Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves Q&A: 'Other Bands' Complacency Is The Reason I'm Never, Ever, Ever Going To Shut Up'
Syracuse noise punks Perfect Pussy are this week's Radar Band Of The Week, earning the spot on the quite literal, undeniable strength of their debut EP, 'I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling', and their excellent forthcoming debut, 'Say Yes To Love'. They're two of the most flooring releases of the last 12 months, the band teasing celestial melodies out of bludgeoning noise while singer Meredith Graves confronts the rituals and artifice we construct around romance, alongside her experiences with betrayal and identity.
I spoke to Meredith the day she was headed to a local record pressing plant to pour vials of her blood into a limited pressing of 'Say Yes To Love', which will be released on March 17 via Captured Tracks.
NME: Is there a principle behind this beyond literally being able to say, “we poured our sweat and blood into this”?
Meredith Graves: That is just kind of it, it’s really that simple. It started with me as kind of a joke about making a record in the first place. Despite being in bands for years I’ve never done a music project on this level before. When we were putting a record out we were told, there’s going to be a special edition, you can do something crazy. I thought, 'ooh, this is crazy, maybe this is too much, but let’s do a letterpress cover.' Mike [Sniper], who runs the label, was like, ‘er, yeah, we can do letterpress covers for all of them. Think bigger than that.’ I started throwing out the most asinine, ridiculous ideas I could come up with because no-one’s ever given me that much freedom before. I said, 'alright, let me go get a vial of my blood and we’ll put my blood in the record'. Mike said, ‘that’s a great idea’. It started as this really relaxed joke, but once we said it we were like, we have to do it.
Does the blood loss pose any danger to you?
MG: It’s no problem. There’s no real hazard. I’m going to the plant myself to see it and do it so nobody else has to touch it, but other than that it’s pretty standard. The pressing plant that we’re going to is local and they’ve done this with other artists, where they’ve added something to the mix, so it’s kind of just like anything else.
You mentioned Captured Tracks – what made them the right label?
MG: They’re extremely hands-off. They’ve come at us from a place of deep acceptance and supported us no matter what we want to do, even when that thing is to do less, rather than more. One of the big differences between the hardcore scene and the music industry is the workload. [In hardcore] if all you want to do is put out a record and you’re not keen to participate in community, you do less work, because you just put the record out and that’s it. Whereas in this world there’s a lot more of a team surrounding it, and we can look at the people that run our label because we’ve all become such good friends, and say, we want to do this, we don’t want to do this. And they say, okay, that’s part of who you are as an artist, so go nuts.
There have been issues – we have a reputation now for being loudmouths, we frequently speak out about our politics and we say things that not everybody wants to hear and they get PO’d. And the label’s just like, okay, we got your back. Or things like, we want to put our actual blood in this record and they say, okay, we got your back. We want to keep the cost of the record as low as possible because we’re a hardcore band, and they’re like, okay, we got your back. It’s easy. We waited, we weren’t sure what we were gonna do about the whole label, booking agent, press, deal thing, because none of us have ever dealt with it before. But then we met people that felt like friends. The reason Captured Tracks was good is because I can walk into the office, put my feet up, eat everybody’s snacks, drink their coffee and nobody looks at me sideways. You know, it’s fun. The store is beautiful and the people that run it are so nice. One lady – I feel weird being like, oh, she’s our project manager, but she is, and she does an absolutely incredible job – I’m sleeping on her couch right now. These are our friends. The only difference between putting out a record ourselves on a small, boutique hardcore label is that we have a little more money and press behind us. It’s the same as putting out any record, you know.
It’s funny that you talk about having a reputation for being loudmouths – I was thinking earlier, the idea of a punk band being loudmouths is nothing new, but then maybe if you look at the more popular, alternative music of the last few years, there haven’t been so many outspoken bands. Everything’s been a bit shy and shoegazing and introspective. Maybe that’s why it seems refreshing or outlandish.
MG: Yeah, we coined a term for that – it’s called “Nirvana goth” and we want to burn it to the ground. It’s the most piss-off obnoxious waste of space. I’m proud of anyone who’s in a band and I don’t talk shit about anyone’s bands specifically – unless they’ve done totally fucked up things, in which case you can’t really stop me from talking – but that aesthetic of… I saw a book recently that I didn’t read, it was this anthology of poetry, but the title stuck with me – Under A Sky Of No Complaints. And that is where “Nirvana goth” comes from, Nirvana goth lives under a sky of no complaints. Nirvana goth is just, ‘oh, we’re just having fun, man’.
