Ariel Pink Explores the California Sound With 'Mature Themes'

On band's upcoming tour: 'I get to live my down my reputation for being cantankerous'

Ariel Pink
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Ariel Pink performs at the 4th Annual Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti acknowledge that they reached "a new place," commercially speaking, with their 2012 LP Before Today, but they also say that the recording sessions were miserable, bogged down by time constraints and artistic frustration. Fortunately, the process of recording their upcoming album fared differently. "This one was definitely fun," Pink tells Rolling Stone. "I want to do it again as soon as possible."

For Mature Themes, due on August 21st, Pink and his band spent six months writing and recording in a rented-out studio in downtown Los Angeles. Unlike the sessions for Before Today, there were virtually no pressures on the songwriting. "We had time to develop things without the clock rolling," the singer explains of the sessions, which found the band reuniting with producer and onetime Haunted Graffiti member Cole M. Greif-Neill. "It was a much more home-like atmosphere all around." The new album also gave Pink, 33, the opportunity to pen some overdue new material. "It'd been about five years since I'd really had an opportunity to sit down and develop things, which is something that has been bothering me," he says. "That's the opportunity I got with this record."

The upbeat attitude of the sessions is reflected in the album, which begins with "Kinski Assassin," a rollicking rollercoaster that Pink says is "supposed to have that kind of Question Mark and the Mysterians thing going on," and is underpinned by a Doors-toasting Hammond organ melodic through-line. "There's a whole lot of Ray Manzarek all over the fuckin' album, all over my stuff," Pink says. "I do get credit for having a California sound to my music, but I don't think people really know what that means – they think the Beach Boys. I'm thinking more like Sunset Strip in the 1960s and stuff like that. I have a strong impulse to protect history and time and the lineage of events."

The band nods to that history on their lead single "Baby," a pristine cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson's 1979 R&B hit that Pink recorded as a duet with DāM-Funk. The Emerson Brothers' Seattle indie label, Light in the Attic, approached Pink about covering the tune after he contributed to the liner notes for a reissue of the group's 1979 album, Dreamin' Wild. "We just basically made an afternoon of it," he says of the session with DāM-Funk, a close friend. "It was really so casual and so easy to do that it was great. We just beautifully abided by people's requests in that case. I love it when other people can come up with ideas and tell me what to do."

Pink and his band will kick off a string of North American shows with a set in Austin on September 7th. The tour is a shot at redemption for Pink; over the past decade, he's gotten a reputation as a bristly performer and has complained at length about touring. "I get to live my down my reputation for being cantankerous if I slowly evolve towards being a really good live show," he explains. "But it's about time Wikipedia took down any quote from 2004 or 2005 about whatever I said about [hating touring]. It's not valid at all anymore. It's not even a necessary evil, it's a pleasure."