On Influences and Queering the Indie Music Scene: An Interview with Pinky Lemon
February 23, 2023 @ 12:26pm
Named after their mutual love of a character from the video game Stardrew Valley, the musical collective Pinky Lemon is genre-bending at its finest. From shoegaze to queer dance pop to emo-rock, Rob Cline, Caroline Corbett, Danny Williams and Jackie Hesley threw all their influences into their debut album, “Pinky Heaven,” released December of last year.
Pinky Lemon is made up of friends from both Philadelphia and D.C. With four original members plus their recently joined guitarist, Penny Meth, the band shares the wealth of genres and influential artists that shaped them.
“We like indie rock, but we also love dance pop, and we also love really emo stuff and we also love shoegaze,” says Cline, singer and guitarist of the group. “I think the inspiration for our sound was like, ‘How can we really cover all this ground?’”
Even on their most shoegaze-like track, “Wilted,” there still are rock elements that reinforce the band’s fear of being boxed into one genre. And on the track, “donotplay,” the band’s versatility is on full display, dabbling in bedroom pop fused with metal guitar.
“Alex G, especially his newer music, has really helped us re-approach songwriting, and be like, ‘Okay, let’s not do a regular first chorus, let’s not stick to one time signature, or even one idea of genre in a song,” Cline says.
Alex G is just one of many artists that helped guide their first project as a collective. Corbett — on synths and vocals — and Cline reference their high school emo-indie jams like Joyce Manor and Hop Along, while also drawing from bands like SPRIT OF THE BEEHIVE, Cowgirl Clue and Coco & Clair Clair. Williams, Hesley and Meth appreciate all those influences too, but love to bring their hardcore influences to the table. With all of their musical references, the ensemble creates an original, endless slate of genre fusions making for their unique sound.
As most of the band belongs to the queer community, the band’s creative process — whether its songwriting or producing — finds its roots in queer influence.
“Making music with a lot of your people, you just feel more comfortable,” Meth says. “You can feel more free to express your ideas and do whatever you want because you’re in a more comfortable space being in a band with those people you are familiar with.”
Even in live performance, the band has noted the feeling of a queer-inclusive atmosphere and a safe space for those in the audience.
“Playing in a lot of queer-friendly spaces to queer-friendly audiences just feels so freeing,” Corbett says. “Like we can essentially make music that’s strange, that’s queer, that’s poppy, that’s dancey, that’s freaky without worrying about the kind of constraints that have governed all music, even alternative and punk music.”
While Pinky Lemon’s lyricism may not directly address queerness in its tracks, in the band’s playful references to disco, a musical movement pioneered by queer people of color, it’s hard not to notice their songs as a musical celebration of being queer.
“Making art when you’re queer — not everything ties back to that explicitly — but in a way, it always does, no matter what you do,” Cline says.
In the band’s handful of times performing in D.C., all the members have developed a loving relationship for the city and the way it embraces music. As a small band, D.C. has allowed for Pinky Lemon to thrive in many ways.
“People getting together to have shows, whether it’s in their house or other local bars, is one of the most special things in the world,” says drummer Danny Williams. “D.C. is a very special place for that.”
Pinky Lemon is performing at The Pocket on February 24, and feeling excited about performing at the venue for the first time.
“I’ve been to The Pocket a few times,” Cline says. “I really like it because it’s hard in this level of music to find a place to perform at that isn’t either a house — which we love, not disparaging at all — or a local bar. It’s a nice, dedicated space that’s for music, which I really like. So I’m excited to play.”
Pinky Lemon plays at The Pocket at 8 p.m. on Friday, February 24. Tickets are $12 -$15 and can be purchased here.
Check out Pinky Lemon’s music here and follow them on Instagram @xpinkylemonx
The Pocket: 1508 North Capitol St. NW, DC; 202 643-7424; thepocketdc.com // @thepocket_dc
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