This website recently decided they wanted me to review some new, up and coming singles, and they sent me music videos for these bigger indie bands – we’re not at their level, they’ve got zillions of views on the internet and people that really like them and that’s great, I hope they’re having a wonderful time – but one of the bands was this Nirvana goth band, they had this racist, awful… I can’t even explain how stupid it was. I don’t want to talk shit, but at the same time, I see stuff like that and like, not only are you not doing anything constructive with the space you’ve been given to advance any sort of positive agenda, but you’re fully embracing your white privilege, like it’s a blanket that’s gonna keep you warm at night, and you’ve made this batshit nuts video – like, really? This is how you wanna represent yourself and your friends? This is what you want to do with the five minutes you have to exist on the world’s radar? You are wasting this. You do nothing. That to me is like a singularly offensive act, to have space and you do nothing with it. That complacency is the reason that I’m never, ever, ever going to shut up. We as a band – I mean, there’s something to be said for laying back and not taking everything so seriously, the equivalent of what I do is like getting angry on the internet, it’s just yelling at nothing, I know that. But at the same time, but if it’s not in me to just be complacent, then…
Certainly in the last few years, the prevailing aesthetic in popular quote-unquote alternative British bands has been that there’s nothing less cool than caring about something. Why would you possibly care about anything?
We did this issue in October called Young Britannia, with all these young British bands in it being asked about what’s right or wrong with music, Britain, culture and so on – so many of them were totally apathetic about the politics and the world around them. It made me think, are you fucking kidding me, is this the young voice of our generation?
MG: They’re in the position where you have the luxury and the privileges to just kick back and have a good time. They have nothing to worry about, so… congratulations. Life must be great for you.
I know you’re friends with Joanna Gruesome – they were in that piece, and we had a feature on them recently where Alanna was calling out those kinds of bands, calling them out on their sexist videos, how alienated they feel from the conveyor belt major label world. I loved her for it.
MG: I’m glad that there’s music in the world for everyone. I’m glad there’s those Young Britannia bands, I’m glad that they exist, I’m happy there are bands that have a million people showing up to their shows – I think everyone that gets on stage and tries to play music is a brave person, but I also think most people are terrible. And I have tried with all the fire in me to reconcile all of these different feelings that I have, and I’ve just had to let them co-habit, I’ve had to put the snake and the gerbil in the same cage and hope they both survive. I want everyone to feel free to make music – but most people are total pieces of shit. And most music sucks. And it’s boring. And I still won’t say anything bad about people, because the second your band starts to do anything, the second one website wants to print a picture of you, the second one of your shows gets acknowledged as being something important to go to or wants to interview you or talk to you – the whole world and their mothers what birthed them run to your back and start poking you with needles and saying nasty things about the way you dress. It is not a fun world to live in.
If you surrender any part of your personal life to the public domain, you automatically become a victim of this gaping maw of the internet that tries to swallow you and kill you. That fire with which people blindly hate things that they’re not part of, that is the reason that I have to sit here and clap for people whose bands that suck dog dick. I’m never going to stop clapping but at the same time there is a line, and that line is having shitty politics. When a band does things that are fucked up, when people in a band do things that are wrongity-wrong-wrong-wrong, I can’t stand behind them any more, and that’s the thing where I’m actually gonna say something. I’m perfectly willing to martyr myself, I know my quote-unquote career is worth about one record, so while I’m here I might as well throw myself under the bus. You know, whatever, it’s fun. And a lot of what Alanna says, yeah, she says brilliant stuff like that. I’m really excited that we’re doing a 7” with them and if we actually make it over to the UK we’re touring with them. I’m happy.
Talking about the ‘black maw of the internet’, it sounds as though you’re speaking from your personal experience of the last six months or so.
MG: Yeah. I don’t really read it, I don’t really pay so much attention to it – I’m kinda lucky for being out of touch. Every once in a while we’ll get an email that’s like, here’s this nice article that somebody wrote about you, but I can’t start engaging with that, I really can’t. I really need to calm down, I get super riled up about this band stuff. I take it too seriously, and my goal for the next little while is going to be to like, step back and remember that being in a band is about one thing, and that is playing fucking music. Nobody wants to talk about that, everybody wants to have a Facebook, everybody wants to be popular now, and that doesn’t really make sense to me.
