it’s never too early to get to know a young band that has as much going for them as they do. Their two most recent singles “On Thin Ice” and “i’m gonna tell my therapist on you” both draw from the well of mid-2000s big emo and pop-punk—think early Paramore or My Chemical Romance. Not a particularly novel approach, sure, but it’s not every day that you hear a new band that’s up to the task of pulling off the theatrical, exhilarating appeal of that era of the scene (one of the only other new bands doing this style well is Meet Me @ The Altar).

Take the smirking, vengeful energy of “i’m gonna tell my therapist on you,” in which vocalist Ashrita Kumar seems to channel Gerard Way’s wailing, wry swagger as she sings “I’m about to kick your ass through the door.” Meanwhile, Paul Vallejo’s frantic guitars just ooze with angst and sardonic darkness. It feels a little like a hit from fifteen years ago, but Kumar’s lyrics keep the song grounded in serious, lasting concerns—”It’s about being tossed between specialists and feeling unheard while existing in the healthcare system,” she said. 

With Pinkshift gearing up to release their debut EP at some point later on in the year, we sent the band (composed of Kumar, Vallejo, drummer Myron Houngbedji, and bassist Erich Weinroth) a few questions to help us introduce them. The band talks about how they came together, how appearing on the scene during a pandemic has affected their plans, and the ways in which their individual influences inform their music. You can read all of that below, and make sure to listen to “On Thin Ice,” “im gonna tell my therapist on you,” and their demo “Mars” while you’re at it. 

The Alternative: Can you tell me a little bit about yourselves? How did the band get started? 

Paul Vallejo: We’re all either current college students or recent grads that met in Baltimore. Erich studies audio engineering and the rest of us do science stuff. We all come from really different music backgrounds and do our best to mesh it into a single project.

Ashrita Kumar: We kind of started in shifts, Paul and I met in 2018 while putting together a Britney Spears cover and then we started writing songs. When we started writing a lot and decided we wanted to play these songs live, we found Myron while stalking the drum room at our college toward the end of that year, and Erich through a Tinder swipe about a year after that! 

Myron Houngbedji: I met Ash and Paul when I was a junior in college. They heard me practicing in our college drum room and asked if I wanted to jam sometime, and a few weeks later we played “Mars” together. It’s funny because they had posted flyers in my apartment saying that they “were looking for a drummer who could play fast” and I never responded to it because I didn’t think that I was at that level yet, nor had I played music with anyone before. So I’m glad they caught me in person. 

I’m sorry to hear that your tour plans got pushed because of the pandemic. How have you all been holding up?

Paul: Playing a lot of Call of Duty! Before the pandemic fully hit, planning and getting ready for tour on top of school had the days running long. Once everything came to a stop, I put it all down and just disconnected for a bit. Music stuff was mainly for fun and over time I’ve gotten into developing more Pinkshift projects again.

Ashrita: It’s been okay, mainly a huge adjustment. We’ve been adjusting in the ways we think about reaching people with our music, and how to connect with people in general. I think it’s been a cool shift because I feel like I’ve met so many new musicians, other artists, and people out there across the country who I would have never connected with otherwise. 

Myron: I just graduated from college so I’ve been busy with my post-grad plans. I feel like a lot of things that went wrong actually worked in our favor. Yeah, we didn’t get to tour, but since then we’ve been able to spend our time sharing our music online and building an audience. Once shows become a thing again, I’m sure a tour will be 30 times as much fun for everyone.

Tell me about the new song “i’m gonna tell my therapist on you.” What inspired you to write it? 

Ashrita: Musically, it kind of came together spontaneously. We had been playing a really energetic cover in our sets that started becoming one of our favorites to play, and we didn’t want our favorite song to play to be a cover, so we set out to write something with similar energy that we could call our own. One night we just sat down and hammered it out. I had been writing some lyrics about feeling fed up with people in general, so I worked a melody around the song structure that the guys were putting down and then we had a song! 

The two completed songs released so far remind me of early Paramore and My Chemical Romance. Were those conscious influences? What kinds of bands do you all listen to? 

Paul: I started listening to rock music with Green Day back when American Idiot came out and it was MCR that made me go full scene/emo in middle school. I’ve listened to them to such an extent that I think most of what I write could be traced back to their sound. This new single specifically I would say is very MCR-esque in the guitars. The main bands I’m into now are on the indie emo/pop punk side: Microwave, Mannequin Pussy, Heart Attack Man, Save Face, and Fever 333.

Ashrita: I draw a lot of inspiration from No Doubt—I never had a phase where I was into My Chemical Romance, although I did have “Misery Business” downloaded. Voice-wise for this one I really drew from Gwen Stefani (believe it or not). I love that she added that vibrato flare to their ska/punk sound and I wanted to bring that to this next single. Lyrically, for the last two, I drew from Arctic Monkeys on “On Thin Ice”—I wanted to convey that snarky/dark spite that they had. “Mars” was a jazz piano song gone full band, so take from that what you will. 

Erich Weinroth: I’ve never listened to either of those bands ever except I’ve heard the songs “Misery Business” and “Welcome to the Black Parade”. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten super into instrumental japanese music: Special Others, Toconoma, Nabowa, Jizue. For punk stuff: The Flatliners, Dead Kennedys, The Clash, and Pup to name a few.

Myron: So I’m waist-deep in a late MCR phase right now. A lot of the songs that I learned when I started learning drums were by MCR so that is definitely something that has influenced what I play on drums, especially on the new single. I started listening to rock around elementary school with bands like Crush 40 and Thousand Foot Krutch, and now a few of my favorite bands are Turnstile, Polyphia, Gouge Away, and MCR of course. 

What are your future plans?

Paul: We had initially planned to release our EP this fall but the pandemic made us rethink that timeline and push it to a later time. We’re bummed about that but we’re still thinking of releasing something this fall regardless. 

What do you hope that a listener will get out of listening to your songs?

Ashrita: With these songs in general, I try to take a story from my life, or a situation that’s prevalent, and talk about it in a way others might feel about it too. A lot of times it turns out sounding spiteful or angry. I hope that listeners can feel some kind of connection with their own experiences.

Paul: As an instrumentalist, I want our songs to be one where if it comes on, you turn up the volume. Whether it’s because you’ve listened and love it, or because it’s new and it’s piqued your interest. It warms my heart knowing someone took time out of their day to listen to a Pinkshift song.


Jordan Walsh | @jordalsh

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