Pink Sky: New Horizon, Total Devotion

For better or worse, Grand Rapids electronic music duo Pink Sky say they owe their new sound and evolution to COVID-19.

“Until the pandemic, our live show was the foundation of the band, and everything was built upon it, especially in regards to the instruments we recorded with,” Pink Sky multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Angelica Hay told Revue.

Known for their instrumental use of analog synthesizers and drum machines during their elaborate, visually engrossing live shows, Pink Sky consisted of married couple Angelica and Ryan Hay, since before they first emerged with their debut album, FORMS, back in 2018.

At the time, the pair had described Pink Sky as an “indie electronica art band,” and used the project as a way to process their harrowing personal traumas into stunning multimedia live shows that completely transformed clubs, galleries, and non-traditional performance spaces.

But once the pandemic hit and lockdown went into full effect in 2020, the duo found that approach unsustainable, so they adopted the completely opposite philosophy for recording and producing songs with no regard for how – or if – they’d ever perform them live.

“Like many other bands, all of our plans to tour were cancelled just as we were building momentum,” Ryan Hay said. “It was a gut punch. For a moment, quitting the project was on the table. Everything about Pink Sky was predicated on the live show, so it was hard to imagine moving forward. We knew we needed to keep playing music together for our personal wellbeing and connection—it is part of our fabric now. But we also knew we couldn’t proceed as planned, and that might mean the end of Pink Sky.”

Instead of stopping, the duo went inward, reexamining their roles as collaborators, bringing in more live instruments, and diving into the world of creating music on the computer for the first time in their careers.

“In 2021, we started releasing an instrumental song every two weeks to regularly engage with our audience,” Ryan Hay said. “It was fun but tiring, and not really our authentic medium. We prefer to make albums and embrace the story building they enable. Unsurprisingly, after a few months of biweekly singles, we were burned out and disillusioned by the approach. And, all the while, we were a few months deep into recording music with vocals, which was infinitely more exciting than releasing all of the remaining singles. The instrumental music wasn’t as exciting, in part because it wasn’t as scary. So we pivoted and went fully towards our new lyrical music, even though it had significant implications.”

Those implications collided with the already established identity of the band, and what it meant for them as an outlet for deep, personal reflection and healing.

“We never intended to become a vocal band,” Angelica Hay said. “We fell into discovering our voices unintentionally. We thought it’d be cool to have a few songs with lyrics, but had originally intended on having someone else sing our lyrics, but when we laid down the scratch takes, we were surprised by how much we liked our voices. We had no experience singing, and it was an exciting new way to express ourselves. It was also terrifying, but in the invigorating and challenging way that usually foreshadows personal growth.”

Knowing she couldn’t sing and play her drum machines and synths all at the same time live, Angelica invited her drum teacher Jordan Pelphrey to add the dynamic sound of live drums to Pink Sky’s performance experience.

The band has also started working with some other multi-instrumentalists in the area, and might expand to include a fourth member onstage as they prepare to tour in support of their brand new album, Total Devotion (due out Feb. 17).

“We named ‘Total Devotion’ after the final song on the album,” Angelica Hay said. “‘Total Devotion’ really encompassed everything the album was about on a multidimensional level. The album is about the total devotion we have to the band, to one another, to creating art and music—and it’s about the rewards and the costs of that devotion. At times, our commitment to each of these things has been so powerful that it’s eclipsed other parts of our lives, which is profoundly meaningful but also distressing.

“So really, it’s about dealing with the consequences and rewards of our choices and recognizing that our relationship to Pink Sky is best understood as an exchange,” she added. “The rewards of ‘Total Devotion’ can be extraordinary, but the path requires significant risk, sacrifice, and faith. We hope that the album ‘Total Devotion’ conveys the intensity of our dedication to the band, to our growth, and to each other.”

Pink Sky has also completed a sister album, entitled Disenchantment, with plans to possibly release that as early as later this year.

“The whole time we wrote and recorded these songs, I was so afraid – afraid of being inadequate and of being too old to start sharing like this,” Ryan Hay said. “I was afraid of alienating myself from friends and family. I was afraid nobody would like the new music, which was so much more ‘me.’ I was afraid of being unable to finish the album and of being unable to share the songs, but mostly, I was afraid of not being able to perform them. I feared that I’d write all these songs and be too ashamed to perform them, and that’d be the end of my musical career. The end of my identity as I know it. 

“For over a year, all of this was on my mind and on the line. Each song was a battle against these fears. So more than anything else, all the songs I wrote are me working through the most difficult trial of my life, fighting to overcome years of unchecked fear and negative self-esteem.”

Pink Sky

Wsg. Ethereal, Hi-Ker

The Pyramid Scheme, 68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids

Feb. 3, 7 p.m., $15 advance, All-ages