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Ariel Pink
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, FYF 2010 (4975726091).jpg
Ariel Pink performing in 2010
Background information
Birth name Ariel Marcus Rosenberg
Born (1978-06-24) June 24, 1978 (age 45)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
  • keyboards
Years active 1996–present
  • Paw Tracks
  • Mexican Summer
  • 4AD
  • Dark Side Family Jams

Ariel Marcus Rosenberg ( ar-EE-el; born June 24, 1978), professionally known as Ariel Pink, is an American musician, singer, and songwriter whose work draws heavily from the popular music of the 1960s–1980s. His lo-fi aesthetic and home-recorded albums proved influential to many indie musicians starting in the late 2000s. He is frequently cited as "godfather" of the hypnagogic pop and chillwave movements, and he is credited with galvanizing a larger trend involving the evocation of the media, sounds, and outmoded technologies of prior decades, as well as an equal appreciation between high and low art in independent music.

A native of Los Angeles, Pink began experimenting with recording songs on an eight-track Portastudio as a teenager. His early influences were artists such as Michael Jackson, the Cure, and R. Stevie Moore. The majority of his recorded output stems from a prolific eight-year period (1996–2003) in which he accumulated over 200 cassette tapes of material. Virtually all of his music released in the 2000s was written and recorded before 2004, the same year he debuted on Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label with The Doldrums (2000), House Arrest (2002) and Worn Copy (2003). The albums immediately attracted a cult following.

In the 2000s, Pink's unusual sound prompted a renewed critical discussion of hauntological phenomena, for which he was a central figure. Until 2014, his records were usually credited to Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, a solo project sometimes conflated with his touring band. His fame and recognition escalated following his signing to 4AD and the success of his 2010 album Before Today, his first recorded in a professional studio. He then recorded three more albums – Mature Themes (2012), Pom Pom (2014), and Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (2017) – the last of which was recorded for Mexican Summer.

Throughout his career, Pink has been subject to several media controversies stemming from his occasional provocations onstage and in interviews. In 2021, he lost support from Mexican Summer following his attendance at a Donald Trump political rally. He then formed a new band, Ariel Pink's Dark Side, with whom he recorded two albums, The Key of Joy Is Disobedience (2022) and Never Made A Demo, Ever (2023).


Ariel Marcus Rosenberg was born in Los Angeles on June 24, 1978. He is the only son of Mario Z. Rosenberg and Linda Rosenberg-Kennett. Mario is a Harvard-educated gastroenterologist born to a Jewish family in Mexico City, while Linda is from New Orleans. They moved to Los Angeles after Mario completed his medical specialty work at Tulane University hospital in New Orleans. Ariel's first language was Spanish. Although his family is Jewish, with his mother having converted, he himself is not practicing. Mario and Linda divorced when Ariel was two years old.

Ariel's parents encouraged him to pursue a career in visual arts rather than music. He said that "with music I had no discernible skills," whereas with drawing, they reportedly thought he was "going to be the next Picasso, and I believed them and I got better." According to Linda, she wanted him to pursue a career in acting: "Acting coaches would come to me and say, 'He's the only kid in that age group who can speak to a girl." He characterized himself as "maladjusted" as a child. Linda commented that he was "a very difficult guy to understand, except for the fact that his heart is pure. [...] He'd rather be left alone. That's how he always was — even as a kid, he played much better by himself."

When he was young, Rosenberg was an avid record collector and reader of music magazines, he said, and "had a gross hunger for bootlegs and unofficial rare recordings by artists I worshiped; ate them all up and adopted certain criteria for what I longed for in music." He was first drawn to music through watching MTV. When his interest intensified, he was particularly fond of Michael Jackson, and after entering junior high school, expanded his tastes to metal, including bands like Def Leppard, Metallica, and Anthrax. He then developed a taste for "death rock" groups such as Bauhaus and the Cure, the latter being his favorite band of all time. Another artist he was particularly fond of was Lou Reed. He enjoyed the writings of rock critic Nick Kent.

Rosenberg was initially raised in Louisiana. He chose to live there with his mother following child custody proceedings. They lived in Pico-Robertson, and later, Bogalusa. Due to the bullying he received in junior high school, his parents sent him to live with his cousins in Mexico City for a year. He then returned to live with his father in the Beverlywood area of Los Angeles, where he attended Beverly Hills High School, branded himself as a goth, sold off his collection of metal records, and stopped following new music. He cited Nirvana as the last group he enjoyed before this point. In his view, grunge and alternative rock bands marked the end of the forward progress of popular music. "After that, my listening was totally retro. My mind was closing itself off from the rest of the planet."

