So any of our regular readers or my personal friends (or just strangers who ask me for band recommendations at coffee houses or baseball games… seriously…) know that, as far as I’m concerned, North Hampton, Massachusetts-based Potty Mouth are pretty much the greatest band in the entire world. Not only do they kick out power pop jams that reek of pretty much all of the best things about ‘90s alt rock and legitimately-punk-leaning-pop-punk (I once described the best sounds of their 2013 debut LP, Hell Bent, as sounding like, “If Liz Phair had been the frontwoman of The Eyeliners.”), but they’re also named after Bratmobile’s first record, and they’re very into talking about, exploring, and questioning gender politics (During our first chat bassist Ally, without my prompting, dove into a discussion about Judith Butler, which… if you know me… is pretty much the key to my heart.)
Over the past three years Potty Mouth have played Philthy quite a number of times (including stops at The Rotunda, the Golden Tea House, Johnny Brenda’s, Boot & Saddle, and Kung Fu Necktie), but after coming to expect to see the girls/grrrls every couple months, it’s actually been a little more than a year since they’ve graced us with their presence, their last date being last August when they shared the stage of the Church with Perfect Pussy and Joanna Gruesome for a show that not only boasted the best bill the city has seen in half a decade, but that I think needs to be commemorated with a concert poster whose prints will don the walls of youthful punks two decades from now.
Well, Potty Mouth are returning to the road and the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, with a headlining show at Boot & Saddle on September 22nd (with more dates in October and a run of November shows with Screaming Females). They also released a five-song, self-titled EP last month on their own imprint, Planet Whatever Records, produced by John Goodmanson, best known for brilliant work with the likes of Bikini Kill, Blondie, and Sleater-Kinney. The EP has the band, now pared-down to a three-piece of original members; guitarist/vocalist Abby, bassist Ally, and drummer Victoria; and sounding along the lines of the mega-rocking, yet-riot-grrrl-influenced, ‘90s alt rock of Veruca Salt (whom Potty Mouth have recently been drawing a plethora of comparisons).
The other day I got a chance to catch up with Abby and Ally about their recent sounds from Ally’s house, prior to a band rehearsal for their upcoming dates. The last time I spoke to them, in discussing their post-Hell Bent sounds, Ally characterized them as being, “A lot better/heavier/catchier than the stuff on Hell Bent.” And when I ask them about the sounds that eventually wound up on their latest EP, Abby tells me, “I think we’ve finally gotten to this place we were always trying to reach and we’ve had the practice and experience now to get there. If we’d always had the chance, we always wanted to sound like a huge rock band.” Ally also adds, “A lot of years passed between the writing of the two records, and Hell Bent was recorded a year before it was released, and a lot of the songs were written several years before that.”
And when I inquire about the actual influences behind Potty Mouth’s latest songs, Abby confirms that alt rock and the work of Nina Gordon and Louise Post were definitely something they had been channeling: “I guess I would say Juliana Hatfield and Veruca Salt. And while we were recording we were on a huge Nirvana kick, while we were up in Seattle, but we were just really into ‘90s stuff in general.” For personal reasons, I’m inclined ask Abby if she has any personal favorite of Nina and Louise’s works (which soundtracked much of my childhood), she admits, “Well, we all love “Seether,” but Eight Arms to Hold You is just one of my all-time favorite albums.” She also tells me that Juliana Hatfield, her other primary influence at the moment, has definitely partaken in a few of the high points of Potty Mouth’s nearly half-decade history.
“Definitely when we got to play with Juliana Hatfield was a highlight. That was really awesome. She’s one of my biggest influences. And we just played one show with her in New York and then she personally asked us after to play some shows with her, so that was pretty amazing.”
And while John Goodmanson’s aesthetic would seem to fit the perfect choice for producer, the match was a bit accidental, as Ally tells me, “Working with John was really awesome, but we were actually originally supposed to work with Chris Walla [of Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Hot Hot Heat fame], but he had to move overseas and he recommended John to us and we looked him up and saw his resume and were like, ‘Holy shit!’ And he knew exactly what to do with the songs and also, we’ve never had that much time to record something before, but we were in the studio for two weeks, and I know a lot of bands take a lot longer, but that was a long time for us to work on a set of songs.”
And when I ask Abby and Ally about any favorite music John’s worked on, they charmingly fumble before audibly looking through their own record collection, eventually citing his work on Unwound’s The Future of What and Team Dresch’s Personal Best as some of their personal favorites. But Abby also admits that something they appreciated about working with John was his hesitation to talk about his resume and his attention to their own music: “John is really cool because he’s so fucking modest and he’s really casual and if you want him to talk about those experiences, you really have to pull it out of him,” before Ally quickly chimes in about one of his most amusing and biggest mainstream successes,” Oh, that Harvey Danger album with “Flagpole Sitta,” he did that, which is so weird because they didn’t set out to be a band with a huge, mainstream pop song, but that’s what happened with it.”
In addition to their tunes, Potty Mouth also have quite the knack for impressive visuals, from their sartorial style, resembling Polly Maggoo dressed for a night at the 100 Club, to their album art and music videos. They recently released a video for their EP’s first single, “Cherry Picking,” an homage to the most famous scene of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Roger Corman and Allan Arkush’s musical revolving around a teenage girl’s obsession with the Ramones. And while Abby and Ally tell me that film was certainly the primary influence behind their latest music video, they wanted to make it a bit more contemporary, both with a plethora of ‘80s and ‘90s references (posters of The Smiths, Hole, and David Lynch’s Wild At Heart adorning the wall of the protagonist’s bedroom, in addition to an aesthetic that’s somewhere in-between a non-pornographic Richard Kern and something that would be found on Alternative Nation in 1993), but also that addresses things like youth gender roles in a more progressive manner. When I ask about the influences behind the video Abby tells me, “We wanted to recreate that scene from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School with a little more of a modern twist,” while Ally adds, “I think the video was a simple, low-budget, way to do something that’s still really cool and really interesting. And we didn’t want a complete gender role-reversal where it was a boy imagining us in his bedroom – that’s too heteronormative and too yucky – and we also wanted something where the girl didn’t totally idealize us, and I love how she steps out of the house and Abby hands her the guitar and she just joins us at the end and it’s very natural and like she’s one of us.”
And when I finally ask Abby and Ally what can be expected of Potty Mouth in the near future, both in regards to future releases and their upcoming shows, Abby tells me, “After these tours we’re just gonna keep writing and recording and hopefully have a new full-length out around Spring,” and Ally tells me of their shows next week, “You can expect to hear all five of the songs on the new EP. We’ve been working on them for a long time now and we really want to get them out there. We’re also about to rehearse and we’re working on a cover… that I don’t want to say too much about…”