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Mannequin Pussy: More Vital Than Ever (Sorry)

Mannequin Pussy: More Vital Than Ever (Sorry)

On the eve of Mannequin Pussy's debut full-length--for band whose fuse burns this brightly, 19 minutes is a tour-de-force - it's a pleasure to report that the NYC group is more vital and arresting than it was two years ago, when we first made their acquaintance. Some of the cuts on Gypsy Pervert carry over from earlier releases, but the newer blasts are as brusque as they are cannily tuneful, with guitarist/singer Marisita Dabeast declaiming in no-bullshit fashion. With new drummer Drew Adler on board, former drummer Athanasios Paul has transitioned over to guitar. The shift lends a new fulsomeness to crunchy, abrupt blasts of punk-pop.

We caught with Dabeast over email to discuss the new lineup, the new album, and the band's future.

It's been two years since we've last checked in on Mannequin Pussy. What's changed for the band since then? The only thing that's the same as it was two years ago is that Thanasi and I are still in the band, and we still play all the songs from the Meatslave EP. About eight months ago, we became a three-piece, with Thanasi moving over to play guitar and Drew Adler joining us on drums.

If that transformation hadn't have happened when it did, I don't think I'd be talking to you right now. I long had a vision of what I wanted Mannequin Pussy to sound like and without Drew coming into our lives, I don't think those visions could have been realized.

How did Drew come to join the band, and what do you feel he adds to your sound? Did you guys know him before? Drew approached us after a show we played sometime late last year. He told us that he heard around town that we were looking for a new drummer, and that he really wanted the chance to play with us. It was true that we were "looking," but it was by no means an active search. We invited Drew to come to our practice space that week and play through the songs with us. It was a similar experience to the first time Thanasi and I played together: that chemistry and electricity was there immediately. Drew hits harder and more aggressively than most drummers I've seen; he was perfect for us.

Tell me about the making of your debut LP, Gypsy Pervert. It's got a nice mix of old Mannequin Pussy - the noisy, thrashing kind - plus some of what you said you were aiming for back in our first interview, i.e. "a 50's "rock'n'roll baby" vibe." Where, when, and with whom was it recorded? I was about to leave town for two months to play on the Colleen Green tour, and Drew and Thanasi kept saying that we should really record before I left. Around the same time, our friend David Stern introduced us to Andre Kelman of Oscilloscope, who offered to record the album with us over two days in February. It was my first time ever being in a recording studio and the whole process was both extremely cathartic and educational. I'm looking forward to recording a new EP in the near future.

Is it a self-release? Alex Edgeworth of Rarebit Records (a tape label out of Brattleboro) is releasing the tape. We've been very lucky in this process to find people who have wanted to work with us every step of the way. Alex is a phenomenal person and musician and I'm very excited that she's behind this first release.

What were the biggest lessons you learned from the Gypsy Pervert sessions? Recording is... not my favorite thing. It's too permanent. There are certain sounds I can still hear that I may never be able to make or capture. I don't know. Everyone who we worked with on the record - David Stern who co-produced it with us, and Jonny Schenke, who mixed it - they were the perfect people to have this first experience with. I'm hopeful that we'll will record a new EP right after this tour is done. We have the songs to do it, and I'm interested enough to try out this recording thing again.

How did you hook up with Rarebit? When I was living in Boulder, Colorado, I started dating this real handsome degenerate who introduced me to Alex. Their bands played together frequently and I was immediately very shyly smitten with Alex when I met her. She has this dominating Leo personality: so vivacious and confident. The first time I saw her band (Lust Cats of The Gutters) play it had a major impact on me.

Alex has been very supportive of Mannequin Pussy, and when she offered to put out the tape for us, I was initially hesitant because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with the recordings. It only took a night for me to realize that it would be a mistake not to release it with her. She's very committed to building a strong label and putting out lots of fantastic new music.

 

How did the Colleen Green tour gig come together, and what was that like for you? They seem like a more straight pop-punk band; is there anything about their approach or ethos that you feel could carry over to Mannequin Pussy? Everything I have learned about playing music, touring, and performing, I have learned from Colleen. I don't know if I can adequately express how important she is to me. I've seen her have to navigate so many different types of situations and it's absolutely carried over into the way I've found myself dealing with certain things.

"My Baby" is probably my favorite song on the album; you establish and sustain a melody succinctly, spend just enough time circulating it, then the song ends. How did that one come together? I generally write songs by obsessively humming a melody to myself for days, sometimes weeks or longer, without the aid of any instrument. I piece together all the different parts in my head until I'm ready to work it out with Thanasi into a playable song. "My Baby" is one of my favorites because it's despite being our catchiest, most pop song, lyrically it's very dark and fucked up.

"Clit Eastwood" is arguably the funniest song title I've ever come across. Thank you! I showed that riff to Thanasi in practice one day and he said it reminded him of the theme to Fistful of Dollars, one of his favorite movies ever. He says they don't really sound alike but have a similar vibe. Take that as you will.

There may be something to that; in a lot of your lyrics, there's a sort of gunfighter's stance. It can feel like you're daring someone, or facing or staring someone down. Definitely. There haven't been too too many reviews of shows we've played, but in those that have been written people seem to like to describe my physical attributes first. They expect from my appearance that I'm some sweet, gentle young thing who is about to bust out a ukulele and croon for them and then are "pleasantly surprised" when they realize it's not what they were expecting.

Talk a bit about the shift in songwriting and performance, now that you've got two guitarists. Was that a weird shift for the band in general and Thanasi in particular, in terms of how songs are written and developed? Sonically - even before I knew about this change - the new tunes felt more sophisticated, sharper. Basically, did Mannequin Pussy have to re-think its approach in the process? We haven't had to re-think anything, nor was there ever a discussion as to what Thanasi would play on guitar when he switched over. This came about too effortlessly for any heavy talking to get involved. Right when we started, we wrote like 20 songs in a very short period of time and then it just kind of creatively stagnated.

We got to play lots of really fun shows with those songs, but for the most part stayed in NYC; this is the first time we're going to be touring outside of this zone. Becoming a three-piece has made it feel like the possibilities are a bit more limitless; tour was something we considered before, but weren't serious about.

Some of your songs, the older ones and those that are new, are very intensely dark and personal. Is it difficult to put yourself out there, to reveal so much of your life in such a public way? Are there ever subjects where you have to draw the line, to pull back? You know, that's something I've tried not to think about but in my attempts to listen to this record on my own, I've grown to reluctantly accept that I've revealed a lot. I feel kind of sheepish about it. I try not to inconvenience people with my moodiness in my waking life. I don't know if I'm really revealing anything specific, maybe in some cases. My lyrics are kind of simple and obvious, I guess. Fuck pulling back, though - I don't want to censor myself, nor should I feel like I have to.

What has it been like for you guys as the profile of the band has grown, in terms of the amount of time you dedicate to the band versus day jobs and personal lives? Does it seem like you're any closer to making Mannequin Pussy a full or fuller time thing? It's tricky. I quit my semi-well paying day job to go on the Colleen Green tour and when I came back, I chose weird odd jobs to have the time to prep for this tour. NYC is a hustle, it's difficult for most musicians to have the full time band/and enough money to support themselves. Most people here have day jobs and night bands. Thanasi and Drew have jobs that have miraculously agreed to let them go on this adventure for a month. I would love to do future tours with MP but realistically I think we first need to see how this goes.

Mannequin Pussy play a release show for Gypsy Pervert at Death By Audio on Sunday, October 6.

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