Potty Mouth are Not Riot Grrrls
On buzz, reductive labels, and violent spooning.
Hailing from Emily Dickinson's old stomping grounds, Pioneer Valley punks Potty Mouth are blowing up big-time. On the strength of basically one cassette demo and one EP, band members Ally, Phoebe, Victoria, and Abby (who is fresh out of high school) are enjoying a banner year; the four have toured the American South, New England, basements, blasted out abandoned shopping centers, and even NYC's New Museum.
I Skyped up the 90s-flecked quartet in Ally's attic bedroom to find out what's good. They kindly obliged me over massive goblets of red wine.
Noisey: So it's been a really great year for Potty Mouth.
Phoebe: It's been awesome.
You guys have been together for a year and half?
Do you have many big shows coming up?
Basically, until the end of the school year, we have a lot of weekends filled up with shows. We just played the New Museum, and the Indie Pop Prom with Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In June, we're going to do a mini-tour, and more towards the middle of summer, we'll do a bigger tour.
Tell me about your recent New York shows.
Abby: They were so much fun. We had been looking forward to them for a long time.
Ally: They were both so different. The Indie Pop Prom was an insanely packed party at 285 Kent, so many fucking people, everyone was drunk, and then the next show at the New Museum was a very nice space with older people who might not necessarily come to our shows—a museum-y type of vibe. But it was cool because they were really different, but they were both in New York.
Can you tell me about any memorable tours or shows?
Phoebe: On our summer tour, our must fun shows were Columbus and Buffalo. Buffalo was amazing. We weren't expecting anything. We had no idea what the show was gonna be like, we just thought it was going to be a small basement show, but it ended up being a massive party. But it was different from just a party, because everybody was really into the music, so it was really really exciting and awesome. Really packed and everybody was just having a really great time.
Abby: Oh, that was the night that Ally and Victoria and I all slept together. First of all, Ally forced me to spoon her in her sleep.
Ally: I forced you to spoon me all night.
Abby: And Victoria punched me in the mouth. Yeah, that was not a good sleepover.
Ally: You weren't there when I went to sleep.
Abby: I got into bed and then Ally grabbed my arm and pulled it over her and then Victoria rolled over and punched me in the mouth. We all went a little wild that night.
Strange dreams, I'm sure.
Ally: While the three of us were in bed, Phoebe was still downstairs by herself dancing on tables. And what were you singing?
Phoebe: Honestly, everything. But I remember at one moment, Abby and I had put on GG Allin.
Ally: Our last tour, the craziest show we played was in New Orleans. It was a generator show in this totally gutted out abandoned strip mall complex—just like a concrete shell of its former self. It was fucking terrifying trying to get there; we had to cross a bridge over a canal onto the railroad tracks. When we showed up, there was nobody fucking there, it was pitch dark, the generator wasn't there. We were afraid we were gonna get jumped. So we went out in search of coffee and came back an hour later and there were like 100 people there, lights were on, we had a keg going, it was amazing.
We premiered your video for “Damage” a few months back, and we were all really happy to see it do so well. How did it feel to see such a strong positive reaction to your video?
We were psyched as hell, because it really helped. People still e-mail us saying, like, “Hey, we saw you guys through Noisey!” And we just had a meeting with a label that is potentially interested in putting our record out and one of the questions they asked was “How did you get on Noisey?” So we were really happy it helped a lot.
That's great! We're happy to help! Speaking of labels, you guys had sort of an unusual first release. Can you tell me about how that came about?
Abby: There were three different labels that all wanted to put out seven-inches, so they all just got together and were like, "Lets just put it all out together."
Ally: We had recorded six songs and we had one label that wanted to put three on a seven-inch, and another label wanted to put the other three on a seven-inch, and then another guy came in and said he wanted to do it, so we were like, “Why don't you all work together?” So we had the idea to do a 12-inch at 45 rpm which is, I think, the best format for vinyl.
Are you working on a new record?
Phoebe: We have all of our songs for a full-length recorded and mastered, and “Damage” is a part of it. We released it as a single because we don't want to wait too long. We want to put out something new because it might be a while 'til we find the right label. But that's one of ten unreleased songs. Hopefully, we'll release them all by this summer. That's the goal.
What's your recording process like?
Phoebe: We recorded our EP and this new record live, and then we do some overdubs. Some random stuff, like sound effects. A little secret: there's smashing bottles in one song. But we always do initial live recordings, we play all together. We don't separate the instruments. I think it adds to the energy and the flow.
So you guys have been compared a lot to the riot grrrls, but I feel like that's almost asinine at this point. How do you feel about that sort of bullshit?
Ally: It's annoying to constantly hear that, because you know the reason why is because we're all women that play music that's kind of 90s-sounding and kind of punk-sounding, so all those factors combined—our gender and our influences—make people smack the riot grrrl label on us. Maybe they write more about us based on what they see, not what they hear. I'd just like to push people to use the same kind of language they would use to describe an all-male band to describe our sound, as opposed to reverting to the riot grrrl label, because it's lazy and reductive.
#Truespeech. For tour dates, merchandise, and more info, check out the band's Tumblr here!