1996–2003: Early recordings

—Ariel Rosenberg, 2006

While in high school, Rosenberg began experimenting with songwriting and composing avant-garde pieces using a portable cassette recorder in his father's garage. His tools were limited to one bass guitar, an amp, and kitchen utensils. In 1996, he started what he later described as an eight-year-long "recording session" in which he "was very completely single-minded. I had tunnel vision. I was just completely [recording music] like if my life depended on it." By then, he "was very into" krautrock, and in his songs, he endeavored to obfuscate his personality while using photos that bore minimal resemblance to him as album covers. He credited his tapes to a variety of names (or "logos") including "Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti" and "Ariel Rosenberg's Thrash and Burn". He did not intend to release any of this music.

In 1997, Rosenberg entered the California Institute of the Arts studying fine art. He was dissatisfied that the school focused on "the art market" rather than "color theory or anything like that". He met John Maus at CalArts, and they subsequently became best friends and roommates.

His album The Doldrums (2000) was recorded during his final semester at the university. He described the album as "the saddest record I could [have made]; it was negative not only emotionally but aesthetically." The guitar parts were played with only three strings. For final examinations, he submitted a kiosk where he sold CDs of The Doldrums as a criticism against the school's marketing-oriented curriculum.

R. Stevie Moore (6141708494)
R. Stevie Moore (pictured 2011) is cited by Pink as a "mentor"

Rosenberg became a devout fan of the lo-fi musician R. Stevie Moore after listening to the compilation Everything and subsequently began collaborating with him. He first contacted Moore in early 1999 and mailed him a CD-R of The Doldrums. As Moore remembered, "I often received demos from taper nerds, but the Haunteds were from a surreal plane. Ariel started sending me so much material that it eventually became a big blur; I couldn't even totally wrap my head around his dozens of masterpieces." Pink recalled: "Signing on and seeing that my first email was from him was the most exciting thing to have happened in my life up to that point."

After dropping out of CalArts, Rosenberg lived in a Hindu ashram in Crenshaw, Los Angeles. He also attended a music school and worked as a clerk at a record store. During this period, he recorded Scared Famous (2001), Fast Forward (2001), House Arrest (2002), Lover Boy (2002), and portions of Worn Copy (2003). He envisioned working at a record store "for the rest of my life" before the Strokes "came out and all the sudden guitars came back [on the charts].

By the mid-2000s, Rosenberg had accumulated between 200 and 300 cassette tapes of material. In February 2004, his 16-year-old half-sister Elana suffered permanent brain damage and lost the use of her motor functions due to injuries sustained in a car accident. Asked in a 2012 interview how the experience affected him, he answered, "I have a hard time making music anymore. [...] I listen to what I made ten years ago and it's like hearing a different person. I have no access to those impulses anymore." He stopped writing and recording music for the next several years.

2003–2021: Label signings and touring

Paw Tracks albums and Haunted Graffiti band

Ariel Pink - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (5626694511)
Pink on keyboards, 2010

In the summer of 2003, Rosenberg gave a CD-R of Worn Copy to the band Animal Collective after being introduced at one of their shows by a mutual friend, Beachwood Sparks drummer Jimi Hey. Unbeknownst to Rosenberg, Animal Collective had recently started their own record label, Paw Tracks. The band says in the reissued album's liner notes that it "sat on the floor of the van for a week or so [...] One day, we noticed it and randomly threw it on and were immediately blown away. It was just like 'Woah, what is this!? We knew it could have only been made by this individual, and so made it our goal to officially release his records on our new label." Several weeks later they contacted him to sign him on Paw Tracks. Rather than Worn Copy, Rosenberg submitted what he believed to be his album with the least commercial potential, The Doldrums. The group initially rejected the album, but eventually warmed to it, and accepted it for release.

October 2004's Paw Tracks release of The Doldrums was the first non-Animal Collective record the label issued and the first time his limited-edition home recordings were widely distributed. Only a small circle of his friends and family had heard his music before this point. Afterward, Pink's profile increased substantially.{{refn|group=nb|In a review for Uncut, David Stubbs awarded the album a perfect score and wrote: "Tracks like 'Among Dreams', on which Ariel sounds like he's swimming in his own brain, shouldn't work––so rambling, so amateurish. Yet somehow they have a way of lapsing perfectly into misshape so that you can't take your ears off them." In 2005 and 2006, Paw Tracks reissued two of his previous recordings, Worn Copy and House Arrest, respectively. Altogether, the albums attracted a cult following for Pink.

