DON GIOVANNI RECORDS
Though Ashley Arnwine’s and Joey Doubek’s first show together as PINKWASH was in 2014, their musical relationship goes back much further, having grown up in DC’s politically-charged, alternative punk-activist DIY subculture in the early-to-mid 2000s, playing together in bands like Mass Movement of the Moth and Ingrid. It was the type of scene that had a profound, lasting influence on their ethics and lifestyle, one that continues to affect them today.
Ashley describes the scene then as, “being inclusive to anyone else who was interested and had a shared sense of wanting to see the world change.” She says that, “being around these ideas as a teenager—going to shows, or delivering groceries to city residents with Positive Force, and eventually also playing music and shows and going to protests—really affected me and stuck with me. I would say now that I still really take these values to heart and seek to share them through music as a platform as a result of coming of age as a musician in DC.”
Ashley moved to Philadelphia in 2008, and Joey followed a few years later, finding that he didn’t just miss playing music with Ashley, but that he truly needed to. His move to Philadelphia proved inspirational, Ashley first telling Joey she’d be free to practice once a week, then the two eventually building out a space in their basement so they could practice as often as possible.
They had an immediate impact on the scene in Philly and even back home in DC. Their long-time friend G.L. Jaguar, of DC’s political punk powerhouse Priests, asked PINKWASH if he could release their Your Cure Your Soil EP on Sister Polygon (a collaborative label run by G.L. and the other members of Priests) before they’d even recorded it.
Though they were known from their prior bands like Ingrid, and by that time Ashley’s stint in Des Ark and Joey’s in Hume, it was obvious that PINKWASH was something new—an intense, heavy prog-punk duo, laden with mathy metal riffs and tight punishing drumming. Joey sang with a voice chock full of aggression, anger, and frustration, much of which stemmed from his experience as the primary caregiver for his mother who had passed away from breast cancer while he had still been living in DC.
The name PINKWASH relates directly to Joey’s experience, as “pinkwashing” is a term referring to those companies or institutions who promote products or services by incorporating the pink ribbon that represents support for breast cancer victims, even though few explain what portion of proceeds go to research or victims, and most all trivialize the situation, distracting people from more pertinent issues. (The term also applies to the misappropriation of the LGBTQ community by a corporate or political entity.) In that way, the name is both political and personal, just as Joey’s lyrics are on PINKWASH’s new LP.
The ten songs on COLLECTIVE SIGH were written over a year and represent another step forward for the band, both lyrically and musically. Though there are a number of songs still focused on Joey’s experience with his mother, he’s come at them from a different perspective.
“I feel like the key difference for me is the tape and 7" [2015’s Cancer Money] represent anger and frustration while the LP provides a process of coping,” says Joey. He sings about coping-within-life, coping-within-death, and even has some not-so-classic love songs. His powerful delivery—from a high-pitched scream, as if he’s on the verge of cutting out, to a strong-trained melody—is one of a kind, undeniably unique.
And that’s a good way to describe the music itself—it’s easy to make comparisons, but all the explanations of Fugazi-like angularity, early At the Drive-In vibes, and the, daresay, “post-hardcore” feel don’t encompass the sound that is PINKWASH.
The first song on the LP, “NO REAL WITNESS,” comes in with the drone of an industrial-sounding synth—which is layered in throughout the rest of the record—but quickly gives way to the high-octane energy that typifies their music. Ashley and Joey have a way of building songs around repetitive riffs, creating non-linear structures that not only keep you on your toes, but anxious to hear what’s next, as in “GUMDROP” and the hypnotizing “THE BREVITY IS UNKIND.”
This is heavy, distorted music, full of passion and care, made by two artists who have clearly been playing together for almost a decade, as shown by flawless synchronicity in songs like “LONGER NOW,” “METASTIC,” and “SPACE DUST.” The dirge-like “SIGH” shifts the record into even darker territory, while the melodic “HALFMOON” leads into the dreamy dissonant landscape of the final track, “WALK FORWARD WITH MY EYES CLOSED.”
Even while working on new songs, PINKWASH continued to regularly play shows and tour with bands such as Ought and Waxahatchee, who they accompanied on European and Midwest dates last summer (Ashley is now playing drums for them, too). With the new LP, they are also now part of the Don Giovanni Records roster and have played with many of their label mates, including Screaming Females, Priests, and Downtown Boys, among others. They’ve also shared stages with Girlpool, Pygmy Lush, SHEER MAG, and many more.
They’ll be touring to and from Austin for SXSW this year, and are currently booking shows around the country.