We weren’t trying for anything when we started the band, and we’ve never been like, let’s make something sound like this, or let’s try and get something on this website, or let’s go and do something that’s going to make us exponentially more popular. And that’s the difference between us and a lot of the “Nirvana goth” bands and music-as-lifestyle-choice dudes, it’s that they want to be popular, like, there’s this band that… I don’t want to talk shit about anybody’s band, there’s a band that was born into the world to try to do a record on the label that we’re on. That was their goal, is being popular, and these guys are shitty, they’re garbage, they’re nasty dudes. They do fucked up things to women and live a fucked up little penis existence, and we know those bands exist because they’re in our circle. They’re so gross we want to puke, it’s like, these are junkies that hit women. Congrats.
I don’t want to be a shit-talker. I’m not… here to say anything bad specifically. There’s any one of a number of bands that I could say the exact same thing about. So many hardcore bands, so many indie bands comprised of men that go out into the world and do terrible things with the privileges they’ve been granted from birth, and in general that are just shitty and manipulative and abusive, and it’s exhausting because that’s what comprises the base level of the cult of cool. And to me it’s really reprehensible. It’s a big world, you have the opportunity to learn and then you have the opportunity to go out and try to make it a less horrible place to be. It feels like most people, when they’re faced with that choice, just turn it down.
When you’ve talked about the album, you’ve said, ‘it’s just as bad as the EP, only slightly longer’, which is quite self-deprecating. I know the band started as a fake band – it feels like you weren’t taking it particularly seriously but then there came was a point where you decided that you were going to.
MG: I mean, sort of, sort of not. My problem personally is that I throw myself headlong into projects and I make them my entire life and I let them eat me, but that’s because the second I step out of the world of singular focus I tend to go a little bananas and have panic attacks all the time. So I’m only ever really happy when I have a big thing to focus on because the second I lose focus is when I start thinking and when I start thinking nobody has fun. I don’t necessarily think we’re taking the band that much more seriously. We’re doing more as a band, but if we were to stop and be like, oh my god, now we really need to focus on our career in music, it would all fall apart! We’re just trying to play shows and put out records and have a nice time. It’s really nice. I’m afraid of what would happen to all of us as people if we tried to change what we were doing, you know?
By becoming more serious, I didn’t mean like, ‘guys, we have to get our song on this website’, but there’s radical messages in your music that could have profound effects on people. I wondered if seeing how people reacted to your music had made you re-evalute it. Not saying you’d tailor your music to those responses, but becoming aware that this is a serious thing that will mean something to people.
MG: Yeah, I absolutely understand what you’re saying, but for me, I don’t really register that; to me, it’s my job. It’s my important job and I’m like anybody else that has any other job, I take it seriously. I do take it seriously because if somebody comes to a show to see us, the last thing I would ever want would be for them to be disappointed, and so every night no matter whether there’s 12 kids at the show or 400 people, we play until our arms and legs are falling off. We take it seriously, we don’t fuck up, we never throw away a show. It doesn’t matter how many people are there, it doesn’t matter who those people are, we play harder to smaller rooms. We play longer sets and we play way harder if there’s 20 kids there who drove from surrounding towns to see a punk show. We rip the moulding off the doorways. We play like animals to fewer people. No matter what show we’re playing we want everything to be equally important. Every time we play is a chance to try to do our best, and that is where we definitely take it seriously, we play super hard. That’s for sure.
Does that characterise the earlier shows that you did?
MG: We only played a couple of shows before we came to New York and started playing places like 285 Kent. We played a friend’s basement and then we went to Philly and we played at this punk house, basement shows. Everyone in this band is from the hardcore scene, and so when we started this band and we wanted to start playing shows, we weren’t approaching a bar saying, can we play here? That’s not what happens – you hit up a band and you say, oh, does your band want to play a show with us, come down to Philly on this weekend and we’ll set up a couple of shows. We were lucky enough to go see some friends and then after that we ended up playing a show in New York, and then we played shows in Western Mass., then we got around to the places that our other bands have gone, and then slowly we just sort of… with a little bit of attention we started getting booked on crazier and crazier shows. Now we’re touring almost full time. So now we’re playing everywhere. Where we can we play house shows, warehouse shows, we play halls, wherever they want us, we’ll go, we’ll play any show.
I don’t know whether you want to, but have you given up your jobs?
