Potty Mouth are my favorite band of 2013 for as many reasons as there are things that characterize the whole of their identity. They’re named after Bratmobile’s debut album, they’re well versed in gender studies, they enjoy brash rants about things like ageism and sexism, they write beautifully simplistic and charmingly sloppy songs that ring of the early-mid ‘90s most transgressive indie pop (a bit like if a postmodernly sugar-coated Sonic Youth had had both of the most significant Kims of the era), and they’re hell bent (the name of their debut LP) on helping young girls to learn that you certainly don’t need to do something that earns a big paycheck to have a profound impact on the world and the people around them… (Okay, so a few of those things might be interrelated.) Potty Mouth are four girls from Western Massachusetts: Abby (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Ally (bass), Phoebe (lead guitar), and Victoria (drums). They came together in 2011, with Abby and Phoebe each learning their instruments for the first time. They’ve already released a demo and a 12” EP, but September 17th will see the release of Hell Bent, their first full-length album. I recently had a chance to chat with 3/4ths of Potty Mouth and they confirmed that they are, indeed, my favorite people of 2013. (We even have mutual friends in Boston’s Mean Creek.)
Izzy: I completely love that you’re named after Bratmobile’s debut, which just turned 20 (I actually used to hang out with Allison Wolfe in DC and Baltimore as a teen.) Aside from the roots of Riot Grrrl, what would you consider to be your most significant influences and inspirations, whether they’re musical or not?
Victoria: I love Bratmobile, but can only get down with Riot Grrrl as it existed as a movement on a few levels, and don’t consider it to be a major personal musical influence. I became more seriously interested in drumming at a time when I was listening to a lot of bands like the Jesus Lizard and Unwound. I spent a lot of time trying to wrap my head around Sara Lund’s style. It might not be all that apparent in the context of this band, but I like to think that it rubbed off on me as a drummer.
Izzy: I really loved your recent Q&A with BUST and related to it to an astounding degree. I’m a humanities professor at Temple University who’s 28 and sort of looks like I think I’m in Depeche Mode. Often, on the first day of class, after an hour of going over the syllabus, I’ll ask if there are any questions and the first thing I get is, “How old are you?” In line with that, are there any texts or figures relating to the humanities that you’re especially fond of? You seem to have an impressive grasp on many of the field’s most significant concepts, as related to popular culture in 2013.
Ally: First of all, thanks! It’s nice to have a nod of approval from someone in the academic world — especially now having been out of it for a few years. In college, I double-majored in gender studies and sociology and before starting Potty Mouth, felt fairly certain I wanted to pursue a PhD shortly after graduating. Those plans have since changed, but the concepts and frameworks I absorbed during my undergrad education continue to serve as guiding principles through which I make sense of the world. Much of my independent studies as an undergrad focused specifically on gender relations and representations in rock music culture, which is perhaps why I am well-versed enough to speak about gender as it relates to my own experience as a musician. As far as actual texts or figures, I’d say Judith Butler was really the first theorist I learned about who turned my gender world upside down. The notion of gender being performative really blew my mind and seriously changed the way I began to think about categories of identity.
Izzy: What have been the highlights of Potty Mouth’s “career” (God, that sounds cheesy.) thus far?
Ally: One recent highlight of our time as a band was being asked to perform at someone’s wedding celebration. Back in May, we received an email from a gentleman who explained that he had seen us a few months prior in New York City and enjoyed the set so much that he wanted us to play his wedding party. He explained that he and his partner had been together for 20 years, had two children, and were finally deciding to tie the knot. He also explained that they had both seen and filmed Bratmobile together in the early ’90s, which may have been another reason why they wanted us to play. Anyway, we were so humbled and honored to be invited by a complete stranger to perform at such a special occasion that we couldn’t imagine not accepting the invitation. The wedding was on a 95-acre converted dairy farm in upstate NY and it was beautiful. Abby and I ended up making friends with all the nieces and nephews of the family and spent the night at the farm. It was really fun. It was also my first wedding.
Izzy: How would you characterize your live show?
Abby: Our live performance is actually something that has changed drastically since we first started playing. We’ve gotten to the point where we’re confident enough with our instruments that we can move around and have fun while playing. You can expect a lot of hair whipping and smiling!
Izzy: Your first full-length is due in September. What can be expected of the release and how would you characterize your process of writing and recording it?
Abby: I’m excited to see what people think of the record. It really feels like a debut in a way because Sun Damage consists of the first songs we’d ever written, and since then we’ve definitely settled into a specific writing process and sound. We recorded pretty much everything except vocals as a live set, which I think gives the songs a certain type of energy that comes from playing as a group, compared to playing individual tracks.
Izzy: The album is being release on Old Flame Records, quite a cool label. What are your thoughts on the label? Any favorite labelmates?
Abby: Old Flame and Marshall Teller are both great labels. This is our first big release and they’ve both been so supportive and helpful throughout the process. On Marshall Teller we really love The History of Apple Pie, and from Old Flame our buddies Mean Creek.
Izzy: After the tour wraps, what are your plans (and hopes) for the rest of 2013 and early 2014?
Abby: With Marshall Teller releasing the record in the UK we have made it a goal to tour there in the near future.
*Photo by S.C. Atkinson