Half Man Half Biscuit once sardonically drolled, ‘Hey hey my my / LIPA bands will never die’, and in the last five years or so we’ve been pretty glad of it. Seeing the likes of nu doo wop trio Trudy, indie surf high-flyers Spring King, and the weird and wonderful Stealing Sheep all emerge from its walls, it seems like the art school has spurred on a new lease of life for young creatives. The latest bunch to get us taking notice is psycho-tropical-bubble-rock outfit PINK KINK. The glitter-fuelled five-piece have crashed onto Liverpool’s scene with a defiant bang, landing out of nowhere like punk rock aliens with a taste for jewels, sparkle and noisy pop. Having been charmed on numerous occasions by their riot of a live show – which balances new wave bounce with punk attitude in a way not seen since CSS sequin-bombed the charts – we thought it was about time to find out what fuels the energy behind those infectious smiles.
In doing so we find ourselves walking into a soulless block of student flats, freshly scented and sparkling clean. But these are not just any ordinary students: outside lies the homogenised beige mundanity of brick and PVC new builds, but all of this disappears in a flourish of colour upon entering Pink Kink’s flat. A castrated Buddy Holly chirps from his grooves at 45rpm as two of the band frantically try to restore his manhood to the corrected 33 ⅓rpm; mandala hangings, Freudian art and the mirage of naked flesh that is the centrefold from Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland adorn the walls; the smells of sweet incense and hot tea infuse the air; and the quintet of Inés, Nina, Bridget, Amanda and Sam gather round cross-legged on the floor. In front of them lie a selection of party rings, garishly coloured wine glasses and Doritos, evidence of the welcome extended to me in this, their inner sanctum.
I start at the only place that seems fitting, with their blowout headline gig at The Kazimier last year, the night they effectively introduced themselves to Liverpool. “It was crazy!” drummer Amanda says of the night, seemingly still pumped from the high it brought her. “It was all so last minute, really. We’d always had dreams of playing the Kaz, but because its closure was so close last year, we decided that we’d organise our launch show there. Nina [Bass] and Sam [Lead Guitar] only joined the band two weeks before the Kaz debut gig… and it turned out pretty well!” This is something of an understatement, as they managed to pack the acclaimed venue to its brim. A sprawling mass of flailing limbs filled the room in adoration of the frenetic ball of energy that is Pink Kink.
The hype is well earned, however, and even better planned; like a spider waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey, the band have been waiting in the shadows for a year, writing and practising, and this has proven invaluable, as evidenced by their live catalogue. Their already tight collection of tracks have an exciting juxtaposition between punked-up pop ditties and turbulent tumultuous ballads. “We want to take the audience on a rollercoaster. Each song has its own emotions and we try to inhabit each song individually,” explains Nina. “Yeah, it’s so exhausting to play a set as an uptight serious band,” Sam – Pink Kink’s only male – adds. “Playing the more mellow songs gives us a bit of a break, allowing us to put that extra energy into the upbeat tracks”. And let loose they do. Live, they are a glammed-up tour de force, a shouty tornado who won’t let you leave till you’ve moved your feet. Keyboardist and unofficial leader Inés explains further: “When we are performing, we feel like our own personalities are amplified. We are ourselves times 120% just for that moment. Our music has a lot of meaning behind it, so our performance is like a statement, the best way of communicating our message.”
The multiculturalism of the band seems to work as somewhat of an influence on their flourish and style. By drawing on a whole world of inspiration, the group embrace their diversity and let it come through in their sound. Hailing from Germany, Spain, the US, Norway and even the exotic of realms of Sunderland, the entire band was drawn to the city by the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and its status as a world-famous establishment. “Although LIPA has its good and bad points as an educational facility, it’s impossible to get past how close-knit the place is,” explains Sam. “It’s not like you pass through grand halls seeing faces only once. It’s just small enough that you get to know everyone, and all the students really sort of gel.” “It’s amazing to meet so many like-minded people who share the same taste in culture, music and art. It’s just inspired us to get together and play,” Inés adds, to which lead singer and guitarist Bridget can’t help but chuckle, “We’re all very different characters and it shouldn’t really work, but it does!”
“It’s kind of awkward trying to explain what Pink Kink meant in Spain,” says Inés when I enquire about the group’s name (‘pink kink’ is a slang term for the female equivalent of ‘blue balls’, i.e. sexual frustration), while Amanda retorts with surprise, “Really? In Norway I didn’t even have an issue telling my grandmother!” Though they’re not overtly militant in their outlook, the latent misogyny they face as a band of primarily women is evident to them, and they won’t shy away from confronting it. Even their name highlights some inequality, as Bridget says: “Everyone seems to know about blue balls but no one knows seems to know anything about the female equivalent.”
One particular style of music that they don’t take particular inspiration from is the riot grrrl movement. “We’ve only played a few gigs but we’ve already been called riot grrrl, and it’s not a scene that we really know anything about,” says Nina. However, the comparisons are not unreasonable: their fast-paced, girl-fronted rock ‘n’ roll is reminiscent of groups such as Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. Their politics aren’t that dissimilar either, as Inés displays: “The music industry is truly a sausage fest. We have already been referred to as a ‘girl band’. How can we be a girl band when we have a boy in the group? You don’t see people going round calling every band with boys in it a ‘boy band’, that’d just be stupid. I mean, feminism isn’t our main message and we’re not that politically focused as a group; however, it is an issue that’s important to us.”
The importance of challenging patriarchy can be seen within their flamboyant, B-52’s-esque track Bubble Butt. With its jarring guitars, funk-driven bass and whirring organ, the track is upbeat, fun but rebellious. In the song, the girls scream, “Are you looking at my butt?/ Why you looking at my butt?/ Stop looking at my butt.” “By screaming on the track we hoped to try and challenge the way the music industry often tries to sexualise female artists. Instead of singing nicely, we yell and shout almost as a means of challenging perceptions,” claims Bridget. Inés provides further insight: “Even in the alternative scene, bands are being exploited. It’s sad to see female artists who have been objectified in order to sell records. There’s nothing real about them.” And this is where Pink Kink differ, smashing the boundaries of genre, conformity and music-business norms, thus establishing themselves as a real breath of fresh air in an industry which seems to be becoming more vapid and soulless every day. Pink Kink, we need you.
Bubble Butt is out now.