“I’m putting the shoe in shoegaze,” jokes Alyssa Milman, vocalist, guitarist, and founder of local D.I.Y. act Puppy Angst, while discussing their potential wardrobe for the band’s Johnny Brenda’s debut this Saturday, July 1st: “I’m wearing insanely high shoes that I don’t know if I can play in yet! I guess I have to find out in rehearsals…” And while this will be Puppy Angst’s first show at Fishtown’s “mini rock n’ roll ballroom,” several members of the band, who have each played in a plethora of additional projects, have played the venue in the past. “Dan and I played there twice with Blushed. It feels really cool to be up on that stage. It’s an iconic venue,” says Alyssa, who admits to having especially fond memories from the crowd of several shows at the venue: “There was a sold-out Spirit of the Beehive show when they were touring on Hypnic Jerks, and Duster, and, recently, the Greg Mendez release show, which was truly beautiful.”
Saturday night’s show will have Puppy Angst, who describe themselves as “gazy dreamy fuzz pop,” opening up for local peers So Totally and Asbury Park outfit Well Wisher, both of whom Milman considers themselves to be a fan.
“So Totally is playing all new songs, because they have a new album coming out. I mean, they have two singles that have already come out, but I’m really excited to hear basically a whole new set of music from them. And I’m so excited to play with Well Wisher, finally. We were supposed to play with them a year ago, and Dan [Leinweber, Puppy Angst guitarist] got COVID, so we had to drop off the bill, with one sick member and one compromised member, since he’s my partner and we live together, but we were really excited to play with them, so we will finally get to, almost exactly a year later.”
The last time we caught up with Alyssa and Puppy Angst was just this February, a few months after the release of their debut LP – Scorpio Season, which was self-released last October, the follow-up to 2018 debut EP Tiny Thoughts – and just prior to almost a month of dates taking them to and from SXSW, which kicked off at MilkBoy, with the band supporting THICK and Jigsaw Youth. While most members of Puppy Angst had had some experience touring with other acts, “this was the first real Puppy Angst tour,” Alyssa tells me. And they tell me it was filled with highlights: “The Charlotte show was amazing, and we played a really wild punk house in Murfreesboro, and they were moshing so hard… and in Denton someone was like, ‘‘Your Bones’ has been helping me get through my breakup. That’s my favorite song,’ and he knew the words, which was so cool and weird to hear from someone all the way in Texas.” They also admit that SXSW went shockingly well, especially after a few warnings about certain issues the festival has become known for.
“We did six total showcases, and two official. Our official showcases, for Force Field PR and Fire Talk Records, were amazing! I was warned about the too-cool crowd, but our two official showcases were packed, and someone came up to me after our first showcase to buy merch, and I was shocked that someone actually came out to see our little band from Philly. Everyone was warning me to not factor merch into the SXSW shows, but people were super into the merch!”
Since returning from the SXSW 2023 Tour (To my knowledge, they don’t have shirts with the tour name and dates, but I would definitely buy one, if they did!), Puppy Angst released single “TKO,” (not a cover of the Le Tigre song, but nearly as catchy) the band’s first new music since the songs of Scorpio Season, and the first to feature synth-player and vocalist Pauli Mia, who had been playing live with the band, but is now an official member (as evidenced by their latest promo photo, shot by Brooke Marsh). During our February chat, Alyssa characterized the yet-to-be-released song as, “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].”
“TKO” officially dropped late last month, but Alyssa tells me that the origins of the song go back to late last year, shortly after the release of Scorpio Season: “I got an email from Ruby Hoffman at Fire Talk Records, who have the Open Tab Imprint, and they try to put out a single once a month highlighting a lesser-known artist, and Ruby really liked ‘Perpetual,’ our last single from Scorpio Season, and wanted us to put out a new single.” However, Ruby apparently wanted a track that could drop in the very near future, which Milman wasn’t quite prepared for: “I hadn’t written anything since I finished the songs for Scorpio Season, which was late 2020 or early 2021. I was on a two-years-long writer’s block and didn’t know if I’d ever write a song again, and this album would wind up being our only one [laughs].”
Fire Talk/Open Tab and Puppy Angst managed to work it all out, writing a song at the year’s tail end and recording it this Spring. “I wrote ‘TKO’ either New Year’s Eve or the day before New Year’s Eve. I came home from work and started working on all these half-songs. I’d just had to put down my childhood cat of 17 years, so I was writing more sad stuff at the time,” says Alyssa, but tells me that what came out when composing “TKO” was a little different: “It’s sarcastic, but straight-forward, poppy, has simple chords, and an actual chorus, which I don’t do too often.” And they admit that they think the tone of the song came out perfectly for a stand-alone single, although also confess that they have worried that it might not be quite sad enough.
“This had to be the one for the one-off single. All these others would be way too sad! But I worried, ‘Is it a little too straightforward? Is it too corny?’ I would joke about, ‘Let’s go to therapy for six months and write a corny-ass song about standing up for myself!’”
Of the Johnny Brenda’s show this Saturday, Alyssa says, “We will be playing ‘TKO,’ of course, and obviously the singles from Scorpio Season, but we’ve brought out two songs from the album we haven’t played since the release show! It’ll be cool to have those two songs come back.” I’m guessing a similar setlist can be expected for the rest of Puppy Angst’s shows this July, which includes Bar Freda in NY on 7/15 with HTML, Power Trash, In Angel’s Care, and Fear Not Ourselves Alone; Sundown Bar in NY on 7/20, with Gay Meat and Pea; 7/21 at Tralfamadore in Philly, with Gay Meat and Hatchery; and 7/22 at Polish American Citizens Club in Phoenixville, with Cigarettes for Breakfast, Flatwaves, and Oldest Sea (Info and tickets are on bandsintown.) And Alyssa recently hinted at a potential special show back in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection this Fall on Twitter. On June 25th they Tweeted “do ppl still go to halloween cover shows the weekend after halloween? sound off.” And when I inquire about if they had any particular band they’d like to cover, they tell me there certainly is: “We actually have an idea in the works… I really wanna do a set by The Cure.”
*Get your tickets for 7/1 at Johnny Brenda’s here.