Brazen vocalist for Syracuse-based punk band Perfect Pussy, Meredith Graves is a jane of all trades. She’s a seamstress, a foodie, a scholar, a singer, a lyricist, a thrift store enthusiast, and all-around awesome lady. She’s been performing since she was a kid and formed Perfect Pussy after a stint in her noisy trio, Shoppers. It hasn’t even been a year since their debut EP I have lost all desire for feeling was released, but Perfect Pussy has gained notoriety pretty quickly and for good reason. The headbang-able, melodic noise-punk tracks let Graves’ brutally honest, though mostly incomprehensible lyrics about feeling bad, mad, and just plain sad run wild. We caught up with Meredith about groundbreaking zines, feminists you should know, and the new record Say Yes to Love.

You’ve mentioned that you really love food. What’s the best place for grabbing a bite in Syracuse?

There's an incredible new-ish restaurant called LoFo, and I would eat there twice a day if I could. It's focus is on local farming with a strong emphasis on health, and a menu that encompasses lots of raw, vegan and vegetarian, gluten-free and otherwise super wholesome food. They serve breakfast and lunch, and they have smoothies, wheatgrass shots and homemade kombucha, too.  It's the first place in Syracuse that I know of that's ever done anything like this, and the food is astoundingly good (and it's woman-owned, and largely woman-run, too!).

How about antiquing? Best antique store in Syracuse?

I find I generally can't afford anything from “antique” or “vintage” stores, but it doesn't matter, because I've determined through exhaustive research that northern New York has the best thrift stores of anywhere in the country. There are five or six huge thrift stores right in the city and so many in surrounding suburbs and rural towns that you couldn't hit them all in a weekend. I worked at Boom Babies (489 Westcott St.) for four years, and though the focus is on formalwear during prom season, they keep an incredible selection of vintage out during the summer months--and it's super affordable.

I really appreciate your extreme honesty, both in your lyrics and interviews. I think that your attitude is so important especially to the feminist community, at a time when so many women that young girls look up to still don’t openly identify as feminist. Who are some feminists that you admire or feel are doing amazing work right now?

My friend Jes Skolnik is undoubtedly the first person that comes to mind. Jes is an active writer and blogger focusing on intersectionality and social justice, and a lifelong participant in the hardcore scene, and everything they touch turns to gold (including co-curating the recent BEYOND INVERSION compilation, which gave all its proceeds to the Rachael's Women’s Center in Washington, DC). Jes is currently organizing Pure Joy, a non-profit, all-ages, accessible venue in Chicago. My life wouldn't be the same without them, that's for damn sure.

“Say Yes To Love” is part of a longer lyric, “Since when do we say yes to love.” Cutting out those first four words definitely gives off a different vibe/message than the full lyric. Why did you guys choose that particular phrase for the title?

The record is largely about a really awful breakup I went through last year, where I was left by the first person I'd ever felt “serious” about, the first person I'd talked about marriage and children with--two things I'd never so much as considered until I met this particular man. I was devastated, because only after he left did I realize how much my understanding of myself hinged on our relationship. I attended my first three weddings in the wake of that, then two of my close friends gave birth, and one of my other friends got pregnant. That song is about the ways I see my social circle changing as people get older and start families, and about how devastated I felt that I almost fell into it myself. I only wanted that because I wanted him, more than I'd ever wanted anything in my life, but I didn't and still don't feel like marriage and children are for me. So the conflicted side of me is asking of myself and my peers, "Since when do we say yes to love?" But I still have that voice in the back of my head telling me not to give up, to keep trying and keep loving even when it sucks and it hurts. That year I lived with the man I thought I'd spend the rest of my life with was illuminating and beautiful, and I only got it because after years of being in abusive, rotten relationships, I still insisted on saying yes and giving it a try.

I’m obsessed with the ending lyrics of “I” (“I had this dream that I forgave my enemies”) from I have lost all desire for feeling. I know you said there are more songs about hatred on this record, but does Say Yes To Love have that kind of positivity?

Yeah! Of course, I don't think hatred and positivity are mutually exclusive, I think I have some really positive hatred, the things I hate are awful things that are worth hating. There's a lot of crying about people being mean to me and my feeling like a victim on the demo, which is kind of funny now, because writing those songs gave me a lot of self-esteem. Even the songs about people and things that I think are terrible end up being kind of confident and even funny.

Some people have called you guys pop-punk. I don’t really agree but I know that you do like some pop-punk, like Tenement and Big Eyes. Have you found that classic pop-punk bands have influenced you in a big way?

Not at all! I like every kind of music there is, but I never really listened to "classic pop punk," it evaded me entirely (except MXPX's "Let It Happen," which is an incredible record). I didn't connect to it like I did to some of the early emo that was popular then. When I was a freshman in high school and all the boys in my class were listening to Saves the Day and Thursday and Brand New, I was listening to weird foreign screamo records and the Promise Ring. I had a makeoutclub profile, and I lived in an extremely small town, and this was in the early days of Napster so I could basically download one song by an artist with a cool name and that would take a whole day, and that would be my entire knowledge of music, because I couldn't go out and find CDs at Borders by the artists I liked. And my big influences for this band aren't musicians at all, but writers and artists. I mean, I think I get a lot more out of Kathy Acker and Jenny Holzer than I do out of NOFX.

