For a duo called Decisive Pink, Kate NV and Angel Deradoorian disagree on many of the definitive details of their shared history. Interviewing the two neo-krautrockers at a table just outside The Lot Radio in Greenpoint, heavy techno pumping through the speakers behind us, feels at moments like watching (and, to some degree, participating in) a sprawling, complex comedy routine.
This much we know is true: Angel and Kate met at Red Bull Music Academy Tokyo in 2014, but only briefly. Both say they were reclusive relative to the prestigious program’s other residents. Kate stumbled upon the cool kids’ hangout at one point but was overwhelmed by the smoke, while Angel kept largely to herself outside of official events. Angel watched Kate’s first official solo performance at the karaoke bar where much of Lost In Translation was shot, but from a different room, and through a TV monitor.
Their paths crossed one fateful day when Kate was hitting rock bottom. She’d left the backpack containing her laptop in the studio; when she’d returned to look for it, it was gone. Angel walked in and found Kate in tears, struggling to describe her predicament. She helped her find the bag, which had been brought back to their hotel by a misguided samaritan. Two years later, Kate and Angel reunited in New York at another RBMA event, where they wrote their first collaborative song, “Konnichiwa.”
The track didn’t land on their June debut album, Ticket To Fame (it seems to have been erased from the internet entirely, though it was on the setlist for Kate’s most recent solo tour), but it was a sketch of things to come. It had more Kate than Angel on it, but some Decisive Pink trademarks — stuttering synths, nimble basslines, an exclusive adherence to the titular lyric — had already begun to coalesce.
This is the point in the band’s timeline where Angel’s and Kate’s accounts begin to diverge.
“You had ‘Konnichiwa’ almost finished,” Angel recalls, addressing Kate, “and you were like, ‘Do you want to play flute on it or sing something?”
“No,” Kate retorts. “You actually brought your small bass synth with you.”
“The Moog Realistic or the Novation Bass Station?”
“It wasn’t the Novation. The old-school one.”
“I guess so. Angel played like such a pro. She comes up with these crazy basslines. She’s amazing.”
“I don’t remember contributing to so much of the music. I think you made the bassline.”
“No, you made it.”
“That’s you. You played it with an arpeggiator.”
“Huh. I wonder if it was that synth…”
“The small one, dude. A tiny bass.”
“Maybe it wasn’t mine. Maybe it was at the studio.”
“No, no, no. It was yours.”
“We can figure it out later, I guess.”
This sort of dialogue is commonplace in our conversation, which stretches out over the course of an hour and change. It’s reminiscent of two of the strongest songs on Ticket To Fame:
“Potato Tomato” — another track whose only lyrics appear in its title — is musically modeled after Moebius & Plank’s “Rastakraut Pasta,” Angel tells me. But its subject matter immediately evokes Ella and Louis’ pronunciation misadventures on “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” (“It’s a massive hit,” Kate declares.)
“What Where” takes a slightly more serious approach to recreating a communication breakdown. Its jumbled lyrics come from Samuel Beckett’s own English translation of his French final play, Quoi ou. A sample:
“Is that all?”
“What must we confess?”
“I switch off.”
“I start again.”
The tone remains lighthearted here, but there’s an undercurrent of anxiety that grows more and more palpable as the song continues — a subtle invocation of the essential loneliness of life on Earth.
Angel and Kate’s miscommunication farce extends even to the outfits they wear to our interview and the McCarren Park photo shoot that comes before it. Their original plan was to match completely: Angel wears a long-sleeve black tee advertising Future Days by Can, the duo’s undisputed favorite band of all time, and brings one for Kate as well. But Kate decides to stay in her slightly different outfit: a shirt repping an obscure Russian act, partially covered by a blazer. (Both wear black shoes, black knee socks, and black tennis skirts.)
Admiration of Can, along with a mutual love for all things modular, is the foundation on which Ticket To Fame was laid. On this much, the three of us agree: Anti-capitalist album opener “Haffmilch Holiday” and “Ode To Boy” — a song “about women’s disappointment in men in the modern age,” per Angel, that ends with an extremely silly singalong to the tune of the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth — set the stage for an unabashed celebration of krautrock. (“We laughed so hard when we decided to do that,” Kate says of the “Ode To Joy” interpolation on the latter track. “It was insane.”) But when I suggest that “Dopamine,” the last song Kate and Angel wrote for the record, feels to me most emblematic of the German genre, Kate blanches. “‘Dopamine’?!, she asks, incredulous. “It’s a little too funky, no?
“We recorded a couple of sets and created a beat and then just forgot about it,” she recounts. “The project was called ‘Funky.’”
“It was actually called ‘Funky Kraut Crunge,’” Angel corrects her. “because I thought it sounded like ‘The Crunge’ by Led Zeppelin. We thought it was so ridiculous that we didn’t finish it until we were in L.A. And we made it so absurd.”
“We both knew what we were making was great. I hadn’t felt that excited about making something in a long time.”
Kate and Angel’s Los Angeles rendezvous was the final piece of Ticket To Fame’s puzzle. All but two tracks were already wrapped — written and recorded in 2017, at RBMA co-founder Torsten Schmidt’s studio in Cologne. As soon as they started their work together there, they had lightning in a bottle. “We both knew what we were making was great,” Angel says. “I hadn’t felt that excited about making something in a long time.”
They played these eight tenths of the album at Sónar Barcelona the following year. Their performance was recorded and posted to Red Bull Radio’s Mixcloud, where it’s remained for the past half-decade, providing anyone with a vested interest in Decisive Pink with a near-fully formed sneak preview of the project before it dropped. (For the remainder of the festival, Kate gallivanted around the city while Angel cloistered herself in her hotel room, studying for — and passing — her Vedic astrology certification exam.)
Even from the recording of their Sónar set, it’s clear how comfortable Kate and Angel are on stage together. Despite their distinct personalities, they’re remarkably synchronized performers.
“It doesn’t really matter what kind of gear you’re using — it just matters how you use it. You don’t have to be very specific and nerdy about stuff. Whatever.”
A few weeks after our interview, Angel and Kate play a pre-release show at Union Pool in Williamsburg. This time, they match, wearing bicolored, rose-pink and magenta jumpsuits, bisected lengthwise. In the intimate venue, the contradictions that define their chaotic relationship transform into something transcendent. Their differences don’t melt away, exactly; in practical terms, though, they become a single, eight-limbed organism.
Eschewing heavy instruments, synths, and pedal boards, they’re mostly content to press play and sing over pre-recorded backing tracks (with several exceptions). They strum cardboard guitars with an ironic fervor throughout their set, destroying them viciously as the performance reaches its climax. In another physical gag, they toss slips of paper variously marked “POTATO” and “TOMATO” into the crowd, asking all audience members to place them on their foreheads. As much as they idolize the cool detachment of their krautrock predecessors, they’re having too much fun to hide the giddy joy their music inspires.
“It doesn’t really matter what kind of gear you’re using — it just matters how you use it,” says Kate, a bona fide gear head, tiring of a drawn-out detour our conversation takes into the many synths she and Angel used on Ticket To Fame. “You don’t have to be very specific and nerdy about stuff. Whatever.”
“The best thing about our working style is that we’ll just start playing something, and we’re both so open to whatever we make that we’ll entertain everything,” Angel adds. “We’ll just go for it. That’s really important in creating with another person.”