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[AltWire Interview] Perfect Pussy: “I Lean Towards Anti-Oppression Politics”

Article Photo Credit: Samantha Marble

Perfect Pussy is a band that is both as bold and adventurous as their moniker suggests. The band first came to fruition on the set of John Cusack’s “Adult World” when the director Scott Coffey contacted Meredith Graves about making a cameo appearance. Scott was familiar with her former band and reached out to Meredith to see if she’d be willing to perform on screen. She immediately asked her friends Greg Ambler and Garrett Koloski if they were interested in taking part, and together they wrote the band’s first song.

After discovering how much they enjoyed the experience of playing together, the trio recruited guitarist Ray McAndrew and synth player Shaun Sutkus, and developed into the current lineup of Perfect Pussy. The band has been touring heavily in the New York punk scene ever since, and after cutting their first demo tape “I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling”, Perfect Pussy are now laying the finishing touches on their debut album, setting the course for what should be a pretty intense 2014.

This past week I had the opportunity to speak to the band’s lead vocalist Meredith Graves; and what followed was an deeply personal, honest, and intelligent conversation that not only gave a deeper insight into the band, but also into Meredith herself as well. Meredith truly embodies the phrase “down to earth” and her answers were as refreshing in their honesty as they were entertaining to read.

To learn more about this fantastic new band, and their charismatic front-woman, check out our interview with Meredith below.

AltWire [Derek]: I’ve noticed a lot of artists reverting back to cassette tapes as a way to distribute their music. It seems like DIY is becoming more of the norm. I know that your EP is available in cassette, digital and even a floppy disc. What made you decide to release it on cassette and floppy?

Meredith Graves [Perfect Pussy]: The floppy disk was a joke; we had no control over the floppy disk. The floppy disk was our keyboard player drunkenly buying a disk reader on eBay and showing up with 60 of them, saying “Hey look what I did! Ha, ha, ha!”, and it was actually an 8-bit version of one song. So if you can now understand how totally not serious we used to not take this band, you now know [laughs]. This is before we released the demo, and we made the floppy disk because we just never thought we were going to do anything as a band. So the floppy disk was a giant inside joke. And the putting it online for 60 dollars thing was a quadruple inside joke.

The reason we put it out on cassette is because it’s a comfortable format. We’ve all been in bands that have done releases on cassette. It’s cheap, it’s quick, it sounds interesting, and it leaves a lot of room to make cool art that comes with it. It’s a curious format and when we’re operating from the base of a genre that does a lot of cassettes; we see the interesting things that our friends are doing with cassettes and the medium and we’re like “oh shit, we’ve got to keep up!” you know? We get inspired by other bands, so we see other people using these formats, and we’re like “okay cool now it’s our turn, what can WE do with this?”. We just want to jump in and be a part of a lineage of people using what some would consider a dying medium in 2013, by doing cool and curious things with it!

AW: It seems like lately that there are some critics out there who feel that when you compare Punk to the way it used to be; versus what it is today, that it’s not really punk anymore in its purest form. That punk has gone pop. Listening to your music, it seems like you’ve gone back more to the older days of punk. It’s gritty, and it’s rawer and it’s in your face. Do you agree with these people, and are you satisfied with Punk music at the moment?

M: Here’s the thing, I was actually talking with my father about this last night. We were talking about how a lot of people view 70’s punk now; how they look back on it and they’re like, “oh we had Patti Smith!”, like the early New York stuff and whatever, and it’s now viewed as this amorphous thing, when really back then all of those bands were doing radically different things. And the only way we’ve come to associate them in that sort of ‘web inset’ is because we now have a perspective of history.

So I think it only seems homogenous, because it’s like the idea that a fish doesn’t understand water because they’re swimming in it, you know? Don’t ask a fish about water, don’t ask punks about punk. We don’t have room to talk about it. It’s going to take us distance and time to be that self-reflective. Anyone who sits around now complaining about punk music as they know it today is wasting their time and yours. I think if you have enough time on your hands to sit around and analyze how you feel about punk today, you should be in a fucking band…with all your free time to sit around and pontificate about who is punk and who is not.

I like some shitty music! I like some pop ass punk. And we’ve been called a pop punk band! But at the same time also I love pop music so it’s kind of an honor. So I don’t think too much about it. Most of the music I like is music that my friends make. And there are so many genres with specific definitions that I can no longer distinguish between depressive suicide black metal and satanic black metal. I will not go to those lengths anymore, I will just listen to the record.

