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Feminist noise-punks Perfect Pussy won't let you ruin this for them

Pussy Galore

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When I ask Meredith Graves, singer of noisy punk band Perfect Pussy, about how she swirled drops of her menstrual blood into 300 copies of a limited-edition vinyl pressing of the band's new album Say Yes to Love, she just shrugs it off: "It really wasn't that big of a deal."

Graves' nonchalant response made me feel foolish for asking. I assumed someone would've balked at her idea — after all, we still live in a world where commercials use a delicate light blue fluid to advertise how absorbent a pad can be. But nope.

"There are a couple other young female artists that are working with the motif of menstruation, and they're getting shit for it, too," she continues. "Arvida Byström and Petra Collins have both worked within the last year or two with young women menstruating in art. And then I think about the history of using blood in performance art like Marina Abramovic or even Yoko Ono. One of her pieces is called Blood Piece [laughs]. It's not that weird, and it's not just me. It was something to do because it seemed interesting."

Yes, Perfect Pussy's bold band name and blood-imbued records (which sold out, by the way) have earned the new Syracuse-based quintet some sudden Internet attention, but those aren't the only reasons why they're noteworthy. Say Yes to Love is one of the most daring records to be released this year. The songs — cathartically reckless nests of hardcore structures, melody and massive distortion — are simultaneously pissed off, vulnerable and triumphant.

As a storm of sound beats down around her — created by bassist Greg Ambler, drummer Garrett Koloski, guitarist Ray McAndrew and keyboardist Shaun Sutkus — Graves takes to the microphone with the same rare combination of playfulness and dead-serious urgency that you so often hear in the voice of Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna. Even when she's saying blunt, uncomfortable truths — as in "Work," when she cries out, "I know I can hurt me / Far worse than you can hurt me," as though she's abused herself many times over — there's still an undeniable element of celebration.

"The happiness comes from finally having a group of people that you can be safe talking about those things around," Graves says. "The music is joyous because I finally feel this way. When we're onstage at night, we look at each other so much, and sometimes we'll be standing there playing and I'll notice that all of our backs are turned to the audience. I love the fact that when it feels like we're playing a show it feels like we're just playing for each other."

Even so, there's still an element of shittiness that can come with being a woman in a band, especially one so charged and direct as Perfect Pussy. That's especially true when it's a band that has gotten as popular as quickly as Perfect Pussy has. They've been together for roughly a year, but they are already receiving lots of national attention — some of it from seemingly unlikely sources like NPR — and that combination all but ensures haters will work overtime against the Pussy. But Graves is standing her ground.

"There are different levels of abuse," Graves says. "Catcalling is a form of abuse. If a woman says something against it and then they get called a bitch or a cunt, that's the second level of that. That's what happens to me. I don't get sexualized. I get, 'I hope she gets killed.'

"I don't really care anymore," she continues. "I stopped reading people's opinions about my band about two months ago. It's the most liberating thing I've ever done. There was a really good chance that if I kept reading [Internet comments] other people were going to ruin this for me, and I wasn't gonna let that happen."

Email Music@nashvillescene.com.

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