Ariel Pink is 20 minutes late returning my phone call, and he feels bad about it. He’s been back in the States less than a week since finishing a European tour, and he’s swamped with phoners. He apologizes. “I need to treat my interviews more like job interviews,” Pink says.
“Well, then,” I say. “Are you a team player or more of an individual?”
“Ahh, that’s always a trick question!” said Pink. “What you gotta say is, ‘I’m highly qualified for this position because…I can be here…all the time…and I got nothing better going on in my life…so you can hold me in this position indefinitely because I have nowhere else to go.'”
For a quick moment, it sounds like Pink is regressing—-possibly years backward, before Animal Collective signed his lo-fi solo project to its record label Paw Tracks. Maybe to a period when he was searching for the right record deal, while continuously churning out hundreds of recordings from his home. Back when he struggled as an artist with a vision, trying to make a living.
Years, songs, and albums later, he’s a regular subject of indie sites like Pitchfork, and he’s becoming a sought-after enigma among the media. People want to know how he went from solo bedroom recordings to international tours with a full band. Animal Collective helped, of course, and even put Pink on the bill for next May’s iteration of All Tomorrow’s Parties in England, which the band is curating. Not that he’s being feted and flown everywhere. He still drives his own tour van from city to city.
Europe was fun, he says, but he can’t pick a favorite stop. “The only good thing about a town, really, is the people,” he says. “Towns are all the same, boring. You know, we’re all going to do the same thing anywhere.”
And when it comes to his music, Pink thinks he’s just as ordinary as every other musician. “I’m just another brick in the wall, just contributing. I’m not breaking new ground,” he says.
Yet his latest record Before Today—-his first recorded in an actual studio—-sounds utterly unique. Certainly, there are sounds drawn from the past, and not just the psychedelic pop he clearly loves. Take the bass line of “Menopause Man,” which isn’t so different than the one from “Billie Jean”. Observers tend to describe Pink’s music as nostalgic and classic-sounding. He wouldn’t necessarily disagree. “Everyone wants to be sincere, an individual. But how would you describe an idea, if you didn’t have words already?”
Pink seems to think originality is unattainable because we “share language. We’re all mind-fucking each other, and it’s incestuous, really. Now I’m just leaving my little footprint, and I’m no better than anyone. I’m just here, to say hello”.
Ariel Pink performs tomorrow with Os Mutantes at the 9:30 Club. 10 p.m. $20.