Pinkshift’s Ashrita Kumar on Being in Their First Band (9/10 at TLA w/ Destroy Boys)

“I think my favorite reactions are the ones that tend to be slightly confused, like, ‘This is pop punk,’ then, ‘This is totally not pop punk,’ or ‘Oh, shit,...

“I think my favorite reactions are the ones that tend to be slightly confused, like, ‘This is pop punk,’ then, ‘This is totally not pop punk,’ or ‘Oh, shit, they’re heavy!  I didn’t know they were that heavy,” says Ashrita Kumar, vocalist of Pinkshift, regarding the way their music has been received so far.  The Baltimore trio; which seems to meld riot grrrl, pogo-able punk, and post-hardcore; has made a few appearances in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection over the course of the past year (supporting Mannequin Pussy at Union Transfer and PUP at Franklin Music Hall), but during a recent phone chat Kumar admits that they, along with bandmates Paul Vallejo (guitar) and Myron Houngbedji (drums), don’t remember too many specifics about it: “When we get to a city where we’ve been before, we don’t usually remember it [laughs].  It’s just about getting shit done.  We run our own merch and all that and haven’t had a tour manager before.”  However, next Saturday, September 10th, they will be returning, to play Theatre of Living Arts as direct support for our buddies Destroy Boys, along with Softcult and Jigsaw Youth, who will be providing additional support.

Pinkshift are preparing to release Love Me Forever, their debut LP and follow-up to 2021 EP Saccharine.  The album, which drops October 21st, was recorded by Will Yip – known for his work with The Menzingers, Nothing, and Tigers Jaw (and Destroy Boys’ most recent record) – and will be released via Hopeless Records, home of illuminati hotties, Sum 41, and Destroy Boys.  Kumar tells me Pinkshift are really itching for fans to hear the new music, but that it’s not exactly what they might expect: “We’re really excited to drop it.  I think the album’s gonna sound different from the EP…  It’s louder than the EP,” going on to add, “Surface level, I think it sounds angrier, but once you get into it, it’s honest.”  The recording (which took place largely twice-a-week in a pandemic bubble) also represents something new for the band: “The album was the first time all three of us were able to collaboratively work on everything together.”  Kumar even tells me that the songs themselves helped them to express their very thoughts on the pandemic, lockdown, and isolation: “It’s how I was able to process my emotions when the whole world turned upside down.”

Ashrita also tells me that they were very excited to get signed to Hopeless Records earlier this year and for the opportunity to work with Will Yip.  “They’re super supportive and they’ve able to take us to a level we wouldn’t have been able to ourselves.  They kinda make dreams happen,” they say of Hopeless Records, while going on to say, “Will is awesome.  It was so cool he was into it.  I don’t trust a lot or people with my art, but with Will, he knows what he’s doing and he knows us and our art.”  They also tell me that, because Pinkshift and Yip share so many influences, he was able to help them craft their songs in a way that perfectly suited them: “He was able to take the songs and make them into something that could exemplify the core of each song.”

While Pinkshift are still relatively young, both as a band and as people, Ashrita tells me that musicianship itself is still new to two of its three members: “We met in college.  Paul had always played in bands in high school and stuff, but Myron and I had never really done anything.”  It all started when Paul approached Ashrita to cover a Britney Spears song together after seeing them sitting in with an acapella group.  “I had never really sung before, I had never been in a band before,” admits Ashrita.  And Myron was apparently in a similar boat: “There was a drum studio on campus, and we sort of stalked the drum studio, and Myron was playing a My Chemical Romance song and Paul recognized it immediately…  I think Myron saw the fliers for a drummer we put up, but didn’t want to reach out because he was just starting out drumming.”

As much as fans and audiences have trouble pinning down Pinkshift’s sound, the band seems to draw influences from a plethora of genres.  The individual members have Spotify playlists including PHILTHY favorites such as Julien Baker, Bauhaus, Bully, Pixies, Pom Pom Squad, Shilpa Ray, and Potty Mouth.  But when I ask Ashrita about some of the band’s all-time favorite records, it seems to be ‘90s alternative, “aughts” emo, and contemporary hardcore that have made the biggest impression.

Return of Saturn by No Doubt is an album I’ve loved my whole life and that I always come back to.  Soundgarden’s Superunknown; I listened to that a lot in high school.  I love Nirvana, especially In UteroThree Cheers for Sweet Revenge is something we all love.  We all love Time & Space by Turnstile.  Pierce the Veil’s Collide with the Sky is something Paul and Myron really love.”

Following their short run of dates supporting Destroy Boys (which starts here in Philthy) Pinkshift will be embarking on their first-ever headlining tour (which will feature support from Jigsaw Youth and Yasmin Nur), all of which Ashrita tells me they are excited about.

“I’m really excited to play the TLA.  I’ve been there before and it’s huge.  I feel like Philly’s really gonna be great, and I’m really excited to headline New York and LA.  We’ve headlined in SoCal and Baltimore and DC, but like nowhere else.  Seattle is really exciting.  There’re venues I hear about all over that I’m so excited to play.  We’re stoked!”

In terms of what can be expected of Pinkshift live, Ashrita tells me that this run of dates will feature an evolution of sorts of the show they’ve been touring for the past year: “We’re gonna have a little longer of a set.  We usually just play 30 minutes.  Our whole released discography was just like 15 minutes long, so we’d play all these unreleased songs.”  They tell me this tour will even feature songs that they themselves have never played live before.  And when I asked how Pinkshift are hoping to spend next year, after this tour wraps, they tell me that there is more touring and new music in the works, including some apparently quite big shows: “There’s some stuff that I can’t really say, but we’re definitely gonna be touring more in the US with some super awesome bands that I’m really excited about.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.