Ariel Pink at Sarah Lawrence, 2007 (1962029650)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti performing in 2007

Virtually all of Pink's music released in the 2000s was written and recorded before 2004. Instead of releasing new music, he spent the latter half of the decade touring and searching for another record label ("I didn't want to make any new music until I got paid for it"). Between 2006 and 2008, lesser-known labels issued four more albums, Underground (1999), Lover Boy, and the compilation Scared Famous (2007).

In 2006, Pink embarked on a few supporting tours and assembled a group backed with Jimi Hey, John Maus, Gary War, and girlfriend Geneva Jacuzzi. In 2007, Pink and Maus backed Animal Collective's Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) for his solo tour of Europe. In 2008, Pink established a more consistent touring band with keyboardist/guitarist/backing vocalist Kenny Gilmore, drummer/vocalist/guitarist Jimi Hey (later replaced by Aaron Sperske), and guitarist Cole M. Greif-Neill. Bassist Tim Koh found it "the most difficult music I've ever tried to play. Even something that sounds simple, like 'For Kate I Wait', took me months. I still don't have it exactly."

In later years, Rosenberg said the name "Ariel Pink" was not meant as a persona or pseudonym. The "common misconception," he said, started when promoters billed his early 2000s live shows as "Ariel Pink" fronting a band called the "Haunted Graffiti". He said: "There's no Ariel Pink [...] My name's Ariel Rosenberg and I have a solo project that I called Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. [...] automatically people assumed that [the band] must be the 'Haunted Graffiti'." The original liner notes to these early albums, while credited to "Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti", also distinctly credit "Ariel Pink" with performing, recording, or writing the music. Pink was the only member of his band to appear on all four of his albums from the 2010s.

Before Today, Mature Themes, and Pom Pom

After securing a deal with 4AD, Rosenberg and his band recorded Before Today, his first album created in a professional studio, with a producer, and with an engineer. At the time, he called it the first official album of his discography and the first "made with any kind of thought or consciousness that I have an audience." Some of its songs were written years earlier, such as "Beverly Kills", which originally appeared on Scared Famous. Its making was fraught with personal difficulties, with some band members briefly quitting, including Rosenberg himself. Koh called the album "a nightmare to record."

Ariel Pink circa 2010
Pink after a show in 2010

Released in June 2010, the album reached number 163 on the Billboard 200 and received critical acclaim. Pitchfork highlighted the album as "Best New Music"; reviewer Mark Richardson wrote that many of the lo-fi idiosyncrasies that characterized his early recordings were eliminated and that careful attention was given to the arrangements: "It turns out that these details make a big difference, even while the album adheres to the hazy overriding aesthetic of Pink's earlier records." The album was soon featured on numerous "best of 2010" lists, and at the end of the year, Pitchfork crowned its lead single "Round and Round" the year's best track.

In 2011, Pink released a 16-minute standalone single, "Witchhunt Suite for WWIII", to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. It was a newly recorded version of a track, begun in 2001, that he had sold on CD-Rs during his 2007 tour.

Mature Themes, the follow-up to Before Today, came in August 2012. Unlike Before Today, the material on the album was newly written especially for the LP. Some critics suggested that its more flamboyant and satirical tone was meant to alienate new fans. It nonetheless had a slightly higher chart peak than Before Today, at number 136. Pink referred to it as a "breakup album" in some interviews and denied that it was one in others. His ex-girlfriend Geneva Jacuzzi made a cameo appearance in the video for "Only in My Dreams", where she is shown evicting Pink from their apartment. During a magazine photoshoot, photographers asked him to dye his hair bright pink, something he reluctantly went along with "because I do music and I'm speaking to adolescents and I have to own that. I can't be just a grandpa and a sourpuss." He also disagreed with the manner in which 4AD marketed him and his band.

Ariel Pink performs at Pioneer Works (cropped)
Pink performing with his band in Brooklyn, 2013

In November 2014, 4AD released Pom Pom, which rose to number 150 on the Billboard 200 amid generally positive reviews. It was Pink's first album to drop "Haunted Graffiti" from its credit, and his last issued through 4AD. Most of the tracks were written with collaborators like Kim Fowley, who dictated from his hospital bed (he died of cancer in January 2015). Other songs were reworked from his earlier self-released CD-R era. The press attention Pink received upon the album's release largely focused on recent comments he had made in various interviews. In one interview, he referred to the album as his "first real record" and said he removed the Haunted Graffiti credit "to give it the feeling of an event, a little bit different from the norm."

Bobby Jameson and Mexican Summer remasters

After Pom Pom, Pink collaborated on a variety of projects by other musicians, including Weyes Blood, Dâm-Funk, Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX, Miley Cyrus, Theophilus London, the Avalanches, Puro Instinct, Lushlife, Mild High Club, Don Bolles, Water Tower, and MGMT. Pink and Weyes Blood jointly recorded the EP Myths 002. It was released in January 2017 on the Brooklyn-based label Mexican Summer.

