Pink Mink think alike

Pink Mink’s self-described ‘girls with guitars’ surf-punk sound stems from songwriters Arzu Gokcen and Christy Hunt’s deep bond.

by Jared Hemming

Supportive friends lend helping hands. But for Christy Hunt and Arzu Gokcen, supportive friends also lend helping guitar handiwork.

Singers and guitarists Hunt and Gokcen comprise the core of Minneapolis Riot Grrrl act Pink Mink. The pair formed the band after Hunt let slip that she was considering quitting music.

“She had just come back from touring with the Von Bondies, and she’s like, ‘I think I’m done,’” Gokcen said. “I was like, ‘I would lock you in a room with your guitar before I would let you quit playing music.’”

Hunt said touring with the Detroit-based garage-rock band the Von Bondies for four years — a run that included a gig on David Letterman’s show — taught her the pitfalls of indie rock stardom.

“Being in a band like that — you feel pressure,” Hunt said. “You’re touring with people around the world; it’s a ‘job’ job. You almost lose sight of why you started playing music in the first place.”

Once longtime friends Gokcen and Hunt connected, the pair formed Pink Mink in February 2010 with drummer Charles Gehr and on-and-off bassists Jacques Wait and Al Church.

By that October, Pink Mink’s simple, riffing-guitar action earned the band City Pages’ “Picked to Click” honors.

Hunt said the band often goes into the studio with just one riff —songs like “Hidden Beach” and “Black Door” started out as 30-second guitar jams.

Her guitar leads revolve around complicated melodies, while she said Gokcen writes the “straight-up punk songs.”

Between their contrasting styles, Gokcen said she and Hunt are able to whittle their songs down to a basic emotional essence.

Despite this, the two guitarists have clashing keystone influences: the Buzzcocks for Gokcen, and Rush for Hunt.

“We have different styles,” Gokcen said. “[I’m more] fast and loud, and Christy’s much more melodic.”

Hunt said Gokcen’s straightforward style refreshed her passion for simplicity, especially after her tenure with Gehr in their cerebral progressive rock band Ouija Radio.

“It’s nice to play with someone who’s clean-cut, boom, in your face,” Hunt said. “I really don’t know what I’m going to bring to the table.”

After divergent experiences between Ouija Radio and the garage-pop of the Von Bondies, Hunt took a lighter approach to Pink Mink’s bluesy surf-rock.

“We had no intentions — we just wanted to have fun,” Hunt said. “We were having fun writing these songs that were ridiculous to us — but they still sounded great, [because] they were campy.”

Playing with an older sound — including an “I Want Candy”-esque Bo Diddley beat on “Earthquake on the Loose” — Hunt said Pink Mink eschews tired songwriting structures.

“It doesn’t have to have a formula to make it good,” Hunt said. “It’s not exactly three chords, a bridge and a chorus, and that’s it.”

Pink Mink brings Gokcen and Hunt full-circle in a friendship that began in the mid-1990s, when Hunt moved to Minneapolis after high school.

Hunt met Gokcen after seeing the rhythm guitarist perform in her old punk band, Lefty Lucy. The duo later met up at various basement jam sessions in the Uptown neighborhood.

“The jam sessions led into me playing guitar a lot more,” Hunt said.

The two became fast friends, and Hunt remembers Gokcen’s performances in Lefty Lucy as some of her favorites by local acts in the 1990s.

“I was just blown away by her stage presence,” Hunt said. “She’s known for her scream [and] her punk rock riff.”

Gokcen brings this powerful aura to Pink Mink shows, where the two women front the band in spite of any misogynistic cynics.

“Nobody messes with me,” Gokcen said. “I can out-scream any man.”

As Pink Mink approaches its fifth year together, Hunt and Gokcen’s bond remains tight. At a recent show for a different band, the pair separately came to the venue wearing the same outfit.

“We both ended up wearing the same colors,” Hunt said. “People were asking us, ‘Is Pink Mink playing tonight?’ We just think alike.”

“Christy and I are connected in some very strange way,” Gokcen said.


What: Dillinger Four with Pink Mink, Whatever Forever and No Skin

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Turf Club, 1601 University Ave., St. Paul

Cost: $10

Age: 21+