Today, New York City’s favorite “imaginary band” / underground doowop outfit Pinc Louds share a new track called “Spellbound” along with an enchanting performance video shot in Tompkins Square Park.
When the band started busking there, on June 20th, “everything changed for me,” bandleader Claudi tells American Songwriter. “After months of not playing for a live audience, we found a space where we could perform, be socially distant and (up until recently) not get kicked out by the cops. We played there at least twice a week throughout the summer and as the word spread, more and more people started coming to the shows. Not just people, but the most wonderful people, magical people. People of all ages and backgrounds. […] These wonderful humans, and all we created together this summer as a community, is what we wanted to show in the video.”
Pinc Louds have spent the last few years cultivating this festive, inclusive ethos—first while busking in the Delancey St. Station (after which they named their 2018 album), then while performing at venues throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. The band is currently rounded out by bassist Marc Mosteirin and drummer Raimundo Atal—a smaller crew than usual, since percussionist / vocalist Pelé moved back to Puerto Rico during the pandemic.
We recently caught up with Claudi over email about “Spellbound,” Pinc Louds’ previous singles “Hopscotch” and “Tiger Song,” and the band’s next EPs. Check out the full interview and watch the video for “Spellbound” below.
American Songwriter: Tell us a little bit about your new single “Spellbound.” What’s it about? When did you write and record it?
Claudi: The song starts out as a cry for help from deep inside a dark forest. I tend to keep my guard up, emotionally. And even though I get to express my deepest feelings regularly through Pinc Louds, in my daily life my shell is hard. This song is about having that shell cracked slowly by a magician who I met a while back. I still struggle with letting myself feel things sometimes, but luckily this magician has continued to be a part of my life and they constantly conjure up new spells and potions to save me from myself.
We wrote and recorded most of the elements for “Spellbound” in late 2019. The pandemic slowed the process of releasing it (along with other songs we plan on putting out soon). But I believe it’s all for a reason. If we’d released it before, it wouldn’t be accompanied by the video we filmed this summer at Tompkins Square Park.
How did the video come together?
On June 20th we started busking at Tompkins Square Park in NYC’s East Village and everything changed for me. After months of not playing for a live audience, we found a space where we could perform, be socially distant and (up until recently) not get kicked out by the cops. We played there at least twice a week throughout the summer and as the word spread, more and more people started coming to the shows. Not just people, but the most wonderful people, magical people. People of all ages and backgrounds. People who are not afraid to dance, scream, be silly, play hopscotch, dance with garbage bags, blow bubbles, pretend to be roaches, participate in a socially distant moshpit where they bounce against each other’s imaginary force fields. Without a doubt NYC’s finest.
These wonderful humans, and all we created together this summer as a community, is what we wanted to show in the video. Nothing will ever compare to being there in the moment, but we tried to portray it as best we could. The video was filmed by various friends and volunteers (JudeXSYD, Zhen Qin, Cristina Agostini and Matilde Benmayor) who came on two days in August to catch some of the magic.
“Hopscotch” is a reminder that our world is ending… eventually. It’s a carpe diem song. I was inspired by William Beebe’s “Unseen Life of New York,” a book that guides you through what we now call New York and what it was like thousands and millions of years ago. William Beebe was a biologist but his writing is so vivid and poetic that he really makes you see Central Park under hundreds of feet of ice, the ancient rock formations coming up, the Pteranodons and other prehistoric animals living their lives where we now sell hot dogs, ride subways and pay too much rent.
One knows these things: that the world was different and that it will be again. But reading this book I really felt it. Everytime I walked by the elevated train station near my house I could see it underwater, thousands of years from now. The book planted a seed deep inside me and for the first time I knew that so many of the things we struggle with are just not worth suffering for. For example, as an artist, many times one thinks about posterity. “I may not become well known now, but look at Nick Drake, look at van Gogh…” But this is also limiting as an artist. It makes you take yourself too seriously. I would freeze at the thought of creating anything because I felt that it had to be GREAT. To know that in a few thousand years there will probably be no one around to hear your songs is very liberating. The only important thing to me right now is to play, in every sense of the word, and make the people around me happy. That’s what that song is about.
“Tiger Song” was written on a sleepless night while struggling with feelings of possessiveness. It’s a song about freeing a tiger from its cage so that it can be the wild and beautiful tiger you fell in love with in the first place. As the tiger slept, I paced around my apartment praying it wouldn’t leave me the next morning. The song ends in an explosion of joy at seeing its eyes open and then being able to eat breakfast… with my tiger.
Having been to a few Pinc Louds gigs, I know that your live shows are very multi-faceted productions, from the sets to the costumes to the narratives to the crowd engagement. Does performing right now feel different than usual?
After months of doing Instagram live and Zoom shows (where I literally had a applause-track so it wouldn’t feel so lonely after finishing each song), it’s been so good to get back out and play for humans. I’ve always loved playing on the street, which is where I feel one plays for the true NYC, but this has really been something else. I think audiences and musicians need each other more than ever right now. The trend of being less human, more submerged in one’s cell phone, not knowing your neighbors, ordering food through an app so you don’t even have to talk to a human on the phone, all this has been happening since long before COVID and it truly depresses me. I think that being so isolated has helped us appreciate what was there all along. Human connection. We are a band that really loves playing live and having that back and forth with the audience. This has only gotten more intense these last few months. Our shows are getting dancier, our screams louder, our puppets wilder… More, more, more. Until we’re all connected in a giant bubble of joy.
What else have the members of Pinc Louds been up to over the last few months? What can your fans expect next?
Our bass player, Marc Mosteirin, has been giving guitar lessons on Zoom. Raimundo Atal (drummer) has been finishing up his thesis on Environmental Economics at Columbia. And I’ve been playing and writing as much as possible. No one’s been bored, that’s for sure.
The plan is to release an EP of our new songs in Spanish by January 2021. We’ve been playing these songs all summer and can’t wait to get them out. They’re the songs that people dance the most to and what we’ve recorded up till now really brings that across. Then we want to put out a full album of English songs by April. There’s a million things going on in our new music: new influences that hadn’t been cooked into the mix. Artists like Bola de Nieve, the Stooges, Ismael Rivera, Television, even some operatic flourishes are popping up. All in the function of making our own style of, as a guy recently described it, “beautiful punk.”
“Spellbound” is out now.