Ariel Pink --- Bluebird Theater --- 10.24.17 (37880605676) (cropped)
Pink performing in October 2017

Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, released in September 2017, marked Pink's first solo LP on Mexican Summer. In deliberate contrast to Pom Pom, it was recorded with a relatively small group of people at his home. The album was released to a number 193 chart peak amid generally favorable reviews. In promotional interviews, Pink indicated that his desire for attention and willingness to release albums has declined, and instead talked mostly about the musician Bobby Jameson. In November 2018, he performed among artists celebrating the tenth anniversary of Mexican Summer, where he announced on stage that he intended it to be his final show with his band.

In 2019, Mexican Summer announced that they would issue remastered and expanded editions of Pink's original Haunted Graffiti albums in addition to compilations of previously unreleased work recorded between 1999 and 2018. These remasters sought to correct various engineering mistakes from the Paw Tracks reissues, such as restoring stereo tracks that had been collapsed to mono.

The label stated that they would release the albums in quarterly installments as part of its "Ariel Archives" campaign.

2021–present: Ariel Pink's Dark Side

In a December 2020 interview, Pink intimated that he may never release another album due to contemporary social and political affairs, and wrote that he was "not thinking about making art at the moment." The next month, he traveled to Washington D.C. and attended the Donald Trump rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol. Many publications, including New York Magazine, Spin, Vice, & others incorrectly reported that he was part of the group who stormed the Capitol.

Pink stated that he had attended the rally to "peacefully show his support for President Trump", and that after watching the president speak, he immediately returned to his hotel. Two days later, Mexican Summer announced that they would "end our working relationship with Ariel Rosenberg AKA Ariel Pink moving forward." Pink subsequently appeared on the Fox News program Tucker Carlson Tonight, where he declared that the lack of label support, combined with his inability to continue touring, had left him "pretty much [...] destitute and on the street."

In August 2021, Pink announced through social media a new album, The Key of Joy is Disobedience, credited to "Ariel Pink's Dark Side" and recorded with producer/musician Nick Noto (Dark Side Family Jams), David Stagno, and Chloe Chaidez. The first single from the album, "Horse-Head Mother", was released digitally on February 4, 2022.

Originally scheduled for release that same month, the full album was released on vinyl in a limited edition on August 12. The second single from the album, "Chupacabra", featuring the fictional musical group Vampiros was released digitally on October 14.

In late October, the album Never Made A Demo, Ever was released digitally via the Ariel Pink Substack website, containing over an hour of newly recorded material produced by Nick Noto with the band since the completion of The Key of Joy is Disobedience.

Style and impact


Ariel Pink (5622299326)
Ariel Pink performing in 2010

Pink's music encompasses a diverse selection of styles, sometimes within the same song, and espouses a postmodern take on pop music. His initial recordings blended lo-fi psychedelic pop with elements drawn from 1980s soft rock and "classic pop" from California. He likened his early records to a compendium of what he believed to be "everything good about music". Writing for Louder Than War, Maren McGlashan said that Pink typically draws from "the fuzzy glow of 1970s radio, the unapologetic weirdness of Zappa, the cool enthusiasm of New Wave and Western popular culture. At the center are the lo-fi aesthetics that have become the Haunted Graffiti speciality." Pink opined that while his own music is heavily indebted to 1960s pop, it is not classifiable in any genre.

His early recordings were amateurishly recorded on an eight-track cassette Portastudio. Since he was not a proficient instrumentalist, he usually tracked music parts one at a time in short increments. The use of cassettes lent a conspicuously lo-fi sound, which later became a deliberate aesthetic choice; he experimented with recording in professional studios and with digital audio workstations, but was dissatisfied with the results. Lyrically, he said that he is "not a poet" and that he approaches his work as "musical pieces" rather than songs, with the words usually written as an afterthought.

At the time of his Paw Tracks reissues, Pink was perceived as both an outsider and as a novelty act, as there were virtually no other contemporary indie acts with a similar retro lo-fi sound. Music critic Simon Reynolds noted that before Pink, lo-fi acts were generally "vehemently opposed to the slick, big-budget AOR and '80s rock 'n' soul that he's so inspired by." In 2014, Pink described his artistic philosophy as remaining in an era "somewhere in the forgotten '90s and '80s [...] the stuff that nobody listens to [...] and see what happens when you try to pause time and not affect it." In 2017, he reiterated that the sum of his work was "a weird art experiment" aimed at investigating "what would happen if I decided to plant myself in Cure-land" and create "the same thing over and over again forever, forever?" Fans of Pink's music came to include John Maus, Kurt Vile, Bradford Cox of Deerhunter, Christopher Owens of Girls, Alan Palomo of Neon Indian, and Beck.

