The Noise-Punk Band

Colin Joyce
Lili Peper

ABOVE: PERFECT PUSSY, L-R: SHAUN SUTKUS, MEREDITH GRAVES, GARRETT KOLOSKI, RAY MCANDREW, AND GREG AMBLER. PHOTO BY LILI PEPER


It's not unusual that a band starts on a whim. Lives of boredom in towns off the beaten path have sparked more than their share of riled up garage-y punk bands, but consider the story of Syracuse's newly minted Perfect Pussy as a subversion of that particular narrative. This was a band that started with a purpose, and that purpose was... to appear in an indie film.

So says singer Meredith Graves of her noise-punk band's origins. After the demise of her previous crew of lo-fi wailers Shoppers, Graves was asked to appear in Scott Coffey's Adult World, which was filming in Syracuse at the beginning of 2012. Without a project to call her own at the time, Graves enlisted longtime friend and Syracuse punk scene vet Greg Ambler on bass and Garrett Koloski on drums. After writing a couple of songs and appearing in the film, the band went into a sort of prolonged hibernation before adding Ray McAndrew and Shaun Sutkus on guitar and synth, respectively, earlier this year. Their addition was met with a burst of (modest) productivity that spawned the band's demo-tape-cum-debut I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling—a four-song burst of in-the-red instrumentation and piss-and-vinegar vocals.

It's par for the course for those familiar with Shoppers' m.o., but there's a sense of urgency and immediacy in Perfect Pussy's 12 minutes of musical output that's no doubt aided by Graves' ever more personal lyrical bent. If you can make your way through the thicket of guitar fuzz and drum clatter, there's heartbreaking tales of assault and betrayal and the mental fortitude it takes to get past tragedy.

Perfect Pussy announced earlier this month that it has signed to Captured Tracks, and the band is currently touring extensively throughout the United States, including a New Year's Eve show at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn. Over beers and hot dogs at Williamsburg's Crif Dogs, the five-piece discussed its roots in the Syracuse scene and its commitment to lyrical honesty and clarity.




COLIN JOYCE: I guess I want to start at the beginning of the band; how did you all end up meeting and playing together?

MEREDITH GRAVES: It's kind of an awkward story. There's a director who contacted me about my old band because they were filming in Syracuse. They wanted a band to be in a scene, and my old band broke up. He said to me, "Well, we kind of just wanted you to do this. Can you show up and do it?" Greg and I had been friends for five years or so, and I called him up and said, "Let's do a band!" I had been dating the drummer of the band that I was in previously, and that's why the band broke up, so I didn't know any other drummers. So I called Garrett, who I didn't even know, because Greg said he was nice. We made a fake band and recorded one power-pop song that Shaun recorded for us at the studio where he works in the middle of the night at three in the morning. We were in this movie for one day with John Cusack, and everyone thought we were really good, so we wanted to keep playing, but we were all really lazy and in other bands.

GREG AMBLER: Yeah, this was like a year and a half ago.

GARRETT KOLOSKI: [laughs] We took a yearlong break.

GRAVES: Then all of a sudden Ray, who I hadn't met, said, "I want to be in your band. Can I play guitar?" I had been playing guitar, so then Ray was playing instead of me. Then Shaun said, "I want to play with you too!" It became this big thing that we all did together and ultimately it took us a year and half to do... nothing. But we're here now!

AMBLER: We didn't start playing shows until four or five months ago.

JOYCE: When did you guys start work on the tape that's out?

GRAVES: We recorded it in March, and we put it out in April.

AMBLER: It was out a while before we even started playing any shows. We didn't really have any intentions of doing anything with it until people picked up on it.

GRAVES: We were just doing it because we're all such good friends and we all get along so well.

RAY MCANDREW: We weren't even going to make tapes! We just posted it on the Internet. We made these stupid 3-1/2" floppy discs. There was one kid who was nice enough to buy one for $60, and if he's out there he's going to get a nice package from us one day. He financed the first run of tapes.

JOYCE: And then there was demand for tapes?

GRAVES: No, there was no demand for us at all.

AMBLER: We started playing shows and we needed something to have with us. We started with a run of 100 and we sold that out. We were in our second run of 100 when we got that Pitchfork review, and now we're on our fourth or fifth.

GRAVES: We didn't even want to be a band. [laughs] We just want to travel around the world and see all of our friends.

MCANDREW: And get the fuck out of Syracuse.

JOYCE: What's Syracuse like, musically?

GRAVES: Syracuse is awesome, the hardcore scene sucks. It's not because the bands suck, it's because everyone is a racist, sexist, rude, self-centered...

MCANDREW: ... Butthead.

GRAVES: ... Prick. I don't know if you can get this in the transcript, but I want you to know that I look like I'm beating off right now.

MCANDREW: There's a college area that has a lot of the art community. It's the Brooklyn of Syracuse.

