america's most unlikely rockstar

ariel pink is back with 'pom pom.'

illustration by kelly shami

Ever so poetic and acoustically inclined, Ariel Pink is the original post-Internet-age lo-fi bedroom musician. From the mid-’90s to the mid-’00s, the L.A.-based artist put out countless indie-pop releases, which led to collaborations with the godfather of DIY music-making, R. Stevie Moore, as well as contemporaries like Matt Fishbeck and John Maus. In 2008, he formed the band Haunted Graffiti, which signed to 4AD shortly after. For the band’s first official release on the label, Pink dove into the stacks to assemble his most clear-cut progeny to date, Before Today, in 2010, followed by 2012’s Mature Themes. With this month’s pom pom, Pink’s multilayered, bizarrely enchanting solo work will keep his cultish following on its toes. Sincerely obsessed with the album, we met up with America’s most unlikely rock star in New York City’s Chinatown on a cloudy day.

Even though pom pom is a solo album, you called it “by far the least 'solo' record I’ve ever recorded.”

There’s a lot of guest players and collaboration. There is Jason Pierce from Spiritualized, Kim Fowley, Don Bolles, Piper Kaplan from Puro Instinct, Soko—and all the guys in the band. You can’t have complete control of making music unless you’re doing it alone, so there are lots of elements that are left to chance when you collaborate. I love dealing with that challenge. It’s not a solo album, but at the same time, they are my songs. 

There are a lot of influences from different eras in the album—it’s like what you’d hand off to an alien if they wanted a time capsule of 20th century music on earth.

All my music seems to be a hat-tip to an earlier era. I love history. And I don’t like to feel like I’m in the world of "now," so I’m surprised that I’m even touring and there are people that like what I do. 

But then, sometimes the lyrics are unmistakably 2014, like with the “I backed up all my pictures on my iCloud / so you can see me when I die” line in “Picture Me Gone”.

There’s always a temptation to do what you’re not supposed to do. One thing you’re not supposed to do is make your music dated, and we have markers that will be passé very quickly. 2014 is very new to people but I know it will be very old, very soon. I wrote that song from the point of view of a father of today, leaving his family album to his kid. It occurred to me that, in not very far in the future there are not going to be any hard pictures, like family albums, to leave to the kids—everything will be online. To me, it’s very interesting that there won’t be any hard evidence that anyone has existed. My kids can look me up on Pitchfork or something.

What’s your relationship with technology like?

I always entertain the idea that once we have everything on Google or Amazon or whatever, someone can erase it and we’ll have to start from scratch. All of the archeological records will be online, so we will have actually destroyed the actual objects and they won’t be in one place anymore. We’ll have a whole new history to start from. That’s comforting to me because that means we’ll have a chance. 

Lately, in fashion and music there is a lot of space for this “genderless” or gender-free expression and I feel like it has started to become a natural thing, even if it’s just for a small group of people. Whereas you would wear a dress five years ago. 

I have lots of feelings about that kind of stuff so, I think that this is a whole interview in itself. I think there is a lot of wish fulfillments and revenge fantasies that are coming to the front in regards to gender politics. I think it’s a generational thing and the white heterosexual male is the last minority. They’re going to be bullied and persecuted by transgendereds, feminists, and all sorts of people that have been disenfranchised.