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Syracuse Punk Band Perfect Pussy Refuses to Stay Quiet.

a band shot of perfect pussy
Meredith Graves, the 26-year-old lead singer of Syracuse clamor-punks Perfect Pussy, refuses to stay quiet.

Riding high off their recent performance at SXSW, and their newly released debut album, Say Yes to Love, on March 18, Perfect Pussy have received more backlash for their risqué band name—but also for their outspoken criticism of Syracuse’s hardcore community. Hardcore has struggled with a historically sexist and exclusive attitude that often keeps girls to the back of shows—or out of the scene altogether.

“I now have a much more nuanced and complicated relationship to the scene there than I did when we started this band,” says Graves in regards to her relationship with the Syracuse hardcore scene. “I went from a position where I felt excluded and ignored to a position where, because of my speaking out against the problems inherent to the scene, my physical and emotional well-being was threatened.”

The problem between Perfect Pussy and their home town began late last year when the band was profiled in Interview magazine. Graves, along with bassist Greg Ambler, drummer Garrett Koloski, guitarist Ray McAndrew and synth-player Shaun Sutkus described the predominantly male makeup of the Syracuse hardcore scene as “racist, sexist, rude, self-centered pricks,” who needed to change their ways.

Following the interview, hardcore promoters were outraged and blacklisted Perfect Pussy from playing local shows. Club promoter Mike Dunn told Syracuse.com that he refused to book the band at the popular punk venue, Lost Horizons, and denied that racism, sexism and homophobia were issues in Syracuse hardcore. “If they wanted to host a forum,” said Dunn, “and maybe back up or explain some of the comments they said, then maybe I’d be willing to book them after that.”

Meredith Graves did actually host a forum on sexism in the Syracuse music scene earlier this year. On the website badlandsdiy.com, Graves and the rest of Perfect Pussy defended their criticisms, arguing that they were aimed towards specific subsets of the hardcore community and not the scene in general. But the forum’s medley of violent, sexist statements did little to help her cause. One Syracuse performer who told a local media outlet that there were “no traces of homophobia, racism or sexism in Syracuse hardcore” described Perfect Pussy as “a bunch of fags” and implied that he wanted to punch Graves in the face for “running her mouth.”

 ”No one in Syracuse has ever taken my opinion seriously before,” Graves told Syrcause.com in response to the backlash. “Now all of a sudden I go off and say a couple of really mean things and bring on this maelstrom."

Nevertheless, negative comments by angry townies have not affected the band’s success nationwide. Surprisingly, since Perfect Pussy has become increasingly popular, Graves’ perspective on the men she once criticized has taken a dramatic shift from ill-contempt to sympathy. “I realized recently that they honestly have no idea what they're doing. They're ignorant victims of patriarchy,” she says. “This is why it's important to remind people who are firmly anti-PC that feminism and anti-oppression politics benefit everyone. I mean, the last thing I want to do is center the conversation about feminism around men, but it's important to keep in mind that these men are victims of a culture that's taught them to treat women this way.”

Prior to clashing with the Syracuse underground, the members of Perfect Pussy made noise in other prominent punk acts such as Shoppers and SoreXcuse. But in 2012, Graves Koloski and Ambler performed as a fake band scene in a scene for an indie film. After that, they began playing as a  realgroup, eventually adding McAndrew and Sutki in early 2013 before releasing their debut EP, I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling. “I’ve gravitated towards the arts my whole life,” says Graves. “Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been doing theater and playing instruments, writing and acting and doing whatever I could to express myself. That’s just the direction my life has always pushed me in. I’ve literally never done anything else.”

The four-track EP, written by Graves during a difficult breakup, is a rapid blast of emotional ennui. Throughout the demo, screams of cheating ex-lovers and the fears of moving on without love meld amid layers of fuzzy, lo-fi synth-thrash. Shouts Graves on “II”: “I tremble with no desire I need nothing/In loss I discovered completion/In having things stolen I found that I had more than ever.”

Listen to I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling: 

New album Say Yes to Love (released by Brooklyn record label Captured Tracks), finds the self-proclaimed shy and isolated singer further dissecting her past and present. On propulsive punk tracks such as “Dig” and “Interference Fits,” Graves approaches gender, sex, and failed romance through a violently honest feminist lens.

“I can only speak for myself,” says Graves about her songwriting process, “I try to be as vulnerable and open-ended as possible and invite people to engage in a dialogue about the larger subject matters without appropriating other peoples lived experience.  I think given the history of hardcore, being a visible queer femme person is an inherently feminist act.” 