MG: Everybody that is in our band has jobs that can kind of move with them. A couple of the guys work at the same restaurant, and it’s a very close-knit community where we’re from, like, when you come back, see you in a few months, let me know when you’re back and we’ll put you on schedule or whatever. Shaun and I are both tradespeople. Shaun is an engineer – he records bands, he works at a recording studio, that’s what he does, and I’m a seamstress, I run my own business. I have a little full-time job, but I have my own business so I can kind of pick it up and drop it as needs be.
I said a while ago, the only people that ever talk about my appearance are journalists that might be interested in fashion and think it’s funny that I’m interested in it. I grew up hearing narratives of women saying, it’s very hard to be a woman in music, everyone wants to talk about your appearance, what you look like, what you’re wearing, whether it’s revealing, tra la la. I geared myself up for that, but it seems like people are so repulsed by me that they don’t want to talk about how I look, and I think it’s fantastic. And I asked the guys in the band about it, I said to Greg specifically, why do you think it is that all these women are talking about how painful it is to be objectified as a woman in a band, why do you think nobody wants to talk about that with me? He said, it’s very simple, it’s because you’re ugly! And he just dropped it, left it at that and didn’t want to talk about it any more.
It’s funny that you think it’s because people are repulsed. It’s certainly not always an accepting space, but thinking about the sphere in which your band has been written about, maybe people are responding to you on your own terms – looking at you and understanding that that’s not what you’re about, knowing that it doesn’t matter. I wondered if it was vaguely progressive. That might be wishful thinking.
MG: Yeah, I think it’s cos I’m ugly! No, I think you’re spot on, I think you’re right and that’s nice. It’s refreshing, but at the same time, no-one deserves a parade for meeting with their minimum expectation of being a decent human being. So congrats to everyone that managed to not kill a bag of kittens with a baseball bat today, you met the minimum standard for not being a complete piece of shit.
Have a featured Jezebel post about what a nice guy you are.
MG: Oh yeah, make sure Jezebel gets that, that’s a real feminist website.
That Lena Dunham photo thing!
MG: A witchhunt of Lena Dunham! I have feelings about that. I’ve still never seen Girls, and I caught myself last night making critical commentary about things I’ve read about Girls – I never need to see the damn show. I’m not exactly up on television, but at the same time, the fucking witchhunt for the untouched photos, that’s literally the most absurd thing ever. People want to bitch about, fashion’s not punk, or punks are too fashionable, or TV isn’t cool, or the intersections of all these – at the end of the day you can smell a rat. That’s a fucked up thing to do. That was Jezebel impying that they fundamentally understand that a woman that looks like Lena Dunham doesn’t deserve to be in Vogue, so of course they fucked with the way she looked.
It’s like the grossest, most crass, like, third wave feminist female chauvinist pigs Ariel Levy like… I don’t even know. That’s everything that places like Rookie are trying to un-fuck. Everything about the '90s nostalgia thing that’s going on right now is great except Nirvana and third wave feminism. That’s my empirical truth for the day. I’m all about the '90s revival because I love high-waisted acid wash denim, but I hate third wave feminism and I hate bands that are trying to sound like Nirvana. That shit can die. That witch hunt – unretouched photos of a brilliant writer’s boobs. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.
I get that you’re not a fan of your voice, which is why you bury it, but you write striking lyrics that are hard to pick out from under all the noise. You’re exposing yourself but concealing it at the same time. How immediate do you want it to be?
MG: I don’t know. I feel like it’s entirely fake when I say stuff like this, but I’m just going with it. I’m shy about my voice, it’s a little more audible on this record, it’s whatever. It’s like, I write the lyrics I do, people ask if I buy them because I’m saying such vulnerable things, and I’m like, no, if I didn’t want to say vulnerable things I wouldn’t write them down in the fucking first place. I know people are gonna see it eventually, that’s largely why I do it. So, I don’t know, I’m just playing it as it lays I guess, with this band in particular because we never had any intentions from the outset, I’m taking it as it goes. We’re lucky.
When did you record, and how long had the songs existed before you went into recording?
MG: One song we had written like a month before. The entire record was written from writing the initial songs to me writing the lyrics to being fully recorded and mastered and in the hands of the people that were putting it out in like, a week. We did everything in a week spread out over two weeks. The guys went and recorded, then nobody did anything for five days, then I went in for three hours and did all my vocals all in one clip. Shaun mastered it overnight, everything was done start to finish in a week, except for one song, which we had written a little while before that because we realised we only had four songs, and we were playing shows and people thought we were the biggest assholes on the planet.
