“I really hope we get to go on more tours this year. We wanna be road dogs! So, if anyone sees us, who needs a fun, sad band on your tour…” says Puppy Angst vocalist and guitarist Alyssa Milman, offering an open invitation for anyone who may want to take their Philthy-based, “shoegazey/dreamy fuzz pop,” outfit on a trek in the near future. Puppy Angst’s live show has been making waves around the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection and, during a recent phone chat with Alyssa, they tell me that the band’s December LP release show at PhilaMOCA was not only amazing, but something they’d spent much of their music career longing to achieve:
“Our release show is probably gonna be one of my happiest memories for a long time. I started this when I was 20, and I’m 27 now… We played the album start-to-finish. I’ve always wanted to put out a full-length album and I’d never done that with any of my bands… That’s 11 songs. That’s so complete and whole!”
The album Alyssa’s discussing is Scorpio Season, which the band self-released last October and follows up their 2018 debut EP, Tiny Thoughts. The reason for the four-year gap? In addition to the pandemic (“We wanted to record in 2020, but that didn’t happen for very obvious reasons.”), the band also went through some lineup changes (Although everyone’s one good terms!): “Half of us are different members now.” Alyssa also tells me that, while Puppy Angst was contemplating working with a few labels, they ultimately decided to do it on their own terms: “We were talking to a few labels, but we didn’t wanna sit on it anymore. We didn’t want to wait another year, or even a couple of months, so we went ahead and self-released on our own timeline. It was very important to put it out during Scorpio Season!”
In addition to Alyssa (who you may also know from Blushed, Past Life, and Kississippi’s touring lineup), Puppy Angst consists of their partner, guitarist Dan Leinweber (also a founding member of Blushed, and the man behind ambient project Greenspace), who came along during the recording of Scorpio Season; John Heywood (who plays bass for Alex G); and drummer Eric Naroden, who is also the frontman, singer, and guitarist for In Lieu of Roses and the other original member of the band, which actually had him trying something for the very first time: “Eric started out on drums and had never played drums in a band before.”
During our chat Alyssa tells me that the band members’ tastes are just as varied as their different projects, noting their love of art pop (“Kero Kero Bonito is one of my favorites that I was listening to a lot of when working on this record.”), their and Dan’s shared love of shoegaze, their and Eric’s shared affection for Death Cab For Cutie, and John’s obsession with Fleetwood Mac: “I think we all have a different favorite influence to bring to the table.” However, Alyssa does tell me that there’s one act for whom everyone shares an equal love: “Everyone in the band loves Pavement!”
This Saturday, February 25th, Ortlieb’s will be hosting a Blushed reunion of sorts, when Puppy Angst joins headliners Mandy Valentine (featuring Missy Pidgeon and Mattie Klauser, the other half of Blushed) at the Northern Liberties dive venue (Looser and Leatherhead are also on the bill!) And next Wednesday, March 1st, Puppy Angst will be opening for THICK and Jigsaw Youth (who you may have recently seen alongside PHILTHY favorites Destroy Boys and Pinkshift) at MilkBoy.
Alyssa tells me that they really enjoy the experience of playing live, but that it’s also gotten even more fun over the years: “I feel like I really love playing live music… I feel like a way more confident frontperson (and songwriter) than when we started.” They go on to tell me that, as someone who’s always been a perfectionist, the live setting enables them a chance to come to terms with the immediacy of having to get their music out in real-time to an active audience. And, fortunately, it’s been going quite well so far: “I haven’t seen anyone be actually critical of it, so the first hater would be a milestone. I did have someone at a show be like, ‘Everything was way too loud,’ but that’s not really on us [laughs].” However, amidst the praise Puppy Angst and Scorpio Season have been receiving, they tell me that they’re open to criticism… at least partially…
“The first hate comment, it’d probably hurt my feelings because I’m sensitive, but it would also make me think, ‘I must be doing something right!’ Because you’re not doing anything groundbreaking if everyone likes you. This guy in his 40s or something wrote a reaction to the album and called it one of his favorite albums of the year, and said something like, ‘I wish I would’ve had this album when I was younger,’ and it hurt my feelings in a good way. I mean, that’s why I’m making music… And every time someone reaches out to let me know a song I wrote impacted them in some way, that’s very meaningful to me.”
After these two local dates, Puppy Angst will hit the road, heading to and from SXSW, which Alyssa tells me they’re very excited about: “I’m really excited to go on a tour. That’s gonna be a highlight! We’re playing two different showcases at SXSW, which feels very big for a little baby band!” However, they also admit that the festival is a bit intimidating, at least as a fan: “I’m kind of out of my element trying to navigate SXSW. I think my plan right now is see what showcases my friends are playing and maybe checking out the other bands there, but maybe that’s not stepping outside of my comfort zone enough…”
As much as they enjoy playing live in general, Alyssa tells me that there is something special about playing a hometown show. “I like that it feels like you can know everyone, like go to the show and see everyone you know,” they tell me, before going on to say that these shows often go on to inspire a special brand of fun-loving, as happened at Puppy Angst’s LP release show: “At the end of the encore, I put the guitar down and jumped into the crowd with my friends.” Although, in addition to their upcoming dates, Alyssa tells me that the band is currently working on some new music, the first that they’ve done in quite some time.
“Working on new music is very exciting… I didn’t write a single song since finishing the last demo for Scorpio Season, which was probably the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021. The song we’re working on is a lot more straightforward, poppy, happy… Well, my version of happy, but sad lyrics because I don’t feel like I’ve learned to write a happy song yet [laughs].”
*Get your tickets for 2/25 at Ortlieb’s here.
*Get your tickets for 3/1 at MilkBoy here.