The band discusses preserving its authenticity in light of burgeoning media attention.

Perfect Pussy
Perfect Pussy

Following the release of a four-track demo last year, I have lost all desire for feeling, Syracuse art-punk band Perfect Pussy generated considerable hype in the indie music world. The tape, peppered with lines like "Her eyes fell low and heavy with shame and cum/ She must have been desperate; she acted so lonely,” blended composition and controversy in a way that piqued the interest of alternative and mainstream media outlets alike. The band, which plays Gasa Gasa on Thursday, has since garnered reviews by the likes of Pitchfork, MTV, and, eponymously, the New York Times.

It’s a success hinged on the band’s willingness to push boundaries, but it’s not something they ever anticipated. The release of Say Yes To Love in March marked the band’s first full-length album after little more than a year of playing together.

“It makes me feel good, somebody validating something I worked on,” says Shaun Sutkus, synth-man for the group. “I want to stay humble about it.  It’s a new experience, and that excites me. But I’m trying not to show it too much. I don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face or anything like that. I just want to continue experiencing this thing that’s happened.”

Since the outset, the band made a point of asserting complete autonomy in their artistic choices. Remaining original—and transgressive—amidst a wave of public scrutiny is a challenge for any act, but it’s one that they’ve taken in stride. Nowhere was this more evident than in the release of 300 special edition Say Yes to Love LPs—with lead singer Meredith Graves’ blood mixed into the vinyl.

 “I think it was the thing that sealed the deal with signing with a record label,” says Sutkus.“Meredith took a shot in the dark and said that to gauge what they were willing to do for us. And they were like, ‘Yes of course. That’s great!’”

The move served as a litmus test for the receptiveness of courting-label Captured Tracks to experimentation. “I feel like with the kind of music we’re making, there are instances where like the record label says, ‘Do whatever you want’ and then the record arrives and they’re like, ‘What the fuck is this? We’re not putting this out.’ So that solidified us being able to create whatever we wanted and them being cool with it.”

“Whatever they want” has entailed a mix of aggressive noise, feverishly fast pacing and provocative, complicated lyrics. Pitchfork wrote in its review of the group’s debut EP that “Perfect Pussy sound like a hardcore band fronted by Joan of Arc.”

“When people ask me what kind of music I play I’m like: ‘It’s really loud, fast, noisy pop music.’ That’s just like how I describe it. But anyone can describe it and put it in any genre they want to. And people can agree with them or disagree with them and that’s all their business.”

Sutkus’ role in the band, in addition to mixing the music in the studio, is to go in and “create noise” over Graves’ vocals, a process he says is controlled chaos. “There’s definitely composition involved. Sometimes it’s improvised, but I feel like that’s a form of art too. Improvised jazz music or free jazz music is something that influences me.”

The songs' lyrics are poetic, inherently powerful, but they’re masked, smothered in sound and for the most part unintelligible. It’s a conscious choice that reflects the distinct styling efforts of the band members. “It just sounds better that way," Sutkus says. "There’s so much going on that the lyrics aren’t what should be listened to or heard as far as the music is concerned. It should be a tone and an instrumental sound. Whenever I listen to music, I rarely listen to words. I’m listening to the tone of the voice and where it’s sitting in the music. The lyrics are always second for me. When I’m mixing a song, that’s how I’m approaching it. I think for us we can kind of get away with doing it exactly as we want. It’s who we are and that’s our statement. I don’t think we ever asked anyone to care about us or asked their opinion on it.”

The group’s live performances are a key aspect to their overarching aesthetic and have attracted both public attention and, at times, confusion. Live shows are typified by the manic, unrelenting pace echoed in the album. “I remember when we were writing songs it was always like ‘faster, faster, faster. We have to play faster; we have to play as fast as we can!’,” Sutkus says. When pressed as to why, he responds, “That’s a really good point. I don’t know. [laughs].”

Maintaining that level of intensity is physically taxing on the band—and explains why the average run-time for a Perfect Pussy show is somewhere in the realm of twenty minutes. “I honestly don’t think we could play longer than that,” Sutkus says.

The frenzy of the music infects the crowds, and that can make for an intense experience. Greg Ambler, who plays bass, broke his jaw in the last show. Sutkus’ girlfriend still sports a scar from being kicked in the face. “I hope no one gets hurt too bad," Sutkus says. "I don’t want people to get hurt. I don’t like violence. As long as everyone is there to support each other in case something does accidentally happen, that’s all I’m really concerned with.”