Retro music produced today is imitative of older sounds and styles in such a way that it can stumble into an oddly stuffy, conceited appreciation for a past generation. The incorporation of too many dated sonic taglines, if you will, produces an accentuated and unoriginal sound — but there isn’t a shred of pretension or unoriginality in the Los Angeles trio Pinky Pinky.
The young rock band performed at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco on Saturday night, sharing the members’ one-of-a-kind melodic blends that harken back to all sorts of musical times — ‘60s surf beats, Frank Zappa-esque bass lines, vocals dipping into a crying falsetto reminiscent of Janis Joplin — without ever settling into one too much.
Guitarist Isabelle Fields, bass guitarist Eva Chambers, and vocalist and drummer Anastasia Sanchez may only be teenagers, but they understand the line between referencing a genre and copying it.
It’s difficult to play music emblematic of a certain sonic era without tipping too far into an exact replication of the sound; it’s the difference between a band transposing music completely from, let’s say, the ‘80s to right now, and the band pulling out little parts of ‘80s music to be combined with entirely new sounds. Pinky Pinky successfully falls into the latter category.
“All of our past bands we were in were very restricted to one particular sound. We were really trying to go for a certain thing, almost trying to replicate what was already done,” Chambers said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “But then with this band, we’re just kind of all over the place, but in a good way. … We’re taking inspiration from a lot of different things. I guess I see a lot of bands these days that are trying to — or maybe without noticing — doing what’s already been done, and it’s not exciting at all. So we’re just trying to do our own thing.”
On Saturday night, sporting a baby blue checkered romper, Sanchez propelled the group’s stage presence — moving her body in time to the beat as much as she could while singing and drumming — despite being nearly half-hidden behind the large drum kit. Fields and Chambers, each wearing sunglasses and vintage versions of collared shirts, moved minimally.
“We don’t really move a lot, which we’re trying to work on,” Fields commented in the interview. “But I think it kind of works for us because we’re just really focused on playing.”
“We’re trying to put on a show but not ‘put on a show’ and act like anything that isn’t ourselves,” Sanchez added. “We’re just being loosey goosey and silly, and, I don’t know, I think the audience likes that — I like that, when I see people performing and just being themselves.”
And that really is what stands out about Pinky Pinky: their unapologetic self-assuredness. The lack of a flamboyant stage show doesn’t matter when the music emanating from the stage is so infectious — “Ram Jam” is an especially noteworthy bop, starring a prominent bassline and danceable drum rhythm. Their performance of it strikes the right balance — clearly rehearsed, but still a little rough around the edges.
Between their innovative sound, their unusual performance style and their appalling youth, the members of Pinky Pinky know they have something impressive, and they work hard at it.
“Especially in the LA scene … a lot of these people are being in bands just to be in a band, and they play … shoegaze music and just kind of half-ass it. And then we actually are working really hard on it,” Chambers commented on being proud of the group, before adding a snarky footnote: “Plus, girls have always kind of been looked down upon as musicians.”
That last part may be true, but if it bothers them, they don’t let it show. Fields, Chambers and Sanchez command the space they’re given and knock out their special sound with an ease and unwavering commitment that’s magnetically appealing — the six 20-something-year-old guys dancing wildly in the front row prove at least that much.