POC In Punk: Meet Pinkshift

Photo by Maria Grimmett

Listen to Pinkshift: 【 Spotify 】【 Bandcamp 】【 Apple Music

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For you personally, what have you experienced as a POC in the music scene (either good or bad). What’s your perspective on POC in the scene?

Paul: I entered the Long Island, NY music scene playing in high school and college bands. I’ve seen few POC as concert-goers and I noticed myself being the only POC up on stage. The people I met and hung around were welcoming and inclusive. I’ve heard slurs get playfully thrown around in the back where all the bands on the bill are hanging out (as white people do when they’re the only ones around and are v comfortable with themselves). Entering the Baltimore/DIY scene, I have seen a lot more POC in the audience and in bands. People love showcasing/seeing you express your culture in your art and when you’re just weird in general.

Ashrita: As an Indian girl, I’ve always walked into indie music scene spaces fully expecting to never see anyone who looks like me. It’s always been a majority white space to me, and I used to find myself trying really hard to blend in with my white friends. When I was younger, I felt major imposter syndrome (and I still do to some extent). I mostly felt like my music taste wasn’t mine, or that it was borrowed, because I wasn’t or “American” enough, even though I was born and brought up here. Recently though, I’ve seen these spaces open up a lot more to having POC on stage. If anything, I’ve experienced more shit as a woman in the scene than as a POC. Singing in a punk band with other friends of color and meeting more POC musicians (especially WOC musicians) has been really therapeutic and validating for my identity as a musician. Now that there’s more of a light shining on POC, as opposed to 5-10 years ago, I feel more comfortable/excited representing my culture in my aesthetic and bringing that perspective to the scene.

Myron: I’ve always felt welcomed in the music scene. However, I still always find myself looking for other black people whenever I go to shows. This isn’t always a conscious effort, but I’m so used to being one of the only black people in these spaces that I seek them out in an attempt to validate my presence and interest in the DIY scene. Seeing a black band member in a hardcore band always brings a smile to my face and reminds me that I do in fact belong in these spaces.

Erich: The DIY/underground scene is very diverse among both color and genres. It’s great seeing a variety of people coming together to support artists who create different music and each have their own background and musical influences.

What inspired you to work in the music industry and what do you hope to achieve?

Paul: My first concert was actually a Green Day show off their American Idiot world tour in 2005. As cliche as it may sound, Green Day is what made my 7 year-old self want to learn guitar and be in a band. I hope to always be creating music, regardless of what my day job is (maybe I won’t even have to have one), with my friends. I also hope to elevate my mixing/producing skills to a point where I can help others with their projects.

Ashrita: I was always into the idea growing up, but until I met Paul (our guitarist), I never really thought about being in a punk band as an attainable thing. I hadn’t really sang in public spaces, and I played piano and flute, not drums or guitar. Before Pinkshift, I wrote my own piano/voice songs on the side, but I kept them as voice memos mostly to myself and my soundcloud. Writing in the summer of 2018 with Paul for Pinkshift (at the time named Sugar Crisis) and getting exposed to the Baltimore DIY scene is when I was really inspired to write seriously. This is when creating music that people might like became a possibility in my mind. In terms of aspirations, I hope to be able to continue producing music I enjoy with people I love!

Myron: I was honestly a little envious of my friends who were already in the scene, so I decided to learn how to play drums so that I could be useful in a band setting. Looking back, I’ve always wanted to perform in some capacity but I never took it that seriously until I joined Pinkshift. I want to learn as much as I can and have fun in the process.

Erich: I was too stubborn to learn subjects that would lead to success in the future, but I was okay at guitar. I hope to achieve a career that can support myself.

Growing up, did you feel like there was a good amount of representation for you in the media and/or music scene? If you had someone who you looked up to or still look up to, whether they’re a musician or not, who is this person?

Paul: As a kid, I didn’t realize that the only bands I looked up to were only made of white men. I think hanging around the LI music scene also made me forget at times that I was Latin-American (in those spaces). I love Sum 41 because their guitarist was/is a brown dude that absolutely shreds. However, in high school I was introduced to Pierce the Veil and that was the first time I saw Latin-American people play punk music. I loved how unapologetically Mexican they were on stage and how much latin music influenced their songwriting. Their bassist sometimes wears the Mexican soccer jersey for their sets and that inspired me to do the same with Peruvian jersey.

Ashrita: Growing up, not really. I grew up in the Midwest. Like I said earlier, most of my friends were white and so were the riot grrrl/grunge bands we listened to. I felt like I never saw (and have yet to find tbh) an Indian girl fronting a heavy punk band. I definitely love Gwen Stefani’s voice in “No Doubt,” and it’s actually something that I tried to work into this next single we’re releasing. She’s a very white (and sometimes very racially problematic) musician, but I loved the music “No Doubt” released. It took me a while to realize that this music was who I am and what I liked, and that I could forge a path as a musician in the scene. I think it took meeting other POC in the music scene to do it. I guess I would say I look up to my peers of color both in the scene and in the band. It’s been really inspiring to meet others with similar backgrounds who have continued to make their music whether they saw themselves represented or not, so I guess you could say I look up to them.

Myron: It depends. Growing up, I felt extremely represented in the rap and hip hop industry (obviously), but not so much in the rock and punk industry. Therefore, I split my music taste into “white” and “black” music and believed that I had no business in a rock band when I was younger. I remember losing my mind in high school when I found out that Pete Wentz was half black, and that was something I latched onto.

Erich: Jeff Rosenstock is a musician that I’ve been listening to for a long time. He’s become increasingly popular over the past few years. He’s very supportive of human rights and LGBTQ movements and is able to connect groups through his music. What inspires me about him is that he started with a DIY mentality and has continued it over the past 15 years and sees more success with each album he releases. He self-released his own music when he started the group bomb the music industry, releases his music for free, accepts payment through donations. He has a very interesting way of working in the music industry.

What are some ways non-POC allies can support POC?

Paul: If you see a POC band, give them a listen and/or share their music on social media! I think it’s important to show that people in punk are more colorful than what mainstream music media makes it out to seem. I think reminding listeners that punk has a very non-white history is important to renormalizing seeing them in your scene (and thus listening to their music and booking them on your shows).

Ashrita: Definitely supporting bands of color (echoing Myron), and creating space for them in the scene. Like, booking more bands of color and actively seeking them out. I feel like the music scene is swimming with white bands, and I would love to see more of these POC bands getting a platform, even if it’s someone’s Instagram story!

Myron: Support bands of color! Also, extinguish any aspects of the culture that may be harmful to POC. It’s also important for POC to support POC in these spaces as well, rather than pretending that their interests detract from their identity as a person of color.

Erich: Finding a local community or scene, groups you enjoy, and supporting them and getting involved.

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Paul: Wear things from your culture! Jewelry, clothing, any accessories. I think seeing yourself doing what you love and remembering that your punk image doesn’t have to be limited to band tees can be a fun way to express yourself.

Ashrita: Where you don’t see space for you, pave your own path. Don’t be afraid to go with your gut!

Myron: Everything’s a learning process, don’t get discouraged and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Erich: Have fun and don’t quit your day job.