Perfect Pussy

The Syracuse, New York punk band Perfect Pussy came out with their debut LP, Say Yes to Love, only yesterday, but it feels like it has been out much longer than that. I only say that, because in the last week they have done so many interviews that it's hard to believe they're doing everything else they're doing.

I spoke to guitarist Ray McAndrew over the phone as the band was traversing Southern California on the way to their next show; we commiserated over our SXSW experiences this year, and agreed on Tweens being a highlight from what we had both seen at the festival.

Officially out yesterday on Captured Tracks, Say Yes to Love is a quick, yet brutal collection of melodic punk songs, that for some reason has been constantly pinned as having vocals buried deep in the mix. Regardless of whether or not the vocals are front and center, they are unavoidable, raw, and supercharged with emotion — and Perfect Pussy's approach to recording them in such a way is wholly intentional.

"Mixing in most bands these days are all the same, clean with vocals up front. We wanted to stick to the lo-fi charm that the demo had," McAndrew said. "We were sick of hearing the same mixes that every band is about, so [Say Yes to Love] is sort of a rejection of that idea."

Sure, the lyrics are powerful, and they come from a very specific place that is Meredith Graves' dark past — but they are only one element of a very complex sound that the five-piece has developed.

"I don't even know half of Meredith's lyrics," he admitted with a short laugh. "From what I've heard and read, I've backed it 100%. They're personal narratives from her personal experience."

The band's raw honesty starts from the very core of their songwriting, even before the lyrics are added. McAndrew and drummer Garrett Koloski begin the process by hashing out a basic idea, and then present it the rest of the band to add their parts, layer on the noise from Shaun Sutkus next, and finally finish it off with Graves' personal touch.

Though he's played in many other bands, Perfect Pussy is the project for McAndrew that stands apart. "I felt like I had been doing the same thing over and over again in the other bands," he said. Whereas the music he is playing in Perfect Pussy is "abrasive, but it doesn't have harsh definite intervals. The chords are pretty sounding, [I just] speed them up and play really fast."

The album opener "Driver" is loudly indicative of both Perfect Pussy's lighting fast melodic quality and its rejection of conventional mixing, as it combusts with lo-fi sounding vocals and quick riffs. McAndrew said that although this song wasn't written about anything specific, for him it's about fury: "There's so much frustration in there, not necessarily negative feeling, an intense feeling. Just, general bottled up emotions that I should have dealt with, but never did...if I'm in a bad mood and we're about to play, I go three times harder [on that song] than I would normally."

Whereas his favorite song to play despite his mood is "Bells," describing that one as "kind of schizophrenic."

At the end of the day, what lets you sleep at night is knowing that what you're doing feels true to yourself and your art, which is a challenge Perfect Pussy is learning how to master. Being a fairly new punk band in the limelight is hard enough, but sticking to your personal values on things like accepting corporate handouts, booking shows in clubs that aren't all ages, and coming to terms with the fact that everything you do is in the name of getting your record out to new audiences is just part of the process.

The band has just been inundated with opportunities, which only adds to the difficulty of navigating through it all. "We got to a point where we needed help. We have a good team who lets us do what we want to do…we were being contacted like, every day from multiple people about shows, asking if we had a label yet, or for interviews. [Bassist Greg Ambler] was the only one handling our emails, and he had to quit his job [in order to have time] to respond to everything."

Since the success of their demo tape has set the band into a nonstop spiral of touring since its release, they're admirably keeping it together with just the bare minimum of help one might expect a band to accept in order to lighten their load — a publicist, label and a booking agent — and of course, an extra body in the van to handle their merch so that they can focus on playing shows, driving from point a to b, and rotating the responsibility of doing interviews. In the true spirit of being a DIY band, it's a comforting fact that Perfect Pussy still ships out the cassette tapes of their 2013 demo themselves. So if you ordered one and are experiencing a delay in receiving it, now you know why.

See Perfect Pussy on Friday at the Rickshaw Stop, with local support from Wild Moth and Happy Diving, presented by The Bay Bridged.

To enter for a chance to win tickets to see Perfect Pussy at Rickshaw Stop, email contest@thebaybridged.com with “It is NSFW to research Perfect Pussy” in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the email. A winner will be selected at random and notified via email.

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