Like a fat lady in skinny jeans, bands spend a great deal of time forcing themselves into genres, shoehorning the music into classifications that don't fit, or shunning genres altogether. Nobody wants to be pigeonholed; they want to be unique, creating their own music with their own custom caption. Rochester 's Pink Elephant could be considered heavy rock, psychedelic, perhaps even a bit stoner, but that wasn't good enough. So like just as big girls found stretch pants, the band came up with its own perfect fit: trash wave.
Initially coined when a multi-band show (Trash Wave Revue) that the band put together needed a title, Pink Elephant has since grown to accept, embody, and define this heavy sub-genre.
"We wanted to have something that said Rochester specifically," says guitarist Nick Walters. "You think of trash plates and a general sense of dinginess to the city. It sort of applies to that sort of ugly, noisy dude rock. A mash-up of the different underground rock movements from the last 30 years: punk, post-punk, garage rock...loud, sordid."
Pink Elephant's sound is loose, urgent, with a seething undertow and magnetism. Think a less pissed-off Fugazi or a more coherent Melvins. It's fun despite its anger, it's streamlined despite its weight, and it's loud despite everything else.
"Definitely loud," adds guitarist Eric Witkowski, who founded the band when the material he was writing outgrew his band The Indras.
"I was going through the third incarnation of The Indras," Witkowski says. "Which was not in the 'trash wave vein.' It was much heavier stuff."
Witkowski had seen Walters playing with The Black Arrows, The Clockmen, and Inugami and dug his style.
"I liked his control of noise," Witkowski says, adding that Walters is "just a great noise-guitar player. His control of space on stage was awesome. And that's what I was looking to move toward."
Witkowski snagged Indras' bassist Greg Wilcox and drummer Mike Fuhr and Pink Elephant was born.
"It's kind of like the fourth incarnation of The Indras without the old material," Witkowski says. But Pink Elephant is definitely its own entity, not simply an un-Indras affair. As a songwriter it's just another way Witkowski compartmentalizes.
"I tend to write a lot of songs," says Witkowski. "And I have to fish out which ones are Pink Elephant, which ones are solo, or which ones are a band that hasn't formed yet. I still try to think what I want Pink Elephant to be."
Walters finds himself stretching out too, but more within the confines of this band exclusively.
"This is the most I've ever been a lead guitar player in a band," he says. "I've been the only guitar player, but that's much different. Now I'm just focusing on leads and pushing myself to do things that aren't quite that obvious and keep things interesting."
The band has one self-titled three-song EP out now, with studio plans for more goodies pending. Shows in Philadelphia and Boston are on the calendar and another Trash Wave Revue show -- the third, actually -- is scheduled for April, when Pink Elephant is willing to share membership under the title "trash wave." It's not just theirs.
"We've got bragging rights maybe," Walters says. "But anybody's free to use it."
As Pink Elephant continues to search and grow within its songwriting, the stage show is where it needs to be; no shtick, no frills, just a Pink Elephant in the room.
"We're not too ironic," Walters says. "Or tongue in cheek. We're just playing pretty straightforward passionate rock 'n' roll."