AW: Speaking of how the music industry has changed; your album is currently being sold on Bandcamp as a digital download. Being a band that’s come together in the age of the internet; how do you feel file sharing and online music downloads affect newer bands? Would you say it helps or hurts the bands and do you think websites like that are the way of the future?

M: Oh, I think it’s all totally neutral, I don’t care how people get the music. I really don’t. I download ballet exercise DVDs! Like, I don’t care. I just got the fucking internet back (I haven’t had the internet in years) and I feel like I am being introduced to the future. So I don’t really understand it. I was a teenager on LiveJournal when YouSendIt was first a thing. I have friends that I met on music sharing communities on LiveJournal when I was 13 years old, that are still in the hardcore scene and now I know them in person. It is the weirdest motherfucking thing.

I remember uploading music back when music sharing was like a free library. It was dependent on what people uploaded, and it was basically the equivalent of a friend making you a tape of a record before that. Like you only ever got access to the music that other people cared enough to share with you. So that’s my idea of downloading music off the internet. I don’t actively seek things out. I buy a lot of records and I buy a lot of cassettes. I buy a lot of stuff when we’re on tour and a lot of stuff from bands that we see.

If I’m downloading music it’s because I’ve never heard of it. I don’t go actively seeking things, so by that law – assuming then that I am the center of the fucking universe – other kids are out there who have never heard of us, and if they stumble across us they might download it. That’s harmless. That’s checking a book out at the library instead of wasting your money going to a corporate store to buy it. Bandcamp is as conflicted as any other website, it’s a money making thing. It’s just like iTunes or fucking whatever. You can’t always avoid the “big evil”. Some people will buy it, some people will buy it directly from me at the show, and some people will share it with their friends and download it. I don’t give a shit. I’ve bought records, and I’ve ripped songs off them to distribute them for free in the form of “I want to date you, so here’s this mix tape”. You know, I can’t think about it that way.

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AW: You’ve said recently that women in music unfortunately often face criticism for their appearance or their body. Do you feel like sometimes it’s unfortunately difficult to be a woman in the music industry and do you feel female rock/punk singers really get the respect they deserve?

M: I am blessed enough to not strongly identify as female. Like my femininity has always been strongly wrapped up in a highly politicized set of circumstances. And so I think I don’t even necessary view myself as a “female singer”. I don’t really conceive it that way…like I can in a pinch self-identify myself as a feminist. However; I think the current academic brand of feminism that’s infiltrated the internet and most of the western thought process is highly problematic and inflexible. I guess what my politics lean towards is just general anti-oppression politics. My focus has had to be removed out of necessity, from worrying about general things like being this ‘woman getting sexually harassed on stage’ because I’m trying to really focus on the intersection at the axis of privilege and oppression, and where all people fall in it.

Sure…yeah there are people on the cesspool that is Brooklyn Vegan talking about wanting to see my naked ass; but at the same time, yesterday [November 20th] was transgender day of remembrance and on that day a murderer was acquitted of his assault and murder of a transgender woman. Like there are bigger problems in the world than what I experience wearing frilly dresses on stage. Like, I can’t really think about it. That’s not the important thing about politics. We can talk about it forever and every woman who sings in a punk band gets asked that question, but really it’s not about me.

What I do think is cool though is that I haven’t found a single review that talks about my appearance. I don’t think the people give a shit what I look like. I was in the car with my bass player Greg Ambler; who’s like my best friend in the world, and he made a comment about how we were going to take pictures this Saturday. He went “I’m probably just not going to go because they only ever care if you show up” – he always jokes around about that – and I said “you know that nobody ever cares, nobody ever wants to talk about what I look like”.

He didn’t even miss a beat, he’s like “well that’s because you’re ugly!”  and I’m like “okay, well you’re fucking….whatever”! [laughs]

No one seems to give a shit about how I look. Although I will tell you that the only comments in regards to my appearance, are people that think I dress up to play shows, which is great. Because you can ask literally any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I’m pretty much in costume all the time. I love fashion. I’m a seamstress by trade, that’s what I do for a living. I’m always wearing crazy clothes, and people think I’m dressing up, but ask anyone who knows me. I’m just wearing my clothes.

AW: In the past you’ve referred to yourself as very shy, and referred to the difficulty in getting used to being noticed on the internet. Are you getting better at handling that, and are you terrified of the reality of one day playing to much larger crowds? Does that scare the daylights out of you?

