Femme Unfiltered: Perfect Pussy

Twice a month, audiofemme profiles artists both emerging and established, who, in this industry, must rebel against misogynist cultural mores. Through their music  they express the attendant hurdles and adversities (vis-a-vis the entertainment industry and beyond) propagated by those mores. For our first installment, Rebecca Kunin profiles Perfect Pussy, who burst onto the scene earlier this year and jolted the music world with its message: women can scream just as loudly as men, and have just as much, if not more to say.

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PERFECT PUSSY: I HAVE LOST ALL DESIRE FOR FEELING

Perfect Pussy is a noisy lo-fi punk band from Syracuse, New York. Meredith Graves heads the band as the lyricist and singer. She is backed by guitarist Ray McAndrew, drummer Garrett Koloski, bassist Greg Ambler and synthesist Shaun Sutkus. Perfect Pussy combines Graves’ screaming lyrics with catchy guitar riffs and driving drums. The instrumentation, which is heavy on reverb, fuzzy guitar and feedback constantly battles Graves’ inaudible shouts. This results in an incredible, yet anxiety inducing and electrifying audio experience.

On April 25 Perfect Pussy released their debut demo, I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling. This EP includes 4 tracks, appropriately titled “I”, “II”, “III” and “IV”. I have Lost all Desire for Feeling features intimate and emotionally evocative lyrics from Graves’ personal life.

I’ve been lying to get attention.

Thankfully none of it ever happened,

nothing ever really happens.

I have a habit of telling extravagant lies;

Ask anyone, they’ll tell you.

So why didn’t I come forward, why didn’t I?

Ha ha ha, I deserve to be hurt like that.

Ha ha ha, it’s so funny isn’t it.

Oh, why didn’t I come forward?

It’s not your fault that I didn’t feel safe.

It is no surprise that Perfect Pussy is paving the way in the bk DIY scene, and mapping new frontiers within the nexus of feminism and punk rock.

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 Perfect Pussy Live: Shea Stadium 12/6/13

I went to see Perfect Pussy at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn last Friday. They were playing with a string of up and coming punk bands (Blessed State, Flagland, Yvette and California X).  Their performance was penultimate.

The first thing that my roommate said to me after entering the venue was, “Geez, there are so many men here!” This statement was very true. The male-to-female ratio was about ten-to-one.

Perfect Pussy took the stage nonchalantly, chatting with the audience and one another as they set up their instruments. After a sound check where Graves had the sound engineer turn the mic way up, (my poor ears!) they paused, and over the impossibly loud reverb and guitar feedback, Graves addressed the audience. “Hey everyone, we’re Perfect Pussy.” There was another brief pause, and the music began.

Then Meredith Graves opened her mouth, and the gender comment my roommate made no longer mattered. Screaming at the top of her lungs until she was red in the face and the veins were popping out of her neck, Graves wiped away all of my previous gender awareness in one fell swoop.

A moshpit instantly formed (the only one of the night) while Graves writhed, pirouetted and hurled her body around haphazardly. Graves commanded power when she flexed her biceps and formed fists on the stage. She even got in one mosher’s face while singing “I.” , pulling  the stranger forward so that their faces were almost touching while shouting “She’ll forget her actions. Someday I’ll forget her actions. Ashes to ashes to ashes, we will all die someday.”

In seemed like as soon as the set started, it had already finished. I had heard that they put on short shows but I didn’t expect it to be quite so short (They played 3 songs that lasted less than 15 minutes).  I like to think that Graves and the gang put so much into their performance that they exhausted themselves after only a few songs. Also, the fact that they have only released 4 tracks makes a 45 minute set perhaps more of a challenge. Regardless, they played an incredible show, well worth the hearing loss that I likely incurred (my ears are still ringing!)

 Femme Unfiltered: PERFECT PUSSY

In her music and performance, Meredith Graves presents an aggressive, unattainable and intimidating attitude.  Her lyrics are often aggressive or sexually explicit. “There’s no room in this world for people who hate men, fuck you // My best friend is back in town. There’s a bad taste in my mouth. Her eyes fell low and heavy with shame and cum.”

Graves’ also displays a more vulnerable and insecure side of herself.  “How long will I have you? //  Who am I to speak of permanence? //  I’ll be fifty in the book of names but goddamn it, I’ll be the last on the list // Someday I’ll stop begging you of who and how.” 

She represents a person who is both aggressive and intimidating yet also shy, vulnerable and flawed. Graves doesn’t seem to care about whether or not she is supposed to be the shy, vulnerable Taylor Swift type or whether she is supposed to play the domineering Beyonce/Lily Allen role. Those models are impossible extremes and, just like men, women are complicated beings. We are sexy, ugly, skinny, fat, mean, nice, shy, outgoing, slutty and prude, all in one person. Graves is brave and honest enough to expose the complexity and confusion of femininity. She displays her battles with aggression and insecurity in her lyrics.  “First I was softer, then I was stronger, now I am frightened, would you look at me now?” //  I’m a tough boy, wild and innocent and dangerous as hell.”

In an interview with Pitchfork she mentioned that the band’s name, Perfect Pussy is a response to her own insecurity about her body image. “Perfect Pussy” is Grave’s declaration that she no longer cares if she is ugly.

“Nobody can look at me and say shit about my appearance or my body, which is all too common for women in music. It’s like, ‘Are you going to call me a cunt? Are you going to tell me I’m ugly? Well, here’s my band name, ‘do your worst, motherfucker.’”

The contradiction posed in aggressive name of the band and her own feelings of insecurity indicate indicates that this complexity extends from her music to her life and back.

Graves’ combination of both femininity and masculinity in her writing and performing is seemingly genuine and effortless. Too often female musicians are pigeon-holed as certain “types”, yet Graves is able to successfully blend various colors of femininity into her music, thus promulgating power through honesty.

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Perfect Pussy has just finished playing a number of NYC events this past month and is now headed on a country-wide tour. Listen to I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling here via bandcamp:

 

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