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Perfect Pussy talk whiskey, anxiety, and Drake

March 18, 2014

Despite running two hours late to their sold out show at Toronto’s Silver Dollar, the members of Syracuse noise-punk band Perfect Pussy have other concerns. The specific issue at hand: the importance of Lumpy Space Princess from popular cartoon Adventure Time. “Lumpy Space Princess hates boys because they are stupid,” singer Meredith Graves says before the band bursts into laughter during sound check. Amidst the smiles and nerdy debates, it would be easy to think another band entirely was responsible for last year’s critically acclaimed, volatile four-track demo tape, I have lost all desire for feeling. And of course, who can ignore a name like Perfect Pussy?

Perfect Pussy started when a movie director asked singer Meredith Graves to do a live gig for a scene in indie film Adult World. With no band at the time, she called on Greg Ambler (bass) and Garett Koloski (drums) to help her write and perform a song for the movie. Realizing they played well together, the trio continued, garnering local interest quickly. Shortly after, Ray McAndrew (guitar) and Shaun Sutkus (synth/guitar) came on board, and the band started work on their demo tape before releasing it in spring.

Housing heavy guitar riffs under layers of thick distortion and intensely personal—if not largely unintelligible—lyrics, the demo, according to Graves, was only a taste of a “way faster and louder” sound for their upcoming debut album, Say Yes to Love, set for release via Brooklyn label Captured Tracks.

In advance of a busy spring for the band, AUX spoke with Perfect Pussy about the album’s whiskey-fueled recording, the greatness of Drake, and dealing with Meredith’s personality issues.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fqucurzyt84?feature=player_detailpage

With all the hype over your breakout demo have you listened to it since releasing it?

Meredith Graves: Not really. I listened to it once and thought it was really slow. We play the songs so much faster live and all the songs on the new record are so much faster.

Ray McAndrew: This band taught me to play fast, and when we recorded that demo I couldn’t play at that speed, so that’s why it’s so slow.

Individually, what are your favourite tracks on the album? I thought “Bells” was really awesome.

MG: Thanks. “Bells” was like the first song we wrote for the new record. It has major importance to me because that was the first song I wrote that I felt was genuinely positive, because I write such negative fucking music. Writing a positive song about good things and self-exploration and positivity is really cool for me. It’s about going through a breakup and the positive effects of that. But it’s an important song to me because of the subject matter. However, in terms of sheer songs I love and like to play it would be “Advance Upon the Real.”

RM: That song was really fun to write, too.

MG: That song’s a jam, and we put it on a compilation called Beyond Inversion that is probably, I think in 10 years it’s going to be one of the most important documents of what’s going on right now.

Shaun Sutkus: That recording was different from what’s on the album.

MG: That was the live one at WNYU. With the record that is coming out in March, there’s a special edition coming out that has a cassette of live material with it.

SS: It’s called Say Yes to Live.

MG: No it’s not you dingus!

What about the split seven-inch with Joanna Gruesome?

MG: Yup, we’re staying two days [in Montreal] to record the 7-inch, and it’s gonna be awesome. We’ve been on tour for so long…. In the last week we did three shows in a 24 hour period, so we have played something like 48 shows in 54 or 55 days. We’ve been just crazy.

SS: I’m ready to die.

MG: Yes, we’re ready to die. But there’s going to be a cover on one side of the seven-inch.

What’s the cover?

MG: We’re doing a cover that we’ve been talking about since we started doing this band, and I’m super excited about it. But just in case it falls apart I don’t want to say it, because it could totally fall apart and explode, but if we can pull it off, it’s going to be awesome.

Bad covers are acceptable nowadays. There are a lot of horrible-ass Daft Punk covers I’ve heard recently.

MG: Really? See, I don’t really know anything about Daft Punk.

“Get Lucky” was like a phenomenon, so there wasn’t anybody who didn’t cover that song.

RM: I did not like that new Daft Punk album.

I just kind of passed on it.

MG: I just heard Drake for the first time yesterday.

SS: That’s a lie.

MG: No! Wait I did—I knew one Drake song, and I didn’t know it was him, and then it came on Shaun’s Spotify and I freaked out and was like, “This is Drake! Oh my god I know a Drake song!” I was so happy.

SS: [sings] “Best I ever had, best I ever had.”

MG: I know the “best I ever had” song, and I also know the YOLO song.

Oh, “The Motto.”

MG: I just heard the new Drake record [in the van yesterday], and I love how he refers to himself as the boy and the man. He keeps referring to himself as, “I’ll turn this boy into a man,” or “Who’s better for you than the boy?” Aww, I love it, consistency like that.

I love “Worst Behaviour.”

SS: That’s the track, I love that track.