Because the shows were so short?
MG: We have no room for anything but economy – if we write a song it’s going on the record and we’re playing it. There are no secret songs, we write them as we go. Everything is done very on the fly. We recorded where we had done it before, our keyboard player is a recording engineer, he’s extremely talented because he studies what he does and he takes it extremely seriously, so I trust his opinion implicitly. We wind up and say go and he makes a record.
When were you recording?
MG: It was just a week in November. Just like, okay, we want to make the record this week and we did it. It was very nice, no pressure.
I know you said you don’t think about it so much, but one of my favourite things about your songs is that they’re incredibly intense and noisy, but then there’s this almost celestial, ecstatic, white light melody that comes out of all that. Is that something you strive for, maintaining the balance of melody and attack?
MG: It’s just sort of part and parcel of what happens with this band. The whole thing about the writing process is that Ray turns up with a guitar part, Garrett says, okay I’ll write the drum part to go with it, Greg says, okay, I’m going to write the bass part, and we literally, everyone writes their own parts, there’s no real super collaborative effort to make things sound a certain way, so it is that chaotic all the time. But when we record it’s very interesting because Ray, Garrett and Greg go in to record their guitar, drums and bass – that’s a totally clean record. It sounds like grunge rock. The noise isn’t fake. The noise is me and Shaun making noise on purpose. It’s all there all the time. There’s no distortion on Ray’s guitar, and Greg’s bass is clean and Garrett’s drums are really poppy, then Shaun comes in with a whole set of machines just designed to make screaming noise, then I come in and make a bunch of screaming noise, and all of this is happening at once. There’s no conscious allusion to melody in there, it’s just there the whole time. Everyone’s writing on top of each other, so when something happens and it’s kismet like that, that little tiny ray of light, it’s completely by accident. But we’re lucky, because it happens with frequency. It’s kind of funny in a way, it being completely unintelligible.
You’ve talked about how Barthes was a big influence on the EP. I’m interested in your literary tastes, did anything else factor into the record?
MG: Barthes is always in there because I’ve been reading and re-reading A Lover’s Discourse. I’m writing about such personal stuff that what I’ve read for years, that’s all there. Whatever I’m reading at any given moment impacts performance, what I’m like on tour and how I am in interviews. Two of the influences on the record were ee cummings, the poet – the lyrics that come with the record is laid out like his poetry because I see it like that, and I steal wildly. I owned up to ripping off Barthes for the demo because I didn’t want some nerd somewhere to be like, um, she doesn’t write her own lyrics, she steals them from books. No shit, and if you’re smart enough to pick up on that, then cool, and we have a secret, you don’t need to rail against me for it.
On the record it’s ee cummings and then Wire, the band Wire was a really big influence. I was revisiting records from my childhood a lot, and I grew up listening to them, and their cold lyrics – their whole lyrical bent is so far removed from how I do things, but there are these little lines, songs that only have four lyrics, that word-economy – which is of course the functional opposite of what I do – is so important, and those short lines that are so impactful, that’s something that really speaks to me. And in the last month, I’ve been reading Badiou’s In Praise Of Love. And that’s been a really great denoument for making this record that was about all these horrific, nasty relationships that I’ve been in. Reading In Praise Of Love [means] the next record might be genuinely positive, I don’t know. If we even make another record.
You said that earlier – why do you foresee that limit?
MG: Because too many bands exist for too long, they take up too much space and nobody wants to make room. Get on stage, play your set and get off, quit fucking around, make one record and stop before you start to suck, that should be the rule for everyone, ever.
I was interviewing a band the other day who ask themselves if they can continue to justify their existence. I wish more bands asked themselves that.
MG: It’s like how I feel about band reunion shows – I think everyone should feel free to make whatever music they wanna make, but don’t bring your old band back together unless your old band is still really fun and you have fun doing it. Just start a new band, risk not being famous, I know it’s a scary idea, guys, but like, risk doing something that sucks. That’s my biggest beef with the world in general, all the time is that people are afraid to suck. And that’s why I’m so proud of being in this band – we literally only do what comes naturally, and if that sucks then we would have been fine with that too.