“Driver” is so good. I know you don’t like hearing your own vocals, but you can hear them pretty clearly on that track. Are you getting used to listening to your voice or is it still just as weird? 

It's still weird and I still hate it. I listen to the record now and I can hear every word I say loud and clear, but just the other night my little brother told me that it sounds like I yelled into a coffee can and put the lid on, then let somebody else open the lid in front of a microphone. Shaun brought my vocals up in the mix, and I trust him because he takes his work as an engineer very seriously. He doesn't tell me how to do my job, so I don't tell him how to do his!

As a seamstress, are you self-taught? Can you talk a little bit about what fashions/styles you’re very interested in?

I learned in high school. I got to take an extracurricular sewing class my senior year that concluded with a student-organized runway fashion show. I was lucky enough to learn from an incredible seamstress, the kindest teacher I've ever had who really encouraged me. Then I went on to sew in a costume shop through college, then got hired as a shopgirl at a store that specializes in formalwear, so the universe kind of forced my hand into starting my own alterations business. I love fashion in general. I love ultra-technical couture and high fashion sewing. My most admired designer is Mary Katrantzou-- but my own clothes are super utilitarian. I like simple dresses with shorts and tights underneath in case I have to escape up a tree. Right now I am praying to the thrift gods for a maxi dress, because I want to start wearing things that aren't ass-out short. I haven't had consistent computer access in a while, but I have a style board on Pinterest where I post stuff that catches my eye. I play with it on my phone in the van on long drives!

I saw you have an Etsy account that’s on hiatus. Where did the name Hank & Co. come from, out of curiosity?

Hank is my seven-year-old cat. I've had him since he was 7 weeks! I have a big portrait of him tattooed on my arm. He's my baby boy. I didn't know that account was still open. I haven't sold anything on Etsy in years but I had a lot of fun while I was doing it.

What’s been your best Etsy find?

I have a pair of off-white leather Chelsea boots with red and brown pulls that I picked up a few years ago. I have large feet (size 10.5) and I only wear flats, so vintage men’s boots are my favorite. I have a huge collection of boots. Every time I move my friends roll their eyes because they know I'm not getting rid of any.

What are the best and worst parts of touring for you?

The best part of touring is actually playing shows, undoubtedly. The rest of it is kind of hit-or-miss. I love making new friends and seeing different cities, but you drive all day, play a show at night, and you're lucky if you get to see a diner in the morning before you do it all over again. If I could spend a full day in every city going to museums and wandering around taking pictures and hanging out with nice people, it would be a different story.

Are there any cool zines you’ve read recently that you could recommend to us?

There's a woman named Paula who does a riot grrl zine called "Bruise Violet." She interviewed me in the last issue as well as Angie from BIG MOUTH and a bunch of other amazing musicians. My long-term Australian internet love Léna (formerly of TANGLE, one of my favorite bands ever, now doing eight hundred bazillion other amazing projects) compiled a zine at the end of last year called "Good Grief" that is a compilation of work about grief and mourning. And of course, there's the queer feminist contributor-driven zine "Hoax," which is one of the most epic and incredible projects ever. They release a couple of issues a year, and their mission is "to present varied, dissimilar narratives together in one zine in an attempt to debunk binaries of “valid” and “invalid” experiences related to anti-oppression work" (this is just a piece of their mission statement). The issues are themed around issues related to feminisms (relationships, mythologies, vulnerabilities, health, etc) and bring some incredible writers and artists together to produce inspiring and important work. I want to give this zine to everyone I know. I am proud to know Sari and Rachel, and will keep all my back issues forever. You can find them online here.

There's a zine attributed to a bunch of Philly babes/the Secret Society of Femmes called BROS FALL BACK that is fucking incredible. It focuses on identifying and calling out 'bro behavior' in the punk and hardcore scene, and uses that as the starting point to deconstruct issues that often go undiscussed by more privileged participants in the scene, like race and gentrification, labor capitalism, physical space and queer bodies. This should be handed out as required reading at the door of every show. It's totally incredible.

What band or musician would you love to play a show with that you haven't already?

Pleasure Leftists! They have been one of my favorite bands since Nature of Feeling came out a few years ago, and their most recent record is brilliant, too. I have a huge admiration for this band, no music has gripped me this severely in a very long time, but I listen to their records several times a week and I can't get enough. I've become very emotionally attached to their music; the singer has the most incredible voice you've ever heard. I hope we get to play with them soon! I also told Shaun, our keyboard player, that I want to play a show with Drake because I think he seems nice and his most recent record is very good.

Say Yes to Love is out March 18th. Pre-order it on iTunes here!

Photos via Noisey, NowToronto, and NeverNervous.

"Rock Dreams" is an ongoing series of interviews with amazing female musicians we love, and is sponsored by Sock Dreams.


Tagged in: zines, Syracuse, Punk, Pintrest, Perfect Pussy, noise-pop, noise, Meredith Graves, etsy   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.


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