BY BOB KRASNER
Throw Billie Holiday, Iggy and the Stooges, Latin salsa, 50’s harmony groups, Sam Raimi cinema, 1920’s jazz, rat puppets and a kalimba into a blender and you might get something resembling Pinc Louds, the somewhat unclassifiable musical project of its lead singer/songwriter Claudi (not their given name, but we’re not going to divulge that information).
The band has been the East Village hit of the summer, performing marathon sets all over the neighborhood and attracting more fans with each gig.
We’re going to label it “Vaudeville Punk,” but perhaps that inadequately describes a man in a wig and a dress with a voice that recalls Miss Holiday, bashing out a version of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” that sounds like the Violent Femmes on speed, while dancers attired in garbage bags and a set of oversized teeth run through the crowd.
After busking in the subway and then achieving success in various NYC clubs – filling Joe’s Pub and Le Poisson Rouge, among others, performing elaborate shows that sometimes became surreal musicals – the COVID lockdown forced Claudi and company outdoors, which has not necessarily been the worst consequence of the pandemic for them.
“I always wanted to perform in the street,” they explain. “I was part of a political theatre group in Puerto Rico , where I grew up … I always felt that the best way to do art is to do it on the street, where you’re not preaching to the choir.”
Claudi began their musical career at seven years old playing violin, later teaching their self guitar and piano and began writing songs at fifteen. Although they grew up in a musical family, with a dad who played bass and a sister who sang jazz, their influences suddenly widened considerably when, at nineteen, they got their first computer.
“All of a sudden I had access to all sorts of music – harmony groups, punk, Al Bowlly, the Pixies, Ismael Rivera — it didn’t stop,” they recalled.
Another influence that affected Claudi’s future was less musical but just as profound. New York City cartoonist/writer Mark Alan Stamaty’s classic children’s book “Who Needs Donuts?” had become a favorite, prompting them to dream of coming to New York and accomplishing that goal in 2014.
Pinc Louds was born after a breakup, which left Claudi “needing to reinvent myself.” They explain that the previous musical project was “much more tame.”
“I began to spend hours jamming with a friend and I found myself singing in a new voice, nothing like my own. That voice began to write the lyrics.” Feeling the necessity ” to go completely into the madness that was happening, I needed to externalize it in a physical way, to look like a different person,” they add.
Putting on an old robe and a wig that dated back to their theatre days, Claudi found that “everything came together in a couple of weeks.” They found the musicians that became the first band while performing at a Day of the Dead party and at least one woman gifted a dress that they still perform in.
“It was an easy, magical process,” they muse. “I don’t consider myself a musician – I’m a creator. I really don’t know what I’m doing and I’m reticent to learn. I don’t know what the rules of songwriting are — it’s wonderful when you catch something and you don’t know where it came from.”
As for their look, Claudi notes that “the main thing is to look different from my other self. I find it very liberating. I like the androgynous aspect, but I don’t shave my legs.”
“I have a very strong feminine side and sometimes I feel very sweet and vulnerable as Claudi,” they explain. “But I also get more aggressive in the dress – there’s a certain violence in Pinc Louds.”
The Pinc Louds repertoire is expanding and getting more diverse all the time. While they do about 85% originals, with titles such as “Last Chance at Love,” “Roaches,” and “My Teeth,” they have been having fun with more covers and are emphasizing the rhythm more as dancing has become more important in the shows.
“I want everyone to have a good time,” Claudi points out, adding, “our mission is to bring everyone together, have fun and dance!”
Besides the upcoming release of two projects – an EP of Spanish songs and a second full length CD – Claudi is looking forward to something big.
“I want to NYC to have a scene again — something beautiful and weird and bigger than myself,” Claudi says. “I want to see something good come out of the pandemic. We have a very diverse audience and that’s why I moved to New York – to be surrounded by the world.”
Claudi, who sometimes refers to their performing persona as “that creature,” thinks of Pinc Louds as “an imaginary band – like when you’re eight years old and everything is possible. We’re a band that doesn’t believe in limitations.”
Pinc Louds music is available on Bandcamp.com, merchandise such as CD’s, T-shirts and pins are sold at all shows and there are many videos on Youtube. Up to date info on all shows (and a livestream for the Gap) is on Instagram @pinclouds.