Mannequin Pussy on Perfect EP, Still Don’t Want Your Advice on Changing Their Name

After Patience released during the summer of 2019, Mannequin Pussy seemed poised to become the next big thing in punk. The Philadelphia band with a name that no one could forget saw their stock soar for the rest of the year after their first release on Epitaph Records, with sold-out shows across the country and billings on what were sure to be some of 2020’s biggest events, including Coachella. It was the bump that vocalist/guitarist Missy  and the rest of the band needed to quit their day jobs and make their passion a full-time profession, and there was no sign of them slowing down.

Of course, that was all before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shut everything down, shortening Mannequin Pussy’s reign at the top of the modern punk scene to a brief seven-month stint. But rather than dwell on the 2020 they could’ve had, the rising trio (formerly quartet) took their frustration, disappointment, and other quarantine emotions and channeled them into a new five-song EP called Perfect (out May 21).

Having released the EP’s first two tracks — “Control” and “Perfect” — in the months leading up to release, Mannequin Pussy sound as ready as ever to take their artful punk rock show back on the road. Ahead of their exclusive live appearance on SPIN’s Untitled Twitch Stream this Wednesday (May 19), we caught up with Missy to chat about the new release, COVID cancellations, the band’s name, and much more.

 

 

SPIN: It seemed like Mannequin Pussy was really taking a huge step up after Patience came out. How did you handle losing some of that momentum when everything got canceled due to COVID just a few months later?
Missy: I would be lying if I said it was an easy emotional process to navigate when coming from a place where — for the first time — we put something out that was getting a lot of attention. It was the first time we had the experience of selling out shows and going on tours that are profitable and getting to live this life full-time. We’d only ever experienced it as an extension of our home life and our part-time jobs at home, so getting a taste of that for seven months was incredibly special. But I would say the collapse of that was equally special because I think it gave us a lot of time to reflect just on how lucky we were to have experienced that — be it for only seven months. I think this is the first time where we’ve had an album or EP or whatever where the title is somewhat ironic because I would never say we’re an ironic band — we’re probably embarrassingly sincere — but we kind of just kept saying “Oh, this is so perfect. Isn’t this perfect, the way that everything has collapsed right when we were just starting to climb?”

With the new EP and shows able to start up again soon, is the plan to basically just pick up where you left off before COVID?
Yeah. It feels like an extraordinary gift to be able to say “Hey, let’s pick up where we left off,” because I think a lot of other bands are in the position where they feel like they’re starting all over again. I think getting through last year with any semblance of feeling like you’re still part of a musical community is really special, and to even be able to use a word like “momentum” after last year is definitely not something I take for granted. Just being able to talk with other people about everything we’ve gone through in the last year has been so important for us. Oftentimes, when we go through traumatic experiences, it really feels like we’re alone in that. This is one of the first times in my life so far where there’s such a collective event on a global scale, where everyone experienced the same trauma together.

What inspired you to release the five-song EP instead of holding on to the tracks for your next full-length?
Well, as soon as the EP is out, we’re getting back to work on making another full-length album. It breaks my heart when I’m reminded by people that EPs like this don’t seem to carry as much weight or whatever, because this EP is two minutes shorter than our second record, so it feels as “full” and “alive” as a full length. A lot of people write an EP off with “Oh, it’s only a few songs,” but really, there are different kinds of EPs out there — particularly given the time constraints that we were in with not being able to physically get together and not being a band that exists very well in the technological sphere. We tried to do that thing where we send each other demos and write on top of each other’s shit, but it just didn’t work for us. We needed to book time in the studio and we didn’t have any songs, so we just went in to see what comes out. We wrote very quickly and were able to create something together. It felt like a lifeline in a very difficult year to have something to obsess over and to see come alive.

Now that the band has been around for a while, are people finally used to seeing the name “Mannequin Pussy” on things? I’m sure it’s still brutal for advertising and marketing purposes, but do you still get people who are appalled by the name?
Oh, absolutely. All the time. I think there’s probably a pretty large portion of the population that will never listen to us because of the name — which I think is maybe overly harsh or something. I’ve come to this place sometimes where I sort of resent this choice we made for ourselves because it would definitely be nice for people not to think so much of a name. But at the same time, it’s kind of incredible that it’s so divisive and some people feel so unsettled by it. I’m always reminded by the idea that maybe the goal of art and creating work is not to be the most palatable, but to challenge the way that people think and react to things. When I’m having a day where I’m like “Oh fuck. No one will ever find out about our band because of our name,” I try to remind myself that maybe that isn’t the point.

People get so upset about it. They send me emails about how we should really investigate changing our name because they’re a big fan of the band and they think that we’re holding ourselves back. I’ve gotten a lot of unsolicited advice, emails, and DMs in our time as a band — especially over the last year — that are like “You don’t want to be popular?” I’m like “Well, why can’t we be if the only reason is because we put ‘pussy’ in our band name?” I mean, honestly, that doesn’t really seem like a good enough reason. It makes it more exciting in some ways to realize that the music is what is bringing people to us rather than some flashy marketing campaign or well-curated Instagram or whatever. I know there are people out there who brush us off because of our name, but I hope one day they’re going to be in their car listening to the radio and be like “Oh what’s this? Wow, that’s the band that I ignored because of their name. Aren’t I a fucking idiot?”

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