I just think the problem with looking at yourself and asking yourself, how can I continue to justify this band’s existence, is because everyone’s gonna ask themselves that question looking for an answer. And they’re gonna come up with an answer, when really the trick is that most people would ask themselves that question and they wouldn’t have an answer, then their existence would be negated because too many people define themselves by what they do. Being a musician is no more fucking special than a steelworker or a school teacher or a janitor – being a musician is a job. Getting a record out on a label doesn’t stop you having problems with your family, it doesn’t fix your health problems, it doesn’t make you a happier, better person, it doesn’t mean you’re suddenly sleeping on a bed stuffed with money, it’s a job. You need to take it seriously and treat it with the same respect you would any other job that you like. When your band stops being relevant, that’s effectively like being fired, go and start another band. Don’t sit around mumbling about how important your existence is. It’s okay to not be popular, move on and do something else with your time.
I found it interesting that the album title is presented as a statement, but then on ‘Interference Fits’, the song that the title comes from, it’s presented as a question, and almost a capitulation, like, since when do we say yes to love? One of the things I took from the record was this extreme cynicism about love, and almost that you perceived relationships and monogamy as some sort of regressive state.
MG: Yeah, it’s just my opinion so I don’t want to come out swinging and be like, monogamy is terrible. But it is. I get into conversations like this a lot about what we can and can’t avoid as a species, and about the problems inherent to – and especially working in the industry I worked in for so long, this idea that nobody wants to get married but everybody wants a wedding. It’s weddings that I have a problem with, not healthy relationships. Who could look at a good, healthy, long-term relationship and be like, hmm, I don’t believe in this because monogamy’s stupid? I’m not an asshole, I’m not an idiot – I mean I am, but not on those terms. People keep asking me about the title of the record but nobody’s heard it so they haven’t seen that. It’s kinda funny.
But then the second half of that song is about my failed relationship. I was going to marry the person that I was in that long-term relationship with! I mean, it’s a little different, the person I was in that relationship with isn’t a US citizen and didn’t know his green card was up for renewal and almost had to go back to Japan for two months where he doesn’t speak the language and there was this whole situation where he had to get his Green Card documents even though he lived in the country since he was four years old. It was super stupid, the craziest – every bad thing you hear about immigration, all at once. I thought I was in this relationship where I was gonna be with this person for a really long time. And then when we broke up, within like days, my life had gone right back to where it was before I met him. I was happy and I immediately felt this huge weight lifted off my shoulders, the weight of this expectation. And I realised after that, like wow, that was a close call. Like, I almost got sucked into something that I probably would have regretted hugely.
A lot of the record – it’s not really a breakup record and it’s not really about relationships, it’s kind of about breaking up with myself. Like, this identity that I’d crafted over a couple of years where I wasn’t touring, I wasn’t in bands, I wasn’t really having any creative output, and I was in this really serious relationship and we were living together and we had a garden and we had friends and we had this whole couples life thing that people fall into when they’re young and they fall in love, and I worked really hard and getting that, and I worked twice as hard at telling myself that that was what I wanted. And then when we broke up I felt like my whole identity had gone away because I had worked so hard at it. So really, it’s about all of my really complicated feelings about that, it’s about breaking up with myself and wondering who I am in the face of all these relationships I’ve had, some of which have been absolutely horrific but some of which have been really good, and then ended anyway because relationships end. Best case scenario, somebody dies first.
Didn’t you spend a year living alone, cut off from everything?
MG: Oh yeah, absolutely, almost two.
When you say breaking up with yourself, was that part of that process?
MG: Being with this guy, I mean this guy and I broke up after the demo came out, it was pretty recent. And that year that I spent removing myself from hardcore and not being part of that – that’s when I was with him. He was part and parcel of that removal from the culture that I had been so accustomed to participating in. My year of living with him and trying to do that relationship thing was my replacement for all the work that I had put into being in bands and putting out records and running a space and engaging with the scene. I separated myself from that and maybe six months later I met this man and we embarked on this year-plus relationship that was just really hectic and wonderful and beautiful and healthy and then got really bad.
