- Photo courtesy of Daniel Topete
- Perfect Pussy (Ray McAndrew, center)
Say Yes To Love, the 2014 debut full-length from Perfect Pussy, is less than 30 minutes long but feels even shorter than that. Its opener, “Driver,” starts with a few seconds of hissing tape, then strummed guitar, before it’s off to the races with 20-plus minutes of intricately mixed lo-fi punk something-or-other, propelled by an endless supply of surprisingly pleasant feedback and Meredith Graves’ shrieking, yelping, irrepressible vocals. The thing has charisma.
Some people hear traces of Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine in the Syracuse band’s knack for balancing noise and substance, high-mindedness and apathy, but whatever it is, people have taken notice. (Even NPR is on board.) With a short tour kicking off next week and a follow-up record due sometime in 2016, CP spoke with guitarist Ray McAndrew via email to learn more before the band plays Brillobox Thu., Dec. 3.
What was the music scene in Syracuse like for you growing up?
The music scene that I was a part of was and still is pretty tiny. I think I dabbled between some of the local punks who ran a DIY venue and then some of the Syracuse University kids who played in a bunch of different bands. Some of my favorite bands were Friendless Bummer, Oak and Bone, Faxes and Sarongs. One of my brothers played bass in Sarongs, and I remember seeing them and thinking, “I need to start a band like this.” … Mostly the university kids played house shows because the local scene could be pretty unwelcoming. Other than that, Syracuse had a lot of jam bands, metalcore and dubstep shows at the shitty local theater.
Can you tell me about writing the song “Big Stars”? It’s interesting to me because in some ways, it’s totally emblematic of the whole record’s sound (mixing, structure, chords) and in others, it sounds like nothing else you’ve done.
Garrett and I wrote half of that song (up until about 50 seconds) and sort of got stuck. Eventually, I came up with the idea to just repeat the song but backwards. I always thought that song was neat because it feels like the song folds up like a piece of paper and then unfolds on itself.
Do you prefer performing at smaller or larger venues?
I don’t have a preference to bigger shows or smaller shows. They both have their pros and cons. I think our sound is really cool when we play smaller venues, and the room is just a sonic hellhole. But it’s also nice to play on a bigger stage and get a nice clean sound every once in a while. In terms of audience size, it’s the same situation. I’ve played some of the tiniest basements where kids went off, and we’ve played festival bills in front of huge crowds where kids went off. On the flip side, we’ve played smaller venues where people looked at us weirdly and giant theaters where people looked at us weirdly. It just depends on the crowd.
How do you each spend your time in the days leading up to a tour? How do you spend your first days back after one?
I do what I always do: Work and watch hockey. I also have started, as [engineer/producer] Shaun [Sutkus] likes to call it, a “DIY zoo.” I have a bearded dragon friend, a frog friend, a hermit crab friend, a snail friend, and my partner’s cat friend lives with us. I generally take care of them and our plants day to day and spend my free time playing music by myself or with other humans.
Were there any preconceptions about your forthcoming album before you started writing it? Was this process any different from SYTL or your first tape?
This album has been waaaaaaaaaaaaay different. The tape was mostly songs I had written before the band started … SYTL was written in about two weeks. We’ve been working on this one for months now, and we still only have like one fully formed complete song.
Is there a band/song/album that all members unanimously adore? Or maybe one that divides the group?
We all love Bjork, Kendrick Lamar, Pleasure Leftists, Sleater-Kinney and any kind of jazz. I don’t think there’s anything that exactly splits the band, but everyone seems to have a few bands that we like for our own reasons that no one else in the band likes. Mine is Defiance, Ohio.
The past year-plus must have been an exhausting and insane experience. Is there anything you regret or wish you’d done differently over that time?
There are so many things. None of us have ever done anything on this scale before, so of course we’re going to run into some issues here and there. It’s a trial-and-error sort of thing, but mostly I wish I had brought more than two pairs of socks on most of our tours.