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Perfect Pussy: “People Should Hate Our Band”

Written by David James Young on January 27, 2015

There’s seemingly not a great deal one can do in 23 minutes. You can get started on a couple of things, sure – cooking a meal, perhaps; or watching a movie. It’s a difficult task, however, to complete something – to achieve something – within such a short and specific time period. It’s done, however, on Say Yes to Love, the debut LP from noisy Syracuse septet Perfect Pussy, which also doubled as one of the most talked-about releases within the alternative musical spectrum within 2014.

This, really, is but a starting note on an exhaustive list outlining Perfect Pussy’s points of difference. As explorative and bold a release as it is, it’s but the tip of the iceberg as far as this band is concerned. Said list would inevitably shift to their graphic, NSFW name; before changing tack again to their graphic, NSFW music. It’s radioactive, piercing lo-fi hardcore with all the subtlety of a swinging hammer, thanks in no small part to the idiosyncratic leadership of vocalist Meredith Graves. Her end-of-tether shrieks and cries may recall acts like Crystal Castles and Bikini Kill in their stylistic approach, but in execution it becomes hers and hers alone.

For a band that feels as real as it gets, it’s interesting to note that the beginnings of Perfect Pussy stemmed from a world of fiction. Graves was asked to assemble musicians to pretend to be a band in a short film, where they ended up bonding and wanting to make this pretending a reality after filming was wrapped. Slowly but surely, the band’s profile has risen through acclaimed performances at esteemed events like South By South West and Pitchfork Festival, as well as some widely-acclaimed personal essays touching on Graves’ reactions to other musicians, a new life of touring and issues affecting her. It’s something that has truly resonated within the circles in which Perfect Pussy find themselves, as well as something that has drawn curious onlookers into the realm.

In an era when so much time is wasted bickering over the semantics of what does and what doesn’t make a band “punk” or not, Perfect Pussy have bypassed the argument entirely by focusing their attention on the bigger picture. Theirs is an ethos reflective of DIY communities and safe spaces. Theirs is a stance that cares not if they somehow “qualify” as a punk band, a hardcore band, a rock band, a noise band… At their core, Perfect Pussy want to be a band. Their list of demands is short and simple: shut the fuck up and listen.

Ahead of their first-ever Australian tour as a part of St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Music Feeds had the chance to speak with Shaun Sutkus; who is the band’s engineer, sound manipulator and keyboardist. Taking a moment away from working on new material with Graves, Sutkus spoke openly, honestly and explicitly (a language warning follows, for the younger readers out there) about finding their sound, some unlikely inspirations and why people “should hate” Perfect Pussy.

Watch: Perfect Pussy – I



Music Feeds: This is a band that’s still in its relative infancy. We’re still learning a lot about you guys and your own backgrounds. Shed a little light on how you came into the picture, musically – were you the kind of guy that was in bands in high school? Or did music factor in a little later?



Shaun Sutkus: In high school, I was just a consumer of music. That time in my life was just about seeking out the music that I liked. There were friends I’d go to for suggestions and things like that… I dunno. I never considered being a musician.

My background was in engineering, and I went to school for that. I studied radio and television. It wasn’t until college that I realised that I wanted to be a sound engineer. I more or less consider that what I do in Perfect Pussy. I’m more or less working with a soundboard on-stage.

There’s a part of mixing that’s musical. Not all engineers view it that way, but I think it’s important for people to understand it as art. An extremely technical one, too. Guitar playing is so strenuous, it can be so hard to do; but once you’ve gotten the foundations down and worked out where your strengths are, you can do whatever the hell you want. It’s the same with engineering.



MF: It’s an interesting element to introduce into that traditional structure of guitar, bass and drums. What’s your role in the songwriting process? Is it a matter of improvising over their work; or are you coming up with ideas alongside them?



SS: It always changes, I think. Every song’s different, y’know? The demo [I have lost all desire for feeling] was written in a different way to the full-length [Say Yes to Love]. Since I’m an engineer, I wasn’t even around when the album was being written. I was just getting the demos sent to me, and I was working on my parts in my spare time.

I was also tour managing and doing front-of-house stuff at the time, so I barely had any time to do anything else – but I made the time. When I got home, we came together and just did it. The demo, though, we all pretty much wrote it together in the same room. There were two songs that were all ready to go, and the others were written in our old rehearsal space. I miss that place a lot. We used to spend like eight hours a day in there, playing those songs over and over for about a month.



MF: That demo recently got reprinted and re-released. Do you listen back to old recordings and pick them apart – thinking you could have done this or that differently, etc. – or is it just a matter of accepting it and thinking it is what it is?