R. Stevie Moore remarked that while he shared many musical approaches with Pink, "he doesn't much sound like me." In interviews in the 2000s, Pink frequently praised Moore in an attempt to bring him more critical recognition. In turn, Moore said in 2008: "I think he has great ideas and great musical talents, but he shouldn't always have to sound like the Bee Gees on Mars. We've talked about it at length."

Hauntology and lo-fi revival

During the late 2000s, Pink was referenced in early discussions of hauntology in music. The renewed discussion of hauntology, in itself, was prompted by his emergence. In an August 2009 piece for The Wire, journalist David Keenan coined "hypnagogic pop" to describe a developing trend of 2000s lo-fi and post-noise music in which artists began to engage with elements of cultural nostalgia, childhood memory, and outmoded recording technology. Pink was among his examples. Reynolds soon adopted the term and cited Pink, along with Spencer Clark and James Ferraro, as the "godparents of hypnagogic". He also singled out Pink as the central figure in what he called the "Altered Zones Generation", an umbrella term for lo-fi, retro-inspired indie artists who were commonly featured on Altered Zones, a sister site for Pitchfork.

Reynolds compared Pink's influence to My Bloody Valentine's impact on the shoegaze genre. He wrote, "the sound Pink invented—'70s radio-rock and '80s new wave as if heard through a defective transistor radio, glimmers of melody flickering in and out of the fog—was so striking it could only become a chronic influence." Such a sound was most prominently attributed to Pink following the success of 2010's Before Today and the convergence of chillwave, lo-fi, and the assistance of the Web in nostalgia-driven pop culture marketing. That year, Pitchfork writer Mark Richardson said of Pink's influence:

His records didn't reach a lot of people, but many of those who heard them were inspired to start home recording projects of their own. So as different kinds of lo-fi music bubbled up from the indie underground in the last couple of years— from more placid chillwave to roughed-up garage rock to abstract instrumental music— and many of these bands were talking about his influence, all of a sudden Ariel Pink started looking way ahead of the game.

Uncut's Sam Richard profiled Pink as "a lo-fi legend" whose "ghostly pop sound" proved influential to chillwave acts such as Ducktails and Toro y Moi. Jeff Weiss of Pitchfork said The Doldrums "inspired chillwave and a lo-fi revival, as well as alter[ed] the perception of L.A. as an indie-rock backwater." Spin writer David Bevan credited Pink's "fascination with, and commitment to, recasting outdated, obsolescent media" with galvanizing what is "widely seen in the VHS-boosted, Polaroid-clad aesthetic embraced by a hundred blogs and apps." Sam Goldner of Vice posited that a direct link can be drawn between Pink's "recycling of cheesy older sounds" and vaporwave, adding that, in the early 2010s, Pink and fellow musician Grimes "together represented a massive shift in music that was about to happen" – namely "a new mindset within independent music, one that viewed 'high' and 'low' art as equal, complementary forces in a vast cultural expanse."

Pink said that he never claimed to be the "godfather" of "lo-fi", "hypnagogic pop", or "chillwave". He thought that "people are just having fun with ideas they get in their head. They find a way to frame artists in a certain way that makes them interesting." In a 2012 interview, he commented that although it was not his intention to evoke nostalgia, he was aware "that I was doing something that sounded like the trace of a memory you can't place [...] now, people take it for granted. They think this is the sound of today." He remarked in 2011, "I know I've left my mark already. I know when somebody's heard my music. I can hear it in their music."

Personal life

Ariel Pink, 2007 (576591819)
Performing in 2007

During his early 20s, Rosenberg was married to a woman named Alisa. They divorced around 2004. From 2006 to 2012, he was in a relationship with the artist Geneva Jacuzzi. He assumed responsibility for the relationship's disintegration. In a 2010 interview, he said he pondered gender identity "on a daily basis" and identified as being neither male nor female. Pink was also involved in a relationship with singer-songwriter Soko.

As of 2012, his father Mario Rosenberg was a multi-millionaire, a wealth that Ariel stood to inherit. In 2014, Mario was one of 19 people convicted in a $154 million insurance-fraud scheme, described by authorities as "the largest medical-fraud prosecution" in US history. He pleaded no contest to the charge. According to his attorney, the plea was made due to his lack of funds to continue battling the case.


Pink's stated musical influences include:

Selected discography

See also

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