Q&A: Pink Penguin talks band identity, finding the words to describe its sound


Elisa Huang/The Daily Northwestern

Members of Pink Penguin. Pink Penguin will perform its Notes from the Newsroom concert this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in the Daily’s newsroom.

Tabi Parent, Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor

Band members of Pink Penguin describe themselves as “Northwestern’s premier penguin band.” They said they also like to think of themselves as a neo-soul-jazz-pop-everything group. Whatever the case, it’s clear Pink Penguin enjoys jamming most of all. 

Despite not having much time left together as a few members prepare to graduate, the band says meeting up and performing at gigs are some of its favorite things to do.

The Daily sat down with three of the six band members — Weinberg junior and singer Lauren Joyce, Communication senior and drummer Kennedy Williams and second-year graduate student and trumpet player Mikey Ahearn — to talk about what the band means to them. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

The Daily: Talk to me about how you guys all got together.

Joyce: It was super random. We all kind of got roped into it at different stages along the line. 

Williams: (Joyce and I) were in another band together last year, and we were actually playing different instruments. It started with a gig opportunity, where things just didn’t work out. So we said, ‘Hey, let’s try to get another group together.’ 

Ahearn: I did a bunch of stuff like this in my undergrad. I appreciate gigging with you guys because you seem to actually care about the musical content. As a queer person, representation in music is really important. Especially in the heritage of Black music as it’s developed throughout the ’70s and ’80s, in soul, in reggae, in jazz, the place of queer people was kind of overlooked. To be involved with that kind of music on an intellectual level is awesome. It’s also just fun — it’s really lovely to be with a group of people that see you and want the best of you. 

Joyce: In short, it came together because we opened a gig for Tavern. We kept wanting to be in a band together. So then it just became our band. Not the most riveting story but organic, no less. 

The Daily: Where does the name Pink Penguin come from? 

Williams: I think the whole conversation happened on a group chat, and we decided maybe we should probably get a name at this point because we went a pretty long time without a name. 

Joyce: We were really at our breaking point. We started with ‘Red Rooster’ — that was horrible.

Ahearn: I’m definitely of the Club Penguin generation. We kind of played into that a little bit because it was just a fun little thing. We just love alliteration. 

The Daily: Do you guys write original music for the band? 

Joyce: A lot of us independently write stuff. Mikey has an insane album that’s out right now called Octagyn. (For this set), we’re gonna do one of my originals because I write on the side. It’d be fun to write as a group at some point, but everyone has just been so slammed. 

Ahearn: I have a bunch of stuff from my album and more recent stuff that we can adapt. I think the process of getting together and actually making something would be nice. 

The Daily: Describe your sound to us.  

Williams: I like what Lauren said in our Facebook event for Sunday. She said we’re a neo-soul-jazz-pop-everything group. If you think about the backgrounds that we come from playing-wise, but also listening-wise, I don’t know how you can really define our sound. 

Ahearn: In England, we call it ‘acid jazz.’ A lot of us are jazz musicians, and then there’s a folk element, too. It kind of became like neo-soul, but also adaptable to the event. 

Joyce: Our sound is this really cool coalescence of all of our sounds and backgrounds. None of us had to give anything up to have the band sound like us. 

The Daily: What are some goals you have for the band? What do you want people to take away from your group as creatives?

Ahearn: It’s a lot about connection. I’ve been in a lot of similar bands which have not really had any sense of identity. Being able to have this outlet away from school and to do things which aren’t focused on like, ‘Oh, I’m organizing a tour to Europe or like releasing this and this and this.’ We can just get together and do something really nice just for us. And there happened to be people who really, really dig it. 

Joyce: The goal is to not just be background noise, but to impart something whenever we come together, whether that’s the musical euphoria of being in a room and also the emotional and lyrical content that we’re delivering. 

The Daily: How are you guys feeling about Notes from the Newsroom? 

Williams: I kind of wanted to re-emphasize the fact that, beyond the music, I love creating an experience of having that moment with all of you. I’m just happy that with Notes from the Newsroom, we have another chance to do that. 

Ahearn: It looks like people will be there. Which is always a bonus!

Joyce: Just getting to do the thing that we love to do, like nobody has to be there as long as we’re doing it. 

The Daily: Lastly, what caffeinated beverage do you think Pink Penguin would be? 

Joyce: I feel like we’re one of those refreshers from Starbucks. 

Ahearn: One of those ones where it’s disgusting …

Joyce: But you love it. 

To catch Pink Penguin’s concert, tune into the live stream on Instagram or watch the recording on YouTube

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @TabithaParent12

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