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Meredith Graves From Perfect Pussy Talks Love, Feminism and Music

Ahead of their performance at Laneway Festival. By Courtney Sanders.
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Meredith Graves From Perfect Pussy Talks Love, Feminism and Music
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Meredith Graves, singer in Perfect Pussy, writer and feminist, sounds beaten – like a shell of her former self, whatever that was – when I call her to talk about her band's new album, Say Yes to Love, and their forthcoming tour of Australia (they're here for Laneway Festival).

I guess it's hardly surprising: the love of her life unceremoniously left her, she wrote a bunch of songs about it (the only way she knew how to survive the experience), and she's spent the intervening months recounting her story to journalists and fans alike, via a world tour that's threatening to ruin her voice. Success, it seems, ain't what it's cracked up to be.

As well as all of that, she's a vocal feminist who gave a now-infamous speech at Basilica Soundscape festival earlier this year, in which she compared Andrew WK to Lana Del Ray, to make her point: that women have to constantly prove themselves as authentic, and men don't.


Hi Meredith! How's it going?

Good. I'm actually not getting into the building I'm supposed to be in…hold on…oh no wait, one of my band mates is here, so I'm good. What's up?

I want to start by talking about your new album, Say Yes to Love. It sounds energetic, frenetic, euphoric. What's it about?

It's actually about the break up of my engagement. It's about the only person I've ever loved unceremoniously leaving me and then trying to get back with me repeatedly, including during the week we wrote the record in.

We had broken up a few months before, and him trying to get back together with me coincided with the weeks we were recording in, so I was kind of writing about it while it was happening; it was me documenting this really profoundly terrible feeling that things in my life were overlapping in a way I wasn't comfortable with.


That must have been really tough, because you actually took time off music after it happened to figure stuff out, right?

Yeah, things have been difficult for me. Relationships are difficult for everyone though – I'm not the first and I won't be the last to go through that, you know.

Did you make a conscious decision to make Say Yes to Love as personal as it is, or was it something you just had to do?

I don't really know. There are nights when it'll hit me like a bolt of lightening; all of a sudden I'll realise I'm on stage in front of thousands of people, explaining the fact that someone left me because I wasn't good enough. I'll be in this position of relative power and I'll catch myself in the middle of a song, and I'll remember what it's about; I'll remember that this whole album came from the experience of the person who I'd put the most time and energy into in my whole life no longer loving me, and giving up on me. Every once in a while it still gets me. It's not something you ever get over I don't think.

I think a lot of people think that me being in this band, and me "doing well" for myself means that I have the last laugh. But no. I was still totally abandoned by this person by I love, for being "sad" and for being "crazy". That sucks and that'll haunt me forever, and now I go around the world explaining it to people. It sucks a lot of days.


Does performing these songs feel cathartic at all?

Sometimes I feel like it is, and other times I'm very aware of what being in this band has done to me physically. I've been suffering from a lot of chronic pain problems in the last few months, and I never have before. I'm experiencing problems with my voice right now and I'm going to have to start seeing a specialist once I get back from touring; I'm pretty sure I've damaged my vocal chords irreparably in some way as a result of being in this band.

It's funny that this project, that has given me a voice in a metaphorical way for the first time, is actually going to take my physical voice away. I might lose the ability to sing completely within the year, so now it's becoming a project about how fast I can burn out. I traded 26 years of practice for a year of touring, and it's worth it, like I could die tomorrow, but…

I guess that's an indictment of the expectations of the modern music industry too; bands are expected to generate revenue by touring relentlessly instead of through record sales now.

Honestly, I don't real feel any pressure from anyone. Nobody knows or cares who the fuck I am. Sometimes my world feels quite large but really we're nobody; we've sold less than 10, 00 records and we get played on college radio. I would feel pressure if I was making money but I'm so broke I can barely afford to live. I don't feel any expectations because nobody cares enough to put expectations on me. Honestly, I'm in a privileged position because the second people start caring I'm no longer free.


It's interesting to hear you say you feel liberated, considering the essay you wrote about the representation of women in our culture (in which Graves compares the different treatment of Lana Del Ray and musician Andrew WK by the media). This sentence, "I feel weird about eating these days, or leaving the house", really stuck with me. Is that a comment on the media?

No, honestly, it's quite the opposite. Nobody cares what I look like, nobody cares about my weight. I'm not a pretty, saleable pop icon-looking woman – I'm older and heavier set, I'm kind of boyish looking, I'm not a sex symbol who has to worry about their weight or their physical appearance.

I'm very anxious, and that anxiety isn't about what the media thinks about me, it's about the fact that there are women around the world who get put in prison for trying to kill their rapist, or women who get shot for spurning a man, or women who are profiled and denied access to everything. I'm constantly trying to keep up on global feminist news. Being a woman in the world is dangerous in a way that it's not for men, so I'm just afraid to identify as having a body or a gender some days. It's difficult to get up and face the world some days when I look around at what's happening to women in similar or vastly different conditions to mine. It's the anxiety of being aware I'm a certain gender. It's the anxiety of being viewed as female by the rest of the world, and all the ways that is going to work against me. It's more about the social pressure than the media pressure.

Perfect Pussy are playing St Jerome's Laneway Festival this January and February. Head over here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Perfect Pussy are also playing two sideshows while in Australia:
Thursday Jan 29 - Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Wednesday Feb 4 - Newtown Social Club, Sydney

Posted on November 1, 2015 by Courtney Sanders

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3) Watch FKA twigs Debut New Song at her Melbourne Show

4) Sia and Maddie Ziegler Reinterpret Elastic Heart Dance for Ellen - it's Amazing

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"Being a woman in the world is dangerous in a way that it's not for men." – Meredith Graves
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