Noise pop revival
“If people bought the records for the music,” Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren told the London Times in late 1977, “this thing would have died a death long ago.”
Nearly three decades later, McLaren still has a point about rock ‘n’ roll. For the Sex Pistols, it was a convergence of looks, style, mythos and perhaps some musical innovation that made them icons. While nothing on the scale of the punk revolution has swept through youth culture in recent years, bands that rise to stardom are ones that tend to capture the imagination of a generation.
Reno’s music scene isn’t exactly 1970’s London. But Pink Black, Reno’s newest noise pop quartet, couldn’t have picked a better time to be who they are. First, there’s the name. Stroll the mall for a minute, and you’ll see pink and black everywhere—a triumphant flag of the ‘80s revival that’s been taking over not only runways but radio waves of late.
Pink Black’s guitarist and songwriter, Ty Williams, says the name was only a happy coincidence, inspired not by fashion but by the David Lynch movie Mulholland Drive.
“I saw those colors and thought they were really cool,” he says. “And then suddenly everyone started wearing them!”
Then there’s the striking and stylish lead singer, Casey Schumacher, whose New York punk fashion ethos, confidant stage patter and vocal style are reminiscent of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s lead singer Karen O.
The band’s sound incorporates elements from some of the more vibrant trends indie pop has produced over the last 20 years. Kind of lo-fi and kind of punk, the band contrasts innocent, airy vocals with a strong bass sound that’s danceable and catchy. The bridges are creative, the lyrics clever—a little emo, a little ironic.
These ingredients, combined with the band’s occasionally jarring experiments in atonality, result in a sound that’s like no other in Reno.
“That’s what our goal is,” says Schumacher, “to incorporate a wide spectrum of musical tastes into something that’s our own, and unique.”
The members’ musical tastes are diverse, but range mostly toward the obscure.
“These days, you really have to search hard for good music,” Williams says. “There are just not a lot of mainstream bands out there that really grab you, that are saying anything.”
Formed last summer, Pink Black is a lucky convergence of sorts. Drummer Josh Hageman and Williams were roommates who played in other bands; Schumacher was a friend who was unhappy with the band she was in and wanted more creative freedom. While one of the band’s original members recently left because of creative differences, he has been replaced by another friend, “Slasher” Steve.
The band practices and records in Hageman and Williams’ basement, where Hageman owns a much-loved four-track machine on which they recorded their first demo tape last December. Soon, he says, he’ll be investing in an eight-track.
“Our basement is a very sacred place … a lot of very magical things happen there,” Williams says.
And that’s really why they’re doing it all. "When it really excites you, when you hear everything come together, and it makes the hair stand up on your arms, that’s just the best," Williams says. "There’s nothing better than that."