MG: Shaun put on the record and that song came on and I was like—I’m driving and I start freaking out and I’m like, “What the fuck is this?” And he was like, this is “Worst Behaviour,” I was like, “This is literally the greatest song I ever heard in my life.”

RA: I’m not a big Drake fan. I like that one song, “You’re a good girl and you know it,” for like 12 seconds.

“Hold On, We’re Going Home”? The radio has no issue playing that song on loop.

MG: We burnt out a few songs on this tour. I still have a favourite song off that Beyoncé record. We’ve listened to it a bunch of times and honestly I think “***Flawless” is one of the coolest songs.

I think “Blow” is still my favourite.

RA: What’s the song that goes, “Bow down bitches?”

MG: That’s the name of the song.

RA: That song is fucking awesome.

MG: Isn’t it?

Alright, back on topic.

MG: Sorry, we love talking about Drake.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R4YuekVuNY)

When did you guys start working on the album?

SS: We had plans to tour the month of December, and all we had were four songs [from the demo], and we weren’t going to go on tour across the United States on four songs. So we started plans to record just before the tour because all of our schedules are crazy.

MG: We got asked if we wanted to do a full length with a label, and then we literally wrote and recorded it in a week. All the people in this band have lives or have serious jobs—not serious jobs like a doctor, but we work 40-60 hours a week and have families, pets, and apartments to deal with so we barely had any time to practice. Three quarters of this band work in the restaurant industry.

SS: Meredith never came to practice.

MG: I never came because I had a full time job and I run my own business so I work all the time. They would practice during the day and I would work from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., so I never had time.

What was the album process like?

MG: It was done in two weeks.

SS: The night I got home [from tour in November], Ray came to my house and showed me the three or four songs they wrote while I was gone. The next day I wrote parts to them and then four days later I was sitting in front of a recording console.

MG: What we’ve been doing for a while is, we all get one day off work [in Syracuse], and we’d get up in the morning and drive six hours to New York City and play a show. Then drive home that night and arrive home at 5 a.m., sleep four hours, get up and go to work. We were doing that almost every weekend for like six or seven weeks just trying to fit in one out of town show a week or whatever we could.

SS: Some shows I would miss, some shows I would fly in.

MG: He would fly in from other cities and it was insane. Then I had crazy laryngitis because I did two shows in 24 hours. We played at midnight and then again the next night at like 8 p.m. at the infamous 285 Kent before it shut down, which we weren’t home for of course, and that’s like our home base even though we’re not from NYC. I had terrible laryngitis from a weekend of absolute insanity and had to stop singing for a few days. Eventually, I went in and had to do all the vocals for the album in two hours or three hours. I think it was about one night.

SS: We did one hour one day and one hour another day.

MG: Literally, two or three hours. I did one-take vocals for the record more or less.

SS: I think most times, for vocals of this style of music, it’s one take. There’s no reason to do another one.

RM: I remember you had to drink a flask of whiskey before.

MG: Yeah, I sang all the lyrics in one bottle, I’ll say that. I drank an entire bottle of whiskey and we did all the songs in the order of how they were appearing on the record. I was coughing up blood and the guys were like, “You should stop.” And I was like, “Fuck that, lets do the next one!” (Laughs) What I want people to do is listen to the album very carefully, because you can hear by the end of the album I am very drunk and my words start to slur together. There was like spit and foam in the corners of my mouth. I was fucking gross by the end of that recording session. I’m not like that, too. I barely drink.

How do you balance songwriting duties?

MG: Ray and Garett write the songs, Greg comes in and edits and writes his parts. I usually go to practice and make a little field recording then I take that home and listen to it 500 times and write the lyrics and Shaun writes his part. For lyrics it’s all me. Everyone in this band writes their own [instrumental] parts exclusively and we kind of just smash it together and we’re like, “Okay, that worked,” and then onto the next. We don’t go back and adjust.

SS: And then we forget what we did and we never play any of the songs ever again.

So when you guys hear the lyrics are you ever like, “what is Meredith talking about?”

All: We don’t even know the lyrics.

You don’t?

MG: Nope, nobody.

SS: Sometimes, I’ll go to Meredith’s house and she’ll be like, “I just wrote this and I want to read it to you and tell you what it’s about.”

MG: Yeah, I’ll send the lyrics to whoever wants to read them, but Greg notoriously doesn’t give a shit. I send him all the lyrics and he’s like, “I can’t read, just tell me them later.” He literally doesn’t care.

I remember hearing that you, Meredith, don’t make music for men.

MG: Yeah, it’s true.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la6Fa7YVp_w)

Have men ever said they really identified with what you’re saying?

