Talks Perfect Pussy
The Guitarist Talks Being In A Cutting Edge, Woman-Led Punk Band, The Syracuse, N.Y. Music Scene, Relentless Touring As Well As Giving Updates On Side Projects Like SSWAMPZZ
By Clipper Arnold
Special for Modern Times Magazine
Oct. 23, 2014 — Perfect Pussy are a noise rock band from Syracuse, New York. They have been described as “the most important punk band to come out of Syracuse since Earth Crisis.” After touring extensively and dropping the critically acclaimed “Say Yes to Love” in 2014, Ray took some time to speak about his experiences with the band as well as how he and other members of the band got ‘here’ from other ‘theres.’
The following interview took place on October 1st, 2014.
Modern Times Magazine: Where and how did you first get involved with Perfect Pussy? I know one of your band members from SSWAMPZZ is also in the band.
Raymond McAndrew: Yeah, Garrett Koloski (the drummer). He’s actually how. I guess the first incarnation of the band was Garrett, Greg Ambler, and Meredith Graves. Meredith was asked to write a song for this movie being shot in Syracuse called Adult World and her old band had broken up at that time, so she had to find a new band which consisted of her, Greg, and Garrett. I actually think the song they wrote for the movie didn’t even end up getting produced for it ... it got cut out, so (laughs). Yeah, after the movie, Shaun Sutkus and I just kind of started playing music with them. Garrett asked us one day to just come and jam with them.
MTM: Your guys’ first show was in a basement in Syracuse?
RM: Yeah, we’ve only actually played in Syracuse about three times. Two times were in a basement and another time was in our friend’s music store.
MTM: What’s the music scene in Syracuse like?
RM: I honestly don’t think there is much of one anymore. There’s a local theater that puts on Talking Heads cover bands and jam bands. There’s also a hardcore scene here, but from my experience, it’s kind of macho and bro-y.
MTM: So, where did you play some of your other first shows?
RM: There was one in Northhampton, one in Philadelphia and then one in Buffalo. And after that, we started touring more nationally.
MTM: Did you have experience doing that before? Meredith did national tours with Shoppers, right?
RM: Yeah, the longest tour that I’d been on before Perfect Pussy was about a week long and was with a band I’m in with my brother called Toxic Parents.
MTM: Can you tell us more about SSWAMPZZ?
RM: SSWAMPZZ was a band I was in with Garrett and our friend Ricky Balmaseda who is also in a band called Advertising now. They just put out a record and it is amazing — it’s like one of the best records I’ve heard this year. SSWAMPZZ might end up putting out one more release at some point, but I don’t really know — it’s kind of defunct at the moment. We have some stuff recorded but it’s taken us a little while to do anything with it. That was my first band, actually, and is probably my favorite project I’ve ever done.
MTM: So how old were you when you started SSWAMPZZ?
RM: I was about 18 or 19. That’s how I met Garrett, actually. Garrett and I met at this open mic night that I used to play, which is really lame. He told me he wanted to start a band with me, so we started jamming. We met Ricky and invited him to start playing music with us, and that’s how SSWAMPZZ got started.
MTM: As far as guitar playing goes, who or what kind of bands would you say influence your style?
RM: Um...I don’t know! I guess I would say Sonic Youth a little bit, which is really lame, but…
MTM: No, I understand — it’s like trying to capture that noisy, chaotic atmosphere.
RM: Yeah. They were kind of an influence on the demo, but since then I’ve tried to break away from that a bit.
MTM: Do you know what kind of hardware Shaun uses on the keyboards in Perfect Pussy? There’s the bassist, drums, and then the vocals, obviously. It seems like the keys pull a lot of weight as far as rounding out the textures and everything.
RM: I know the keyboard he uses is just a shitty one from a thrift store. And then he has this really cool delay pedal or tube echo pedal. That’s the noise that makes the (imitates echo noises). That’s most of the stuff he does. It’s this really not common thing. It’s made by some guy out of his house. If it breaks, you have to send it to him. It takes him months to repair and send it back. I forget what it’s called. I think the company is called ‘Soulcom’ or something? Other than that, he changes his setup regularly, so I’m not quite sure what he uses. I know he has this pedal that was made by Death by Audio. I can’t remember which one it was though.
MTM: What sort of other projects are you involved in at the moment? Anything in particular?
RM: Yeah, I’m playing this show in Syracuse with my friend’s band called Popular Music. We’re opening up for Cloud Nothings. It’s kind of a band that has gotten a lot done but has never really done that much. I mean, they’ve recorded two EPs. One of their cassettes was put up on Rolling Stone as one of the best cassettes of the year. I think they’ve only ever played about three shows over the span of five years. There’s only one constant member and then there’s a rotating cast of other members of the band. I hope we’ll be able to get that up and running soon. And then, I’m in this band with my brother called Toxic Parents that we do through the internet — which is kind of a no-wave-y, punk band. I’m also starting to learn to play and write electronic music. I wrote my first full electronic song yesterday and hope to be doing more of that soon.
MTM: What’s the touring and recording schedule looking like for you in the future? Any new releases or anything coming up?
RM: They’re going to reissue the Perfect Pussy demo on a 7-inch vinyl through Captured Tracks. We’re going to Europe again towards the end of October. After that I think we’re going to take a little break to focus on different things.
MTM: Yeah, your guys’ touring schedule is insane.
RM: Yeah, that’s why we kind of need a break from the band for a little while. I’m sure we’re going to do something else and go on another tour, but for now we’re just going to relax a little.
MTM: Did you see Meredith’s essay on the authenticity of female musicians and the expectations of her? Do you have any experience of that perspective — being in a band with her?
RM: I’ve never really experienced much of that at shows or anything — like, disrespect of her being a woman. A lot of it is on the internet. Some people say stuff like “her daddy paid for this band,” which isn’t at all true. I thought her essay was really good. A lot of people who attack the piece seem to misunderstand what she was trying to say. They say things like “Lana Del Rey sucks! Why would she defend her?” or “Andrew WK is awesome! Why would she be talking shit about him?” She’s not doing either of those things. She’s pointing out that the reason Lana Del Rey has to have a “fake personality” is because she’s a woman and in order to succeed, has to do that. Whereas Andrew WK can be whoever he wants to be. The fact that he came out as saying the persona he puts on isn’t who he actually is, like “I don’t party or do all of this all the time.” But, when Lana Del Rey is accused of being “fake” a little bit, people talk shit about it. I feel like the people who were talking shit about Meredith’s piece didn’t really understand that. There were are also these “bronies” on the internet who are these people that are sexually attracted to this kid’s television show. There was some dude going off on Meredith about that saying “this isn’t creepy at all” and trying to defend it, but it’s kind of, like, “yeah, it is a bit, dude.”
MTM: What are you up to most immediately? I know you mentioned going to a show in Canada.
RM: Oh, yeah. I went to the Unicorns show with a friend. It was their last reunion show of those six shows they did. It was in their home city, so it was an awesome show. I’ve just been travelling around and visiting friends. I start working again at the restaurant I was working at tomorrow. Right now, I’m in Cleveland right now and tomorrow I catch a train back to Syracuse. I’m going to be washing dishes again.
MTM: Well, best of luck and thanks for taking the time to speak with us today!
RM: Yeah, no problem!
Clipper Arnold is a writer from the Phoenix metro.
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