Everything comes in waves. Being with him was wonderful and painful and being part of the hardcore scene was wonderful and painful. Greg reminds me constantly that you have to have both, you can’t ever get too happy about things because then you’ll get twice as sad about things that happen that are really negative. So I guess I can talk about it as a breakup record and I can talk about myself being jaded and not believing in love and all these things that are fundamentally true because I’m a lonely, jaded motherfucker. But at the end of the day I still have to be really grateful and I still have to say really nice things about this guy because he was so important to me. We can’t even be friends now because he’s fuck shit nuts! But I love him and he’s a great person. And he ends up being in the studio with me while I was recording the vocals for the record. It’s totally teenage stuff – we go back and forth. Right now we’re not even speaking. Cos I want him in my life, I want him to be my friend, it’s complicated.
Was he who you wrote the songs for where you’re almost thanking him for breaking up with you?
MG: Something like that, yeah. Or at least, no, I’m talking the breakup itself. There’s at least one song – there is one song on the record [‘Work’] where I go at him for breaking up with me and then showing back up a few months later trying to weasel his way back in to my life, that’s definitely in there. That’s the last song that I wrote. And I wrote it the day before I went in to record it and he was there. That’s how close this record is to me, that’s why I have to go put my actual blood into the record. The record happened, it was written as it happened to me, it’s that close to me, it’s the most honest thing I’ve ever done.
Can you tell me a bit more about the time that you spent living alone? Was this after you broke up with the drummer from your old band?
MG: In the wake of whatever had happened between the two of us I was going through some really extreme trauma, and I turned to people in my community and said, I need you, and I was rejected. So I went back to not participating, I was silenced. It gets worse and weirder and crazier, and sometime I would love to write an 18-page expose lambasting every person that was shitty to me, but that’s pointless. So I went back to it. That was different, that was like recovery from trauma. And then a year later from that is when I wrote the lyrics to our demo which was kind of me being like, okay, I’ve had a year to be a dried up shell of a person total piece of shit that cries every day and thinks of herself as a victim – it’s time to get over this. And that was when I wrote the demo. And I had been with the person that I’d separated from more recently for several months at that point, and he was there when I was playing it, he had been privy to my recent history, he knew all about it.
These things overlap, I can’t look at these things on a timeline, I have to look at it more like a soil strata, where all of these things are layered on top of each other and overlapping and happening at once. There’s no real fixed timeline for when you can and can’t care about people, relationships do overlap. So that’s what I was doing, I was recovering from the terrible trauma of one relationship while out of the blue meeting a person who I thought was the most wonderful person I’d ever met, and trying to recover while also trying to be closer to this person I thought was inherently beneficial to my life, and stepping away from the culture that I had come to be part of, trying to move toward different art and feeling really weird about it. My life is always this confluence of really chaotic events – I can’t ever just do one thing at once. The second anything starts to slow down, that’s when I get weird and anxious.
After spending that time away, you got back into the hardcore scene. What was your motivation, how had your time apart informed your perspective on all that?
MG: Well it taught me that I didn’t have to take shit any more. When I was in that other band when I was with that psycho motherfucker, that bad bad bad bad bad man – that’s one person that I have absolutely no problem talking shit about, my ex-boyfriend who was the drummer of my first band is a fucking psycho. He’s horrible. And he’s still in bands and people still book his bands and he’s dangerous and has assaulted people. He’s wandering around scott free, because that’s how hardcore works, when people don’t actually want to be accountable. I don’t know – when I started that band and when I started doing that and was in my relationship with him, I was 22, 23, and then I’ve been through everything I’ve been through and now I’m 26, nearly 27 – 25 was a big one for me.
The year I turned 25 was six months after I separated from the psycho – that first six months was spent retraining myself to not take shit. I went through my period of being a cry-off and suffering greatly, then realised that like, no, I have to run towards the things that terrify me. That’s what I’ve learned over the last couple of years, there comes a point where I just had to grow a set and be like, I’m not gonna take shit like this any more. That’s really what I learned from it, I grew up a little bit, I think everybody does – or rather, hopefully everybody gets the chance to.
Which other cities have you lived in?
MG: I’ve lived in upstate New York for most of my life in little farming communities, right near the border of Canada. There was a summer that I lived in the Pacific North West, I was living in a fishing village with my then-boyfriend, right on the ocean. I’ve spent a lot of time travelling, I’ve been in a lot of bands that have toured, I’m lucky. I haven’t seen as much of the world as I want, but I’ve never really had a reason to. I’ve lived all over, but mostly upstate New York.
You talked about running a space, was that in Syracuse?
MG: Oh yeah, that was in Syracuse and that was actually with my creepy ex-boyfriend, and the person who helped us out with that space was Greg. He was an intrinsic part of running that space, as were a lot of people that I used to be friends with. It was a really good space for a year, and then the whole community started to disintegrate.
