"Like A Bat In A Tent": Philly's Mannequin Pussy Talk Politics, 'Romantic', & Why They Love Colorado

By: Sierra Voss

Last week, Philadelphia's Mannequin Pussy owned the stage at Denver’s Hi-Dive. World got you numb? Mannequin Pussy cuts through the sh*t and wakes up every nerve ending in your body. I was enamored by this band's raw and authentic expression of the world around them. Mannequin Pussy blends multiple music musical styles together including rock, punk, pop, and grunge. I had the chance to talk to members Marisa (vocals/guitar) and Thanasi (guitar) before the show. Their four-piece also includes Bear (bass) and Kaleen (drums). The band released their album 'Romantic' this past October, and Stereogum dubbed the outfit as a “2016 Band To Watch.” Read on:

At what point did you decide to start this band?

Marisa: Thanasi and I have been friends since elementary school in Connecticut. In 2012, I asked him to start the band with me. It was a pretty new idea. Thanasi had always been in bands. I didn’t really start playing music until later. When I moved back to the East Coast I asked him to play with me.  

What made you move the band to Philly?

Marisa: Thanasi convinced me that was where we should move. We had a lot of friends who lived there. It was very clearly the kind of creative community we were looking for.

What's the difference between the creative community in Philly VS New York?

Thanasi: New York is a little more competitive in a bad way. In Philly it’s competitive- everyone is so talented but also friends with each other, and everyone's support and driven to make better, cooler music. In New York everyone is just hustling trying to survive as a band.

You guys completely break out of every genre box someone could attempt to put you in. Is your hodge podge sound more accepted in Philly then it was in New York?

Thanasi: I honestly feel like we're the only band that does this in Philly. It was never a conscious decision to [have this sound]. It never felt weird to us to have different types of songs. There are definitely specific music scenes in Philly, but there are not hard lines. It never feels too clicky.

Listen to Mannequin Pussy’s Romantic:

I hate to ask this question... but I’m going to. How did you come up with the name for this project?

Marisa: It was something I heard a friend say. I used to have a show house in Boulder called “Goth House.” We would have a lot of parties and shows there. One night a bunch of us were drunk on the porch spitting out drunken band names and someone said “Mannequin Pussy.” It stayed in my head forever.

So this was in Boulder, Colorado?

Marisa: Yeah- I lived in Boulder for five years actually. That’s a huge reason why I think a play music now. A lot of my friends were involved in the small music scene that was there. It was small, but it was a very energetic and important music scene.

Mannequin Pussy.

Mannequin Pussy.

I was cracking up reading your “About” section on Facebook: “Like a bat in a tent.” Tell me more about that band defining statement.

Thanasi: We just sound exactly like that- all fluttery and spastic.

Marisa: We have a chaotic element, you know, like trying to escape from something.

When did you start your current tour?

Marisa: We started our tour in October. We are pretty lucky and excited to be playing [at] all of our stops. I am really excited be in Colorado. It kind of feels like a homecoming show. We are having Thanksgiving there with our friends. It’s one of the shows we’re most excited about.

What has been the craziest thing that's happen to you guys so far on the tour?

Marisa: We were on tour in the middle of the country on election night. That was a really interesting show. We were playing in this bar in Oklahoma city. There were no TVs in there, so everyone was just on their phones refreshing and refreshing, waiting to check results. You could just feel the tension. By the time we were leaving the show to go stay with our friends it had been announced that Trump had won. It felt like a very surreal night.

What was it like playing that night?

Marisa: I felt more nervous to play. Playing is normally a cathartic release, and I normally don’t think about what's happening in my life or what’s happening in the world. That night and the night after, I couldn't stop thinking about the election and about the people in my life that were incredibly afraid. We feel like we have an immerse responsibility as artists to be cultural and political critics. So how is that going to shape our art moving forward, you know?

Marisa.

Marisa.

'Romantic' is extremely raw and authentic, capturing words that explain challenging human emotions. What cultural events inspired this album?  

Marisa: We wrote this album during the election cycle. All these attitudes, beliefs, and experiences are kind of shaped out of the last two years [when] we have been bombarded by the election. It’s [been] like a huge distraction. You have to deal with a two-year-long popularity contest before you get to see what's to come. I think there has been an anxiety building in all of us. On this tour particularly, we have noticed people really wanting to talk to us about the content of our music, our politics and beliefs, or the way certain songs on the album have touched them. For us as artists, that's the most remarkable thing to experience: When someone not only listens to something that you've made, but connects to it in a way that might really stay with them. It makes you feel a little bit less alone.

Catch Mannequin Pussy on tour here.

-Sierra

All photos per the author. All videos and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.