Band-of-the-hour Perfect Pussy’s on the road in Columbus, Ohio, and the cell connection is hissy and scattered, rendering guitarist Ray McAndrew’s words more of a mosaic than coherent speech—perfect for a guessing game, not great for an interview. Still, it feels like a weirdly appropriate tribute to the band’s modus operandi, which wraps and obfuscates lead singer Meredith Graves’ vocals in distorted, amped-up noise.
McAndrews comes off as still a bit bemused by Perfect Pussy’s meteoric rise from a small cassette-hawking Bandcamp group to a buzz band touted by Pitchfork and obliquely name-checked by the New York Times as simply “unprintable.”
“When we first got all this attention, it was very unexpected, this very weird thing, very out of the ordinary. I think there was a moment when we didn’t know how to handle it,” he said. “It was very exciting, but we maybe compromised some of our morals, ideas, and after a month of that, sat down and said, we need to get back on track.”
It’s that hype that has dictated the band, for better or worse, pigeonholing them with reference points before they had released barely 20 minutes of material, and assigning them an identity before they had even really figured out who they were. Case in point: You’d be hard-pressed to find a blurb that doesn’t mention Perfect Pussy in conjunction with riot grrrl, the ’90s feminist rock movement that co-opted the punk scene.
“I don’t really listen to riot-grrrl bands ... I’m not too well versed in riot grrrl,” McAndrews said, interspersing his speech with frequent “I don’t know”s out of a sheer lack of expertise on the matter. “I know whenever someone’s asked Meredith about riot grrrl she gets offended a little bit. She always says riot grrrl was a very transphobic movement. I don’t know about that, but I don’t think we’re a riot-grrrl band either.”
Graves, a former gender studies major, has stated she’s doing overtly feminist work through the band, though the riot-grrrl label was probably provoked by the less thoughtful mathematical equation of a female-fronted band making aggressive music.
But according to McAndrews, the main point is just “making music that we like.”
It’s not about being punk or not, a label that’s been contested by other indie musicians; it’s not about proselytizing feminism, necessarily; it’s not about being the hottest band, though the perks are nice.
In fact, if Perfect Pussy has to be about anything, it’s escape. Home base Syracuse—and its less-than-open-minded music scene—is the crux of all of Perfect Pussy’s maturated angst, and PP is the one in a million band that actually became the ticket out for Graves, McAndrews, and their friends.
Columbus is “way better,” McAndrew said earnestly, about an hour before they were set to depart for another stop on the tour, another on the laundry list of places that are better than Syracuse. “Dude, that’s like, the reason we’re doing this. LA was great, I really like it there. That felt really good. Montreal was cool. Chicago was pretty cool. ... All of those places felt really natural.”