KOLOSKI: And the bands are great. The Syracuse Universe bands are better than any of the bands from Syracuse.

GRAVES: All the hardcore bands? Rude, privileged, white men. They're all human waste. We get out as much as possible. We're very lucky to have the friends that we have. I can't speak for everyone...

AMBLER: I fucking hate all these assholes.

JOYCE: So there is a scene...

SHAUN SUTKUS: It's just really small. There aren't that many people.

AMBLER: For how big the city is, the scene is fucking dead.

KOLOSKI: Everyone that goes to shows is in a band.

GRAVES: The most amazing bands from all over the world used to come to Syracuse and four fucking people would show up. Some shitty local band will play and 100 kids will be there. I don't really go to shows anymore because I hate everybody.

SUTKUS: I've never seen 100 kids at a show.

GRAVES: It just doesn't seem like there are a lot of people in Syracuse into different stuff.

MCANDREW: Everyone wants the same hardcore riff over and over.

GRAVES: It has to be an all-male band, probably all white dudes, and the lyrics have to be about personal distancing from feelings. As long as you're being cold and removed and bleeding from the forehead, you're good. It's the Hoax model. I love Hoax, but everything in Syracuse is the same. The thing about Syracuse is it pushes you to leave. It's cheap to live there. We all have good jobs. We work for small local business, and four of us work for women-owned, women-run businesses. We all work for real people who are really supportive of us.

JOYCE: Is the ultimate goal to get out, then?

AMBLER: Oh yeah, only so we can go back and gloat, though. Like, "Hey, what's up everybody? Everything's still the exact same? Okay, bye."

JOYCE: Is living there something that frustrates you, or does it just drive you to keep putting out new stuff so you can stay away from there?

MCANDREW: Now that we're doing well, it just makes for good art.

SUTKUS: Part of why we did this project is because of how shitty it is. What the fuck else are we going to do except sit in this room and write songs for six hours a day?

GRAVES: No one in Syracuse was having fun. They're all doing the mysterious-guy hardcore thing, and it's just so negative. I mean, Garrett has a giant tattoo on his arm that just says "happy." We all come from completely different places and write in completely different ways. We came together and said, "We're going to be honorable and we're going to be honest and do what feels natural together." We've created a really nice family and support group for each other. It's a vital part of my being now.

JOYCE: And this "success," if you want to call it that, wasn't something that you foresaw at all?

AMBLER: We just wanted to be able to travel.

GRAVES: We've all been in bands before that make enough money to pay for gas to get to the next show. That's all we wanted, to be in a band with friends and smell bad and play shows in basements to 12 kids and get hurt and get raw. We had no intentions but to have fun with our friends. And where we're at now, that's still all we're doing.

JOYCE: It may be hard to talk about since there's only a few songs out there, but were there any musical or lyrical aims when you started the project?

AMBLER: We're all playing the same instruments we've always played in other bands, so we're literally just taking the good parts of all those other bands. We just take everything and melt it together. Everyone's doing something different, but it all comes together.

JOYCE: Is that hard to balance?

GRAVES: It always feels like we're teetering on the edge of absurdity.

MCANDREW: When I joined the band, they had two songs written, and I was trying to learn them, and it was like nothing I'd ever written. When I started writing stuff, I tried to write like how Meredith was writing stuff.

GRAVES: Lyrically, I had no intentions except being super honest. I had this idea of a very dry public conversation about a bunch of really negative experiences. When I had those experiences, people in the hardcore scene in Syracuse were all cunts to me. I started this band so I could force the conversation. That's all I've done. I'm just saying, "I feel bad." I'm extremely emotional. Everyone gets negative about sharing their feelings, they want metaphors, but I want to be extremely direct. It's important to be tender and vulnerable and to set an example of tenderness and vulnerability so that everyone feels safe to talk about their experiences too. I'm more than willing to wound myself repeatedly for the greater good. Mostly I really just embarrass myself a lot. Anybody that wants to talk to us can talk to us. We're people. You have to remember that at the end of the day we eat and shit and cry just like anyone else.


PERFECT PUSSY WILL RELEASE ITS DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ON CAPTURED TRACKS IN EARLY 2014. THE BAND IS CURRENTLY TOURING THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES AND WILL PLAY BABY'S ALL RIGHT IN BROOKLYN ON NEW YEAR'S EVE. TO HEAR I HAVE LOST ALL DESIRE FOR FEELING, PLEASE VISIT PERFECT PUSSY'S BANDCAMP.

 

 

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August 2014

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12/27/13 3:01pm

As a woman who has been attending shows (not religiously) in Syracuse for over ten years I had to comment. This band is trying to make Syracuse look like a bunch of scumbags.
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dipshit

12/25/13 12:16am

some thoughts on this interview...

http://imperfectpussygetit.blogspot.com

yaaaay
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