Was it primarily a show space?
MG: It was just a show space, an old office under the apartment building that we all lived in. Greg and I were neighbours that lived across the hall from each other. My then-partner, psycho dude, booked shows, he was kind of head honcho of the space. I was the person that fed and housed and entertained bands when they came through, and Greg took care of the physical space, when shit fell apart, he ran the door, made sure no assholes came through, whenever anything went wrong he took care of that. So the three of us along with a core group of other people kind of made the space what it was for a while and then it totally fell apart and people are still trying to do shows there but the people in our hometown scene are really reprehensible and right now I feel like they’re beating a very dead horse. The whole problem with our community is that there’s 12 people and they all do things for each other’s benefit, everyone’s just back-patting, they’re doing things to entertain each other, it’s very much a regional hardcore scene, it’s very small and close-minded.
Can you tell me about a few new-ish bands that you like?
MG: We have a great trifecta going of bands that are either from our city or close to our city that we’re very good friends with. They’re all really good people, generally speaking the only not totally normative people making punk music in our area. One is our friend’s band Friendless Bummer, they’re a three-piece. The singer of Friendless Bummer is a guy named Ben, and he’s one of our drummer Garrett’s very best friends. They’re super wonderful, they’re like campy, cowboy, rockabilly… super funny, they kind of sound like Pissed Jeans. They did a record last year called ‘Friends Forever’ that’s really good.
Then there’s a band called Green Dreams – the singer of that band, I made her wedding dress. She’s a really great friend of mine, her name is Jesse, she shreds, the drummer is her new husband, they’ve been married for a little while, they’re two of the coolest people on the planet. They make the most straightforward rock’n’roll, it has this weird psychedelic vibe, all these weird ‘70s sounding really clean line guitar solos and lyrics about cats, witchcraft, beating up boys that say nasty fucking things about you at shows. I could watch that band every night for the rest of my life. Green Dreams is amazing. They put out a record last year called ‘Sweats’ that’s really good. They’re coming to Syracuse next week to record a 7” with Shaun, so we get to hang out for a day and I’m super excited.
And then there’s another band from our city that’s actually the pet project of Shaun’s best friend, a guy named Tom, called Popular Music. Popular Music is the kind of band that shouldn’t exist, it’s just so weird and upsetting and like, you listen to it and the first 10 listens, you don’t even know what you’re listening to. He’s so weird. It kind of reminds me of – he would hate this because I think he thinks he’s just making straightforward new wave dance music, but really he sounds more like Dave Thomas from Pere Ubu, he’s super weird, really far out, and his lyrics are really strange. He sang in really straight 90s-style hardcore bands, but he took that approach to making new wave with gang vocals. It’s really weird. They’re about to record too, I might end up playing guitar on that record, they don’t have a guitarist right now, just this rotating group of people around our friend Tom being really weird. The one time I saw them live Shaun was playing with them.
Those are the three that we’re definitely closest to as people, and like, they’re the people from our area that we actively want to represent, because we talk a lot of shit about Syracuse and we’re always kinda like, the music from our town is terrible because everyone is bad, but those bands are good. And the people in them are nice.
You said you were going to play guitar – do you play at the Perfect Pussy live shows, or do you just sing?
MG: I just sing, I wish I played guitar, I miss it.
Why don’t you do it?
MG: I was originally playing guitar, when we were first starting to do this band when it was just me, Greg and Garrett, I was playing guitar. And then I wasn’t writing anything, I’m not a prolific songwriter, so when Ray expressed an interest, I was like, oh yeah, you play lead guitar. But then everyone was like, no, you should just write these songs because you’re lazy and you’re not doing anything. I was like, okay. I always said I wanted to be in a band where I only have to do one thing, I played guitar and sang in my last band and it was too much work. And then the guys were like, this is a great opportunity, you can do just one thing, you can sing! And I should have been more clear when I rubbed the genie’s lamp, what I meant to say was that I want to be in a band where I just play guitar. I will not make this mistake again! Singing in a band takes an absurd amount of energy and I’m not necessarily sure I was the best person for the job. I’m going to do the best I can! I’m just not sure it was the best idea.
It’d be a totally different band if it wasn’t you singing.
MG: Right?! It would be an incredibly different band, I would like to see that band.