One of the final scenes in the 1976 Watergate flick All the President's Men is of reporters Woodard and Bernstein typing away while a televised Richard Nixon takes the presidential oath in their newsroom. They are oblivious or unconcerned; calmer than the eye of a hurricane as they essentially sign what will become the president's pink slip.
This is not unlike the situation Syracuse noise-punk quintet Perfect Pussy find themselves in today. A year ago, a Google search of the band's name would've resulted in a lot of things very unrelated to this much buzzed about group. Right now, while a whirlwind of publicity surrounds them, giving them a political and social agenda, slapping labels on them that will probably end up in voice-of-a-generation level hyperbole, Perfect Pussy are just playing their music to whoever wants to hear it. This sort of hysteria is not completely unwarranted; singer Meredith Graves has given numerous interviews speaking to her explicitly personal lyrics and the band is provocatively named. But according to keyboardist Shaun Sutkus, this comes from Perfect Pussy's desire to remain as autonomous as possible, and to not let anyone outside of the group be a mouthpiece for it.
Shortly after the band formed, Graves, Sutkus, guitarist Ray McAndrew, drummer Garrett Koloski, and bassist Greg Ambler recorded a demo cassette and praise spread like wildfire. "We weren't expecting this," Sutkus says. "It's been really, really nice though."
"We write all the songs before the words are even written. There really isn't any thematic content (in mind as the music is written). Nothing changes when we record. It's just gonna be whatever we feel like at the moment. That's just gonna be what happens when we record in the future."
Perfect Pussy's 2014 debut album, Say Yes To Love (Captured Tracks) was recorded and released very quickly. The record's eight songs speed by in 23 minutes of exhilarating distorted vocals by Graves and the band's synth-spiked hardcore. Sutkus explains that nothing about the album was premeditated. "It was completely natural. That way, I think you have more fun and have a better time. We're just being ourselves. ... We don't have any thematic content (that unifies the songs)," he says.
Sutkus produced the record and has been a sound engineer and tour manager for other acts over the past five years.
"(Recording was) really fast. I was on tour with this other band, doing sound. We had to have the record done by December. So, I rented a car in Nashville and drove all the way to Syracuse and went straight to Ray to work on songs. We had a couple of practices and that was it. We went into the studio to record the album."
But Perfect Pussy's music is assaultive, abrasive, and lyrics like "I want to fuck myself" or "No bruise is permanent, neither am I" permeate Say Yes To Love. Surely, something else is going on. Sutkus is adamant that the band is "just being ourselves," but he does say, in regards to the album's blistering pace, "it's also just a sign of the times. People's attention spans are definitely short. Like, the instant gratification of the internet and everyone carries a computer around in their pocket all day long. You're constantly moving on to something else. It just makes sense that people would like something that says something similar.
"Everybody gets something out of it or what they need out of it. And a lot of it is probably made up, you know? And that's ok. Wherever you want to throw us is fine. But there should be some people who don't like it; there shouldn't be something for everyone to enjoy. They might not need that in their life at that time."
Still, there are a lot of people who need Perfect Pussy's brazen honesty in their lives at this time. Grave's declamatory, Lydia Lunch-inflected vocals are telling stories that resonate, and in contrast to the narcissistic self-pity that has defined hardcore-with-feelings (read: emo), the triumph of Say Yes To Love—from its title onward—is that its bravery lies within the narrative of moving on to happiness.