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Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves Kickstarts Her Solo Career With ‘Took the Ghost to the Movies’

The hardcore singer talks staying busy, staying happy, and working apart from her bandmates

Colin Joyce ProfileColin Joyce // May 5, 2015

As soon as Meredith Graves takes her seat at a Greenpoint, Brooklyn coffee shop, it’s apparent that she’s happy. Ecstatic, even. Despite the uncharacteristically chilly, grey April day and the fact that her voice is shot, the Perfect Pussy singer is coming down from the jittery high of a weekend-long residency at a local venue that served as a celebration for her new record label, Honor Press. She’s wide-eyed and effusive, leaning over the table and singing the praises of So Stressed, the Sacramento band whose tumultuous and hilarious hardcore deconstruction The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art will be her label’s first release. When conversation turns self-reflective, she makes her joy explicit.

“I’m the luckiest person I know,” she says, laughing. “I hope everyone has the chance to do something someday that makes them as happy as I am. Everyone deserves to be this happy.”

And why shouldn’t she be? Since rocketing into the public eye off the back of her own act’s full-length collection of warped punk exercises, Say Yes to Love, the Syracuse-born songwriter has been incredibly busy. By Graves’ estimation, Perfect Pussy played something like 200 worldwide shows in the past year. But even outside of her work with that band she’s moved to Brooklyn, started Honor Press, taken on freelance writing gigs for publications as hallowed and diverse as Rookie Mag, Stereogum, and, most recently, the New York Times. And now, not content to sit still, she’s making good on promises of solo music by contributing a track called “Took the Ghost to the Movies” to an ongoing series of seven-inch splits that singer-songwriter Kevin Devine has curated for Bad Timing Records. The track borrows its basic shape from the more prickly My Bloody Valentine tracks with Graves’ newly gossamer vocal work and amorphous guitar lines winding their way around pummeling drum programming from Perfect Pussy noisenik Shaun Sutkus.

“Took the Ghost to the Movies” premieres below, so SPIN took the occasion to chat with Graves about the song’s roots in personal crisis, as well as get an update on the many projects she has in progress — including a solo full-length.

Perfect Pussy played their first New York show just over a year and a half ago, and now you’re living here. Have things been as hectic in the interim as they’ve seemed from the outside?
Crazier. It’s nothing I ever asked for or expected and it turns out that it’s everything that I ever wanted. And it’s only getting better. Every time I think that things are so good that they’re about to fall apart, something happens that reminds me that even I don’t know what’s going on. I’m definitely struggling to make equal time for everything but it’s the best struggle I could possibly imagine.

Staying busy can be healthy.
It’s the best thing for me. Yesterday I was at one of my best friend’s apartments. I was saying ‘God, I’m so lazy I’ve got these interviews to transcribe, I’ve got these new places, I’ve got to pitch this..I can’t help but feel like I’m not getting anything done, I’m drifting!’ And she said, ‘Three days ago you sold out Baby’s All Right twice. Not only did you book those shows, but you DJ’d one of them and you played both, and you’re sitting here telling me you have nothing going on.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah, but that was three days ago!’ It’s a lot and it feels like I’m never really doing anything.

How do you get past that?
You never get past it. That’s the way you stay happy, is by never getting past it. It’s the safest part of the tornado, right in the middle where it’s not whipping you around. That’s the safest part of it. You just lay down on the ground in the tuck and roll position.

Is that what being happy is?
Yeah! The only reason I can assert beyond a reasonable doubt that this is being happy is because I know what happiness isn’t. I’ve been there. Those are the days that I was laying in my apartment for weeks at a time very, very sad. I can say this is happiness because I know the opposite of that. I’m out of bed dressed and functioning, I must be happy.

One of the many things you’re working on is a solo record. Is “Took the Ghost to the Movies” indicative of the material in general?
I’m not sure that this song is going to be exactly representative of what my solo album is going to sound like. I wrote this song for Kevin, based on discussions we had. But it’s an interesting first step toward making solo material. Actually, I’m starting to play solo shows in June. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it because I’m doing it to try out material. And if people don’t like it, I’ll scrap it completely and start over.

What were those discussions like?
When Kevin and I first became friends, we realized so quickly within days of meeting each other that we had an extremely open space between us. We talk about everything. I trust him. It felt better to approach this as a “What can we do for each other if we have this amount of space to fill?” We were both very sad and thinking about things a lot. He told me that he was going to use our space to approach this traumatic event that he went through. I told him I could meet that. I could be as honest.

Can you talk about the circumstances that spawned your song?
It’s difficult to talk about. A lot of heartbreak went into that song. I might never have a partner that I’d have a family with. It’s about fertility and motherhood and whether or not I’ll ever be able to have a family with another person. I know full well how lucky I am. That’s why I have it. I saw what I wanted and I got it. That’s how things have worked in my life. If I get a crush on someone and I decide I want to date them, I go out there and get it. If I want a job, I walk into someone’s office and I lie until they give it to me. And if I want to be in a band, I start a band. It’s like…I’m so lucky and I think I might have found the one thing I can’t have.

What can you say about the solo record as it stands?
I don’t know that I can talk about it yet. It’s not far enough along. I haven’t played a guitar in a band in four years, and I was losing my mind. So I bought a guitar. It took me months to find one. Poor Kevin had to take me guitar shopping. Then on tour with Deerhoof, I walked into a music store and from across the room I saw a guitar on a shelf and thought that’s the one. I knew immediately that it was exactly what I wanted. It has a white strap and it’s white. It’s this all-white setup. That’s what the record is going to feel like. The white-guitar record.

It’s a loud record. It’s not a violent record in most ways, but it’s a loud one. It will probably be very heavily influenced by shoegaze bands. I love Slowdive, of course. And My Bloody Valentine. But I also love Nothing. Nicky [Palermo, Nothing’s frontman] is a huge inspiration to me. I’m so proud to say he’s my friend. Especially in terms of his overall vulnerability. But I’m also equally inspired by Deafheaven. Heavy, heavy, heavy, slow bands. I joke about this a lot because they’re not bands that I don’t really listen to, but also like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. That vulnerability and that youthful excitement, and especially the way they write guitar parts, those hooky parts in the middle of nowhere always sounded cool to me, so I want to do that.

What’s going with Perfect Pussy at the moment?
Perfect Pussy needs a break. We’ve got to write another record. If it doesn’t happen, if we start writing and we hate it, fuck it. But right now we’re talking. We’re into some weird, hippie, freaker, crystal-clutching, jazz shit. We’re all listening to Alice Coltrane and Kendrick Lamar. How do we remain accountable to the world and come out and show the world exactly how we feel? We got so numb for a while because we just wanted to work, but now we’re back to the commune, we’re back in the cult.

But Ray wants to be in my solo band. Of course! That’s my little brother. He can do whatever he wants. Perfect Pussy will be taking a break, but we’ll be writing together for my solo record and for the Perfect Pussy record.

Is there a timeline for any of the solo material?
I give it everything I can. Just like everything else. So no, there’s no set timeline. But soon, I hope. I hope I get hit by a bolt of lightning and write a bunch of songs but I’m always the person walking around feeling like I’ve got a gun to the back of my head to get stuff done. But I put it there. My job right now, all these things that I’m doing, my job is just to be myself in the world. There’s no pressure. The reason I’m so passionate about it is because it’s something that I want to do. I’ve got to pay the bills, I’ve got to write. But all things in time.