Photo courtesy Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes

By David Sherman

Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes have been a locomotive punk rock freak-out on the national DIY circuit since their 2010 inception in Indianapolis. In that time, The Pink Cigarettes have been defined by their love of all things DIY, their jubilant, unrepentant creativity, and the ferocity by which it is all held together.

Born out of a high school friendship, bassist Abby Hart and guitarist Davey Gravey originally formed a horror punk band going by the name Room 21, a reference to The Misfits’ song “Horror Hotel.” When that band ended in 2010, the friends readied their next project to play an already scheduled Halloween show. Ayesha Clarissa then joined and learned drums for the project. While the band started as a five-piece, two members quickly exited, and the trio of Clarissa, Gravey, and Hart continued to write, driven by their desire to share their music and play shows.

“Our reason for naming [the band] as flamboyantly as it is, is because we had been listening to The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, and we thought about having just a whole troupe of people playing when we were writing the songs and that’s kind of like, where the crazy name came from,” says Hart. “Our friends would always be like, ‘Hey, let’s have a party, but… let’s make it formal.’ And then as we got more into the band, we wanted to show our inspirations aesthetically for the band, so like a ‘60s, ‘50s [-era] John Waters ‘Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.’ We wanted it to be colorful and fun.” Gravey notes, “We were watching all the John Waters movies when we recorded the first stuff that we were making.” Hart adds, “And [Richard Elfman’s film] ‘Forbidden Zone.’ We chose the name because it could be a band that was in a John Waters movie. He’d be like, ‘Yes, you can be in my movie, that’s a name that fits!’”

Live, Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes are an utter spectacle. The musicians throw themselves about on stage in a thrall, somehow keeping the propulsive backbeat in the pocket as Hart and Gravey alternate singing into a single microphone at center stage. The performance is immediately captivating. Driven by the force of Clarissa’s percussion, the melodies of the songs are carried by the alternating vocals of Gravey and Hart, when they aren’t screaming at the top of their lungs. The band’s sound is akin to Pixies driving too fast for conditions, or a version of The Gories that grooves until they actually, truly bite you on the shoulder when you aren’t looking.

Key to the ongoing success of the band is their DIY mentality and love of DIY culture. Hart explains, “I care if a band is good. But, I care way less if a band is good if they’re shitty people. I would rather play a show where maybe it doesn’t make full sense but everyone is on the same page about community, and DIY.” Adds Gravey, “So much of this whole thing is friends, making connections…”

Hart continues, “The bands that aren’t signed to giant labels, and even some that are signed to smaller labels, we’re all using the same contacts, we’re all in this together, I guess. And it makes it way easier when everyone’s on the same page. We all just like doing this, whether it’s successful that night or not.”

Clarissa concludes, “Being in a band gives us an excuse to do all of the different parts of it. It gives us an excuse to make a video, it gives us an excuse to make a design for a T-shirt. It gives us an excuse to dress up, it gives us an excuse to paint your instrument or your new pedal. It gives us an excuse to do things that are fun.”

The band is now looking forward to the release of a new full-length, as well as a split 7-inch with NightFreak from Chicago, both on What’s for Breakfast? Records.

Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes play Boggs Social & Supply on April 18 with Television Sick, Loony, and The Vaginas. $10 (adv). $15 (door). 7:30 p.m.

David Sherman plays bass in Naw and is the saxophonist with Bad Leavers. He’s also a promoter at Jabroni Productions who booked this show.

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