MG: Oh, absolutely. I’m not saying I don’t want men to listen to my music. I’m just saying there’s a lot of music that’s made in this world for a male audience from people of all genders. I feel like male narratives are so dominant in the music industry that I say, okay, I’m directing this at people who have the experience of not being male, the music I make is for these people. Sometimes saying that isn’t enough, so I kind of have to put my foot down and establish that this isn’t for you. It’s like when you go into Forever 21 and you see shirts with Biggie, 2Pac, and Wu-Tang Clan on them. I see 14-year-old white girls running around in them, and I’m not saying a little 14 year old white girl can’t like Wu-Tang, I’m just saying that Wu-Tang Clan did not make music for 14-year-old white girls shopping at Forever 21. That’s my example. (Laughs.)

You once said in an earlier interview that you were “extremely unstable, I’m constantly waiting for the next thing to happen that’s going to send me spiraling back into bed.” Do you still feel that way?

MG: Oh yeah, I mean, I’m bipolar. I’m bipolar and I’m not medicated, I don’t go to therapy, and I don’t do anything to manage it other than just waking up every day and trying to deal. I’ve tried a lot of things that don’t work, and for some people methods of controlling depression and anxiety work wonderfully. But for me I just sort of have to immerse myself in it.

The last band I was in we would get home from tour and I would be so violently depressed that I would literally not get out of bed for days and days. My weight would fluctuate because I wouldn’t eat for days at a time, or I would be on Prozac and would be up till like 5 a.m. and sleep for like five hours a night. That was also back when I use to smoke a ton of weed and be super damaged, frantic, and flighty. I’m very, very sensitive. I’m notoriously like the most crazy-sensitive person. I’m extremely thin-boundaried and get profoundly and deeply affected by every experience. And so when I say I’m just waiting for the next thing, that could be at any moment. Anything I experience can send me totally flatlining outside of my control.

The other day, I had a total breakdown. We were in Rock Island, Illinois, doing a session for Daytrotter, and my voice was so damaged. We’ve been doing shows every night and I don’t want to be a baby and seem ungrateful because I’ve never been happier then when I get to do a show every night. But we were sound checking at Daytrotter—and Daytrotter to me sounds like a pretty fucking big deal—and when I heard what I sounded like I started crying hysterically and hid in the bathroom of the studio for about 20 minutes. We also had a great show in Chicago that led to the weirdest, negative, shitty, berserk fucking internet review ever. It was just someone being fucking rude about the fact that they were astounded that a hardcore band played for 14 minutes. So I was pissed about that.

SS: We played for 20 minutes.

MG: I don’t necessarily want or expect the guys in this band to coddle me. I mean, everybody in the band jokes about the fact that I’m crazy all the time, it’s like a running joke between [me and Shaun].

SS: It’s not a joke, but it’s…

MG: No, it’s not a joke, it’s true.

SS: I’m not making fun of you.

MG: I know, but we can joke about it safely though because you know me. I know I’m very difficult to deal with and I know that I have a pushy personality and sometimes being on tour with me for a long period of time can probably be super exhausting for the people I’m with. Also I’m really stubborn and I try not to rely on people, so when I do have these meltdowns, it’s often me being like, “No, fuck this.”

SS: Yeah, and there’s nothing to stop it. We’ll be like, “Can I assist you in any way?” And she’ll say, “Nope, I’m okay, see you in a while.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er2-ujXSpw8?feature=player_detailpage

Do you have any regrets about the album?

MG: I wish we had more time to expand.

SS: I do all the mixing and stuff and I have like a set up in my house, and I did a couple passes there. Then we left to tour the next day, and it wasn’t done yet. We recorded some vocals for Meredith in the van.

MG: There are pictures of us just sitting in the back seat with big headphones on and microphones and the car is going like 80 miles an hour on the fucking highway. We were like in the middle of Georgia fucking screaming in the van.

SS: And then we were in NYC and our friends go to school there so, I was like, “Hey, can I come down here and use your college’s studio for like an hour?”

MG: And they accommodated because they are the coolest people on the planet.

SS: And yeah, that’s when it got finished. And that was like a week into tour. But yeah, if there was one regret I would say not having a set period of time where we’re not doing anything else but working on music.

MG: This band is basically just a giant improvisation act. We don’t fuck with stuff once we write it; it might as well be done. I was reading Rolling Stones in the van today and somebody had said that the only honest music is when a baby cries for the first time. Once the baby realizes that its mother is going to come running, it starts crying to get something. So for a band, that first cry of desperation that sends people running in the first place is the only honest music. Our goal is to block out the rest of the world and keep crying. JUST KEEP CRYING!

RM: Crying since birth.

SS: When I cried nobody came.

MG: Yeah, when I cried nobody came, so we had to write another record.

[magazine month=”March” year=”2014″]

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