Q&A: The Pinker Tones
In this week's Miami New Times music section, we gave you the brief rundown on why, this Saturday, you should check Barcelona's quirky world-disco duo, the Pinker Tones. Click here to read it online, if you missed it. The show is presented by the awesome Rhythm Foundation, as part of the ongoing Heineken Transatlantic Music Festival.
Here's the full Q&A with one of the group's cofounders and masterminds, Mr. Furia (the other is the similarly pseudonymous Prof. Manso).
The Pinker Tones perform Saturday, May 3 at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 7 p.m.; tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 at door. All ages are welcome; children under 12 are admitted free. Call 305-672-5202, or visit www.rhythmfoundation.com.
Looking at your tour dates, you're playing in Europe, then come over for Miami for just this one date, then you're back across the ocean. Do you often travel so far for one gig?
Not really. But we had such a good relationship with the people from Heineken from last year when they brought us to Miami during the Winter Music Conference… We knew that they were working really hard to promote the show, etc. so we thought, Well, even when we are not properly touring until the summer in the states, let's make a little trip over there, and it's helping the label as well with promoting the album. [Our tour dates in the United States would be] a bit far away from the release date if we didn’t do it.
When you say your summer tour, you're referring to the Warped Tour, right? It seems like kind of a strange match at first. How did you end up on the lineup?
The big issue is not whether the Pinker Tones are on the event or not -- it's a complete turn of the whole Vans Warped Tour conception. We've just been lucky to be in the right place in the right moment when this turn of ideas was taking place.
Also, I have to say very openly that a big part of it was the personal engagement of Kevin Lyman [creator of the Warped, Taste of Chaos, and Mayhem tours], who has been really persuasive and has really talked us into it. And when someone like Kevin takes the time and the patience to tell you you should do it, the conclusion comes really fast, that you definitely should do it, no?
How did you get in contact with him?
There was a certain relationship between Kevin and Nacional, our label, already. And we knew [Lyman] liked our album advance. So we did the first approach, and we did a showcase for them at SXSW last year, and it was really good. The crowd went down really well, our show went down really well. And Kevin was enthusiastic, so we've been talking since then, and we've had a very good relationship so far. So there was not a real argument not to do it. Everything has been positive
How do you feel about playing to such a young and rock-oriented crowd as the Warped Tour draws?
You have to take into consideration that on our new album, Wild Animals, there has also been a slight change. We are also designing a show around that album that's going to have a really strong rock element. Obviously it's going to keep the disco beats in it, but there will be a rock element. We played a really big rock festival in Argentina last week … and we went down with the same audience really well. So it's not a big issue. Our show has always been really attractive for many different audiences. There's a whole part of the rock audience that's very open-minded, and I think there are a lot of people who will give it a chance.
What are you doing to make the live set more rock-oriented?
We are adding a bit more instrumentation to the show, and there will be live bass and live guitar; bits and pieces of acoustic and electric drumming. We're just going to have a lot more running around to do. It's also a completely new reconception of how the visuals are going to be done.
We've basically redone the visual show. It was a full 90-minute piece, like a movie. We worked in modules depending on the show. But we had different chapters that were like a narrative. Obviously with Wild Animals, there's a whole new video conception.
Most of the visuals had been done by DJ Niño [the band's third live member]. Now he is working together with other people who are called the Magical Thinking. And they have done the first video clip for Wild Animals, which is "Happy Everywhere." And we are also working with a collective of DJs who are helping us out with live projection, and with whom we are developing the new show. They're called Visitor.
So what's the general concept for the new series of clips, and the overall narrative that they make up?
We always try to find the right artist and the right technique for each clip. We never approach anything with a general conception. For this last work in particular, for "Happy Everywhere," the big change probably was that it was the first clip we did not do in animation. It was the first clip in which we appeared the whole time in real image, no?
And therefore we wanted it to be special as well, so it had to have a certain magical element, a certain unrealness. And so we worked on this concept a lot with the guys from The Magical Thinking … our ideas are very similar. So it was very easy to locate in which direction to go. Once we decided, we give them complete creative freedom.
What about your songwriting process? How do you combine so many diverse influences?
There's a very basic idea which is, inspiration is great, but you better get to work -- it's an old Picasso quote that we always like to use for this question. It's a very good quote, because regularity and a certain routine in the work is when you get your good ideas.
Obviously we consume a lot of cultural goods in order to have something to talk about. We've been very, very influenced by the travels we've had. We've traveled about 400,000 miles, a huge tour of five continents. We've been to the strangest places you can imagine. At some points, it ends up in your music, no?
What's one of the strangest places you've been to play?
We were just talking about it this morning! I think probably the most unexpected place, probably, that we've played was a Russian town called Ufa, like the old German film company. It's a mining city, one of those places. It was a fantastic crowd, but you wouldn't even know about the existence of this place. It was also very unreal because it wasn't a nice place, really, very industrial, and the promoters didn't want us to see it too much. They flew us in and out in 16 hours! Russia's a mysterious country. There are cities even in China that you've never heard about, but have a million people living in them.
So how do you actually start writing a song together?
It depends on the song. Like in the video clip, we always approach work in a very intuitive way. Sometimes we develop a concept first, in which style, in which direction we want to go. Sometimes we just start programming something, or play to a nice bass line and electronic drums. Sometimes we sit on the piano and work on a melody, and write straight, write the lyrics first, then polish the melody, and finish the harmonies later. It completely depends on what kind of song we're working on. Also, if we're working on something we would prefer to go into an instrumental direction, it's a completely different approach.
Where we're not flexible is that we have to invest time. We start really early in the morning, 9:00, 9:30, and work until 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., on a daily basis. And then in the afternoon we do other things.
Wow. Because of course you know that everyone else in the recording industry generally starts around midnight, and gets done in the morning when you guys are getting started.
Exactly. But one reason would be that we also work at night, during the weekend, but we try to swtich to a day mode during the week. Many bands work in the studio like that basically because the studios at night are cheaper. We are lucky enough to be self-contained. We have our own little studio, Pinkerland, so we kind of built it with the idea of it being a very day studio, with a lot of light and windows all around it. So it's not the typical dark basemenet studio. Daylight is a very basic energetic element. You just flow with the natural rhythm of things. We are daily animals, we're not night animals.
There's a time for everything, but I think the songwriting process is extremely -- you can do extremely good work working at night, and there's enough proof of it. But it's like making a color movie or a black-and-white movie. Both can be great, but obviously if you write at night, you're going to write a black-and-white movie. But if you write during the day, you're going to have fantastic cinemascope and technicolor. For us, the daylight is the one that works.
Although you touch on a few different languages, the main one you two sing in, is English. Was that a conscious choice from the beginning?
Not really. We've always been very open about using different languages. Wild Animals has gone in that direction in a very intuitive way as well. And I mean the process of Wild Animals has been very energetic and maybe not as organized as The Million Colour Revolution. It was a lot about writing songs and getting into the studio when we had some time off from the tours. And when we finally had a few days to be in the studio, we enjoyed it so much, and the energy that came out was so strong, I think that reflected on the songs. It's a very direct album. Color was probably a bit utopia -- a bit how we liked the world to be. And Wild Animals is probably more of a description of the world as we live in it.