Set to embark on a recently announced world tour with Waxahatchee, Swearin’, Potty Mouth, Joanna Grusome, and others, Graves and the rest of Perfect Pussy are still at odds with the Syracuse hardcore scene, but at this point, they just ignore it. They have better things to do.

“It's perfectly fine if people don't like my band because of our music,” confesses Graves, “but I see people saying they hate our band because they hate me or us as people, and that's just weird. Come to a show and hang out with us. We're really very nice people.”

Related Reading: St. Vincent's New Album Revels in Mystery and Depth. 

Photo of Perfect Pussy is by Drew Reynolds, courtesy of the artist.


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Comments

7 comments have been made. Post a comment.

they're not nice people. two

they're not nice people. two of the band members have been accused of sexual/physical/emotional abuse. one of them was accused of having assaulted three different people on the syracuse hardcore forum which is why people are uncomfortable with them in Syracuse. PP is doing a lot to cover up this fact. No one in PP has done anything like host workshops or forums irl or online about accountability, feminism, good consent or any other kind of sex ed/feminist/activist effort. Her bandmates and their friends have been trying to invalidate the claims against her bandmates. Meredith deserves to be heard and but not to put other trans*, femme, queer & poc voices down. she should be pissed off that her bandmates have hurt people and should be open to them openly "working on their shit"

http://altcrit.tumblr.com/post/74052151522/the-problem-w-perfect-pussy
http://caraluddy.tumblr.com/post/77949005556
http://www.phillystandsup.com/
https://batjc.wordpress.com/resources/
http://phillysurvivorsupportcollective.wordpress.com/

feminism + syracuse

I want to hop off of this comment and shine some light on some other issues. First, there is a lot of discussion circulating about the many issues/isms that are in the Syracuse scene(s). As a reminder, these are many issues that are shared in mass culture, as well as all of hardcore/punk/etc. Unfortunately, our scene and other scenes like it are not a total reprieve from the many forms of oppression that exist outside of them. I think the great part about any alternative scene is that there is a space for dialogue. In doing this, it allows folks to draw connections and work through the messiness that is navigating systems of power, like patriarchy, homophobia, ableism, sexism, etc. etc. In this sense, it is totally awesome that Meredith is bringing up points that are an issue everywhere for everyone.

Noting that, it would also be cool if our community wasn't totally assumed to be without these conversations. As someone who has been a part of these said scenes for fifteen years, there have been many fluctuations and movements that have allowed for people (of all identities) to be heard. I Object! is a rad, female fronted band that deals with these issues head on. They are one of many. There have been a lot of bands through the years that do address these important issues, and give a very vocal voice to them.

Long story short: Syracuse's alternative music scenes certainly have their problems, but it's a bummer when we aren't viewed as a community of complex, interesting, and probably pretty smart folks - despite there being some duds. Ladies in music are rad, feminism is the best and the most necessary tool we have for confronting issues. It would just be nice to feel a little TLC because nothing is black and white.

This is true

This is true

Meredith will never be

Meredith will never be anyone's hero. A ton of people in this band are very Un - enjoyable to be around. They think their shit doesn't stink and apparently now Meredith thinks that she's doing something good because she feels she was left out and blacklisted. Honey, grow up. You sh*tting on somewhere you came from is not cute. I hope you're all ashamed.

Cite sources. Do research.

You've yet to get one name right other than the ones in the band. Also, the homophobic and sexist comments were made in sarcastic response to the accusations and taken completely out of context. The dude that said those comments is far from either and would never lay a finger on a woman. He was just expressing the hyperbole of all the accusations on Syracuse. Probably not the smartest move to say those things publicly, but the attacks were taken very personally.

We have a great scene full of great people. There are bad eggs in every bunch, but to sweepingly generalize the city they came from just for a little upstart drama is pretty sad and treasonous to a place that had nothing but love for an upstart band. They had nothing but support from most of the entire scene, regardless of how the music sounds, and by treating the city like that, they've shown true colors. It's rather upsetting.

To paint a community with

To paint a community with such a broad brush is akin to protraying feminists as a monolithic group of unpleasant, dogmatic harridans; I'm severely unimpressed with your reprinting of such assertions without doing any of your own research. Additionally, your use of the word 'townie' is not only patronizing, classist, and trite, it's incredibly unimaginative. I expect far better from Bitch and have cancelled my subscription after being a loyal reader and doner for years.

Also: I dig what 315 Feminist

Also: I dig what 315 Feminist said. It is awesome and necessary to call folks out for misogyny, racism, homophobia, sexism, and classism and all the other bullshit garbage that gets spewed in an ignorant/hateful manner. It is not, however, at all awesome to criticize a entire community and city.