Diverse voices prove there’s room for everyone in punk music

BALTIMORE, Md. — It’s hard to put the Pinkshift band in a box, and that’s exactly what they want it to be.

Through pure kismet and a bit of a push, Ashrita Kumar, Paul Vallejo and Myron Houngbedji formed the band while they were in college in Baltimore.

“They put flyers like everywhere. It was in my apartment. It wasn’t going to do. I saw it. And I said no,” laughs Myron, who plays the drums.

“And then we opened the door and were like, ‘Hey, do you want to be in a band? ‘” said Ashrita, lead vocals.

A viral single with millions of streams and a cross-country tour later, Pinkshift are now on their way to becoming a standout band in punk music.

Although they were formed by fate, their rise represents a new trend that is changing the way the genre has been perceived since its inception.

Ever since its release in the 70s, punk has been a genre of rebellion, made for people who thought they didn’t fit the mainstream, but the faces of the music reflected that: they were white, straight men.

Pinkshift is the opposite of this status quo, but growing up it was hard to imagine yourself on stage without seeing yourself in the music.

“The people who introduced me to alternative music were white, so I always thought of it like, oh, like, you know, I don’t own that music. It’s their music,” Ashrita said.

“Seeing mostly white people playing this kind of music, you really get used to loving, at least singing wisely, like the drum of their voices and that kind of genre sets the standard for what’s good,” said the Paul guitarist. “So growing up, every time I started doing my own songs and I liked to try to write lyrics and sing them, I was just like, it didn’t sound like what I wanted it to be. it sounds like that, because I was trying to get a sound like, I just couldn’t, you know?”

From his studio outside of Philadelphia, Grammy-nominated producer Will Yip has put his spin on some of the most beloved alternative and punk albums of the past decade.

“It was very, very cool to see through, you know, the last 20 years, a change has definitely happened and it makes sense that other people are affected by it,” he said.

Behind the soundboard, he has also seen the genres he loves become more representative of society, which he, the child of Chinese immigrants, had to go through to break into the industry.

“I love punk music. I love hardcore music and newbie bands and trying to get into that was really hard,” he said. “They wanted to do bands that looked like the bands they saw on MTV and in the media, hence the importance of your representation. They wanted to do what they saw. So where did I fit in You know what I mean? So that’s already a hurdle that I, that I’ve already taken a step back, you know, I have to catch up and I have to prove myself to them.”

Along with his hard work, he credits finding a community and other supporting artists who saw him for his talent which helped him succeed.

“It’s going to be tough. It was tough for me, but there’s room there. There’s a way. Surround yourself with great people, surround yourself with really positive people who support you and what you do,” he said.

As Pinkshift continues to inspire in its own unique way, they and Will hope others like them will create their own piece in the space they wish to escape to.

“You can still love being involved in the scene. You can still love making the music you want, really love who you are, and you shouldn’t let the lack of people you can love get in the way of your ambition,” Myron said.

Diana J. Carleton