SS: I don’t pick apart that demo, no. Fuck no. That shit is exactly how it should be. I do have one or two things regarding the full-length that I’d like to think I’d do differently now, but it’s a very large scope. We’re really looking forward to writing our next record. We’ve done it once, and we can learn from the things that made us uncomfortable to make new things. Honestly, people are probably sick of hearing from us.



MF: Tell us a little bit about the gear and the pedals you use across your soundboard when you’re manipulating sound or generating noise as a part of the live show or the songwriting.



SS: I use the same exact set-up that I had when the band started, really. I’ve only added a couple of things in that time. I have this delay pedal, it’s a Fulltone Tube Tape Echo. That’s kind of my favourite pedal to use for everything. Pretty much everything I work on has that. One of the reasons I found out about it was through dub music – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, King Tubby, stuff like that.

Fucking dub music, man. It’s hugely influential on my set-up – I have a spring reverb, which is a dub thing; a tape delay, which is a dub thing too. I also have a phaser pedal. Then, there’s the mixing board. I would consider that to be the instrument of someone like Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, y’know.

MF: You could never pick up a dub influence in Perfect Pussy’s music if you didn’t directly say it…



SS: I’m heavily influenced by dub music, all the time. One of my favourite things to do is listen to that shit. I just adapted it into how I work, how I roll. It’s how I mix every band that I work on. Sure, not everything needs a spring reverb, or a phaser… in fact, nothing needs a phaser on it. [Laughs] When I hear a delay or reverb, it’s automatically where I start.

Listen: Perfect Pussy – Interference Fits

MF: At this stage, Perfect Pussy have developed a really strong live reputation. The general consensus seems to be that if you’re going to check this band out, it has to be live. It’s brought you guys to all of these incredible festival appearances, and it’s what’s bringing you to Laneway. Do you feel as though now is the best time to see you guys – especially from an engineering perspective?



SS: No. [Laughs] I feel like it’s the same. I dunno. I do the same damn thing on that stage every fucking night. Maybe it’s because I’ve done it so many times, but I dunno. I will probably never go back and be like, “How were we at this show? What about this show? Was it better?” It doesn’t feel like it, but I’m sure we are.

Then again, I have some sessions – just after we put out the demo, we recorded a session in LA at this place called Part Time Punks. I got the files to mix it, but then all this shit happened… I only got around to looking at them properly about a month ago. It took me about an hour to mix; and then I sent it back to the guy who sent it to me in the first place. He freaked out about it.

It was actually the first time I’d ever heard us play. I was like, “Wow. We sound really good.” Maybe it was because the record was fresh in my mind, I don’t know.



MF: The other major talking point of the band seems to be Meredith – not only as a prominent new female figure in punk and hardcore, but as someone who is not afraid of speaking their mind and never backing down from her thoughts and her opinions. Do you feel this side of the discussion detracts from the focus on the music?



SS: Absolutely fucking not. I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about it. I don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about us. I think that Meredith should be able to say whatever the fuck she wants. She’s smart, so usually people want to back her up with what she’s saying about whatever it is.

If people want to fucking attack her for something that she believes in… that’s bullshit. That’s not cool. People don’t agree with each other. That’s okay. There should be disagreeing in the world. People should not like our band. People should hate our band. I don’t get upset about it – I want people to think whatever the fuck they want. You can be an asshole or you can be a good person – it’s your choice to make.



MF: Billy Bragg once said that you tend to notice that the people that attack young, intelligent women online are almost always the exact opposite of young, intelligent and woman.



SS: [Laughs] Yeah, that much is true.



MF: You guys will be here very soon for Laneway and a few headlining shows. It’s your first time here as a band. Does going to new places and playing to new people excite you at all? Is it just another day on the job?



SS: No, it’s definitely exciting. I’m excited to get out of New York for a little while and get into the sun. Playing to new people… We’re always playing to new people. I know a handful of people that come and see us regularly, that’s pretty much it. I don’t really think about that side of things. We’re definitely looking forward to it.

I’m going to try and fit in some shows on my own, as well, while we’re there. I have a noise project called Pretengineer, so hopefully I get to do some stuff with that, too. It should be fun.

Perfect Pussy are performing at the upcoming Laneway festivals as well as two sideshows and one Laneway Festival Sydney after party. See those dates below.

Listen: Perfect Pussy – Driver

Perfect Pussy Laneway 2015 Sideshows

Tickets on sale now

Thursday, 29th January 2015
Supported by Todd Anderson-Kunert, Exhaustion and Ausmuteants
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Tickets: Handsome Tours

Wednesday, 4th February 2015
Support by Todd Anderson-Kunert, Tanned Christ and Low Life
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Tickets: Handsome Tours

Laneway Festival Official After Party

Sunday, 1st February
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Tickets: moshtix

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