Last summer, when the city was sweltering, New Yorkers sought refuge from their apartments, and each other, in COVID-safe public spaces. Many lugged themselves to Tompkins Square Park, in the East Village, where, every Saturday, the self-proclaimed “imaginary band,” Pinc Louds, would play a rollicking, effervescent set. Reflecting on their impact, one commentator summarized the public consensus: “Pinc Louds saved the summer.”
Over the winter, the band escaped the cold in Puerto Rico — where Claudi, the band’s lead singer, was raised — to film videos and work on their forthcoming album, La Átomica, which will be released in June. On Saturday, they debuted a single, “Tamarindo,” in the park.
The band began playing at exactly 1pm. It was t-shirt weather, and the crowd, an eclectic group, erupted at the song’s first hard-charging chords. Claudi, wearing her signature pink flower-print dress and green eyeshadow, jammed through the set. Teens with dyed hair danced beside parents with their children, while older observers, sitting on nearby benches, rapidly tapped their feet.
If the band has a universal appeal — which, by all accounts, it seems to — it’s because their sound draws on a universe of influences. When prompted, over the phone, to name a few, Claudi’s non-exhaustive list included early ’20s and ’30s jazz (“There’s a catchiness to those songs that I’m obsessed with”), doo-wop from the ’50s, a handful of punk bands, Latin bands, and, unsurprisingly for those who have heard Claudi sing, Billie Holiday. Like Holiday, Claudi croons with a haunting falsetto — while, unlike Holiday, hammering on the strings of an acoustic guitar.
Many of those influences converged in the making of “Tamarindo.”
“For me, tamarind syrup is like a metaphor in a bottle,” said Claudi. “There’s this wildness that I associate with Puerto Rico, and I feel that there’s this wild animal I left there. Tamarindo is my way of putting into one product the kind of wildness that I sometimes long for.”
In the song’s music video, Claudi chases roosters through overgrown yards, plays her guitar for a team of impassive horses, and wades shoulder-deep into the ocean between the rotting pylons of a pier. She also slurps tamarind syrup manically, her eyes crossing with delight. The overall effect is joyful, and, as with most Pinc Loud projects, resists easy description.
“It’s obvious to everyone how talented Claudi is,” said Raimundo Atal, the band’s drummer, over the phone. “But just to add to that, there’s so much hard work behind everything. Talent is a big part of it, but there’s a lot of hard work.”
Claudi moved to New York, from Puerto Rico, in 2015. She landed a job as an after-school music teacher at Bushwick High School, where Pinc Louds’ current bassist, Marc Mosteirin, was a full-time instructor. Claudi quit a year later to create the band, and Mosteirin eventually followed (“Sorry, Bushwick High School!”). Claudi met Atal, who is currently pursuing a PhD at Columbia, at a Day of the Dead party, in Bushwick, shortly after arriving to New York
With Atal on drums, the trio began busking in subway stations. Their act often included other artists, and through connections forged underground, they started receiving offers to play at house shows and venues across the city.
While albums are important, busking, explained Atal, is critical to the band’s identity.
“We like the rawness, I think, that comes from playing in harsh conditions,” he said. “There’s also something so good about being very close to people.”
Public spaces also allow Pinc Louds to interact with, and try to win over, people who might not otherwise come across their music. While Tompkins Square Park is their favorite outdoor venue, it has a certain familiarity antithetical to the Pinc Louds project. In the coming months, Claudi says, they plan to play at Central Park in Manhattan, and McCarren and Prospect Parks in Brooklyn. During the week, Claudi will venture out alone, and play at unexpected locations in the city, like the Flatiron building.
Claudi explained that this impulse to explore, to experiment, has guided her choices from the start.
“That’s where this project came from,” she said. “A necessity to escape from all these things that were tying me down. At the beginning I felt like I was pretending to be a different person, and then one day I realized that that was me.”