M: Yes. If somebody wants to talk to me, everything’s fine. If I’m on stage in front of 20 people, or 200 people or 500 people I’m fine. I don’t get stage fright; I’ve been performing since I was five, everything from opera and musical theater, to ballet, to speech and debate with model UN when I was in high school. Yeah that was me. I literally can get up and expound on the cultural implications of tuna fishing for forty five fucking minutes and make everything up and I will not break a sweat.

The second I have to approach someone, the second that I have to be vulnerable, I can’t explain it…my boss told me I’m a social introvert. I spend most of my time alone; I prefer to do projects, which being in a band is hard for me because I prefer to work alone. I like to read books, I like to sew, I like to run, I ride a bike, and these are not activities you do with other people. I’m that person who always has their headphones on, and always has their face in a book. If you’re asking me a question about my band, that feels pretty far removed. But when it comes to personal questions I tend to lock up a lot, but I also like to talk. I spend enough time being quiet that I feel like I’m just saving it up. So when someone wants to talk to me I just kind of go, and go, and go and go. I get real nervous, but yeah I am really shy. I’m introverted, and I’m kind of used to being my own best friend. I always did a lot of stuff alone, even when I was a kid I was alone.

I don’t worry at all about the band doing bigger or better things. It’s exciting. I love being in this band, I’m having a wonderful time and I will play whatever show fucking anywhere just for fun. I don’t give a shit how many people we play to, I think it’s great, and I’m just excited to see what happens.

AW:  Given the fact you’re in the process of writing new music, and booking more shows, what do you have planned for 2014?

M: [In a happy triumphant tone] We just finished our record this week! I took the whole week off of work, but I haven’t done my vocals yet. I’m in the process of quitting smoking so my voice is really bothering me and we have shows the next couple of days in New York City. Then I’m going to be doing my vocals and we’re going to be leaving for tour. So the tour dates are going to be announced next week.

We’ve just signed to a really cool record label that we’re very excited to work with. But I don’t feel like its OK for me say who it is yet because we haven’t completely signed with them, so I feel like at the last minute someone’s going to be like “oh wait! Oops!” so I don’t want to say who just yet. But we’re signing to a really cool indie label out of New York City, that we LOVE, and the people who run this label are crazy! We’re going to putting out this record in February and we’re getting a special edition of the record. And if all goes according to plan, all of my repulsive, disgusting, fucked up ideas are going to be brought to life and it’s going to be cheap. So I’m really excited, because I have this repulsive, gross idea and I’m so excited because I thought I was going to get fired effectively from punk, and instead everyone’s like “Oh no that’s cool, we just need to make sure it’s not a health hazard at the pressing plant…”

AW: Oh wow, are you kidding? You’ve got to elaborate on that! Can you tell us anything more?

M: No! I can’t tell you because if it doesn’t happen then I’m canceling Christmas for eternity. I can’t tell you, because if it doesn’t happen I’m quitting punk and I’m going to become Yoko Ono’s assistant. I’m going to shave my head and join a fucking monastery if this doesn’t work. Because it’s literally going to involve a day’s stay in the hospital if I end up doing it. It’s going to be FUCKED. So I’m really excited.

The guy who runs the label we’re signing to, he has my back 200%, he thinks it’s a great idea and the best part is that he doesn’t even make a big deal out of it. He’s like “okay what should I eat for dinner” and I’m like “hello new favorite friend!”

In December and all of January we’re going to be doing a tour. In February the record comes out and we’ll be touring all of March. Hopefully they’ll like us enough that we’ll go to festivals and have fun. We’re planning on doing a split 7-inch with Joanna Gruesome from Wales who we played a show with and saw them a bunch at CMJ. They are like one of the best bands, and they’re incredible, they’re on Slumberland and we’re planning to do a split 7-inch with them. And then hopefully they’re coming over from Europe and hopefully we can do some shows with them. We want to be their tour support and hopefully they’ll take us!

Then we’ll be going to Europe in the summer to play in Poland and then do 1-2 European shows which are going to give me the opportunity to finally meet so many of my internet friends. I have so many friends from Europe that I’ve never met because I haven’t been to Europe since I was 15. So I’m going to go hang out with a bunch of my fucking punk-girl internet friends!

So yeah world domination, unmentionable disgusting arts and crafts, and a split 7-inch with the coolest band in the world!

Check out Perfect Pussy’s music below:

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