It’s liberating to perform as a man in pink. With their new album, London band Tina tries to find their footing in an alienated world.
Men in Pink. London band Tina comes from the environment of The Windmill club Photo by Tom Delion.
When Josh Loftin awoke from restless dreams one morning, he found himself transformed into a monstrous nothingness in his bed. "It clicked. I collapsed as if someone had turned off the light," Loftin tells the taz. Loftin is the lead singer of the London-based band Tina, which recently released its debut album, Positive Mental Health Music.
The title is not meant to be taken seriously, but the album was the way for the 33-year-old to find his way out of a serious crisis. "Feelings like shame and pride no longer play a big role in such a state. I had the feeling that there wasn’t much left to lose. That also leads you to disregard all the superfluous shit. You’re just looking for something that’s kind of true, because that’s the only thing that makes you feel something again."
Listening to Tina’s music, you quickly realize how that worked out: A loud, deep bass that aims for the gut. Scrappy electric guitars that let out anger and joy, drums that drive the axes, and of course the vocals. Sometimes in baritone, sometimes in falsetto, Loftin sums it up ("I have been brought up in completely the wrong way / I’m supposed to be open but I’m closed up most of the day"). It’s less confession than indictment when he sings, "Seems like a joke / How everyone hurts / But no-one says a thing, out in the world." He also allows hopes to stand.
Add to that a synthesizer that supports the heartbreaking key changes – this is indie rock in all its power and beauty. "When I create music out of suffering together with the band, it turns into something wonderful, something idiosyncratic, it’s no longer just the repetition of suffering," is how Loftin experiences it.
Tina: "Positive Mental Health Music" (Speedy Wunderground/Pias).
Crucial to the creation of this music is community, in the band but also beyond. In the video clips for songs like "Dip" or "People", it’s easy to see how the band has fun hanging out with friends, skating and making music together – and finds the strength to give the capitalist-driven world the middle finger. In the video for "Golden Rope," a song about suicidal thoughts, the band dances on the beach in pink togas. As silly as that looks, it also shows what this band is all about: not wanting to be cool, not being ashamed, being happy with and for each other.
Loftin’s trademark is a pink cardboard cowboy hat with holes, and he also wears pink on stage: "There’s something liberating about men playing with things that are seen as feminine. Be it an outfit in pink, be it opening up in communication and making yourself vulnerable." Reflecting on his role as a man was also part of Loftin’s crisis management. In an interview with the British online music magazine NME, he described his condition as "being lonely and horny" – a mixture of feelings that many men in this society probably know all too well, but rarely name.
"For me, it’s a challenge to talk about these things publicly without feeling ashamed," Loftin says, when asked about it. "And, of course, I want other men to read things like this and feel less ashamed of their state of mind. We live in a world that’s full of sexual innuendo. And somehow we assume that everyone else is having good, familiar sex."
Tina make their home in the scene around The Windmill club in Brixton, south London, from which some notable projects have emerged in recent years, including Goat Girl, King Krule, Shame and Fat White Family. Many of them have worked with 51-year-old producer Dan Carey, whose Speedy Wunderground label also released Tina’s debut. "Dan is like a kid, he has very few preconceived notions of what he thinks is good. When he releases music, it’s always stuff he believes in. His business sense plays a secondary role; he’s more about the enthusiasm."
But even more important was the socialization at The Windmill, Loftin says: "There’s a lot of openness there. Categories like gender, origin, but also music genres don’t play a big role. And even though this club has produced many guitar bands, you don’t have to be on stage there with a guitar, bass and drums. Many young musicians find their surrogate family here. There is help for self-help, and with it, self-confidence can be built up. It’s a place where you can try yourself out without fear."
Of course, the story of crisis and escape is one that sells well, and that’s how this album is marketed. But Loftin didn’t pick up the guitar and everything was fine right away – and it still isn’t. "Positive Mental Health Music" is an attempt to find a foothold in an alienated world. A soundtrack that helps to stay afloat in a society where pressure and envy are ever increasing. And fear: "The older I get," Loftin says, "the more it scares me that what we all long for has little place in this world: a kind of inner peace that comes from being seen and loved by someone."