"We've just always been fascinated by older people."
--Johanna Soderberg (First Aid Kit)
March.15 Cover - Perfect Pussy
Written by Sven Gladray   
ImageSay Yes To Noise…and Community:
Perfect Pussy Leaves Home, But Not to Escape the Dicks

“I’m what they call a social introvert. When I found that out I found it kind of liberating.”

I’ve been repeatedly surprised by the people who consider themselves introverts, musicians both unflinchingly confessional (Sharon Van Etten) and fearlessly gregarious (tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus) willing to walk alone onto a stage in front of thousands. But I’ve never heard the claim from someone as opinionated as Meredith Graves, or from the frontperson of a band as willfully confrontational as Perfect Pussy.

“I like talking to people, I’m very friendly, but it’s difficult for me to get close to people and I prefer to spend about 90 percent of my time alone. There just aren’t many of us who are very open about it. I play a show, I DJ. And then I come home, fix a cup of tea, read a book, and I stay in until the next time I have to leave the house,” Graves tells me by phone while home alone on a weekday morning, cooking eggs. “The guys will tell you I’m a liar, that after a show I’m the person that has to be grabbed and corralled to the van. But if kids hang out and want to talk, I stay until the last person leaves. Then by the end of the night I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck.”

“The guys” are Graves’ four Perfect Pussy bandmates, who make enough of a hardcore racket to leave their audiences feeling leveled by a truck – in the best possible sense. Last spring at Mammal Gallery, I stood roughly five feet from Graves and literally couldn’t hear the slightest sound coming out of her mouth, such was the force of the band’s onslaught. And while I won’t say that didn’t matter, amazingly it didn’t torpedo the power of the show. After the set the doorman shook his head and shared with a wry smile, “I feel so sorry for the sound guy. They came in with such powerful gear there was no way the house PA could handle the vocals.” “We get that a lot – a lot of time it has to do with the shape of the room” Graves explains, somewhat apologetically. “But you’d be surprised what you can do with intensity of the body.”

It’s not like Graves’ lyrics are all that intelligible in the studio either, despite the obvious care she places in the words. Yet it’s not something she sees as a deficiency, or anything she plans to change. “I don’t really love the quality of my voice,” Graves admits, before launching into a tirade that comes across more as good natured venting at an invisible "them" than an expression of true anger. “I think that everyone needs to shut the hell up and let me do whatever I want. If you don’t like it, go start your own band – that’s what I did. Everyone please collectively stop acting like this is the first time in the world where you’ve heard a hardcore band and you can’t understand the lyrics. When kids are singing along it’s not because you can hear the singer, it’s because they sat in their rooms and listened to the record, read the lyric sheet. If I didn’t want people to know what I was saying I wouldn’t say it, and I wouldn’t print a lyric sheet, black text on white paper, in Times New Fucking Roman, or whatever the most legible thing is a person could ever read.”

Take note of “Interference Fits,” which Graves calls the most personal song she’s ever written and which amply rewards such a trip to the lyric sheet. It also provides the title of Perfect Pussy's album, though in context Say Yes to Love reads more like a rhetorical question than an exhortation. The full line is “Since when do we say yes to love?” and since the preceding line is “When did we all decide to give up?” it’s easy to infer her stance on the matter. According to Graves, the notion stems from a time when her close friends suddenly began to pair up and get married. She’s also been open with the info that the breakup of her former band, the not that dissimilar Shoppers, coincided with Graves extricating herself from an abusive relationship. That situation, combined with her public jousting with a Syracuse hardcore scene she considers overly dude-centric, would seem to explain Graves’ relocation to the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn from her lifelong upstate New York home – but Graves contends that’s not the case. “For once I wasn't escaping a bad situation, but moving towards a good one.” She moved this past September “on a whim, and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I was homesick for NYC when I was in Europe because of the community I'd been working on developing here, and it hit me that I wouldn't be able to fully merge with that unless I was physically present. I'm happier, more inspired and fulfilled here than I've ever been in my life.”


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