In the spring of 2011, I heard Ally Einbinder speak at a Ladyfest Easthampton panel on “Women In Punk And Hardcore.” Sitting in a circle of folding chairs in the showspace at the Western Mass community-centric venue Flywheel, Einbinder reflected on her frustrating experiences booking DIY shows in a male-dominated community, as well as playing bass in the punk bands Outdates and Honeysuck. After hearing Einbinder speak on that panel, I wasn’t too surprised when just a few months later I came across her new project, an all-female pop-leaning 4-piece called Potty Mouth.
“In the same way it was a deliberate decision for me to go to an all-women’s college, it was a deliberate desire for me to be in an all-women’s band,” she said earlier this year in an interview with the New Museum’s blog. “I had been in two other bands before Potty Mouth and they did not have entirely female members. In my other bands, I wasn’t doing any songwriting; I wasn’t growing as a bassist because I was just playing the parts someone else told me to play. Potty Mouth really enabled me to push myself and take more risks precisely because I felt more comfortable with Victoria, Abby, and Phoebe.”
Einbinder and her friend Phoebe Harris had the idea to start Potty Mouth while hanging out on a Smith College retreat, where they both attended and Einbinder now works. “Phoebe had never played guitar before and I had never attempted to write songs on my own before so it seemed unlikely at the time that we’d go anywhere with anything we tried to start, but we decided to give it a shot anyway,” says Einbinder. Soon they were joined by Victoria Mandanas, another Smith student and drummer for South Carolina punk 4-piece Chemical Peel, and Abby Weems, who was then a high school student but would come to shows at Phoebe’s apartment. “Abby had never really played guitar before, but she knew bass, so she figured she’d give guitar a try,” says Einbinder. By September 2011 they recorded a demo tape in Einbinder’s basement — four tacks of minimal punk-spirited pop songs with surfy post-punk guitar leads and girl-gang harmonized vocals. Last year, they headed to Dead Air Studios in Western Mass to record their debut 12-inch EP, Sun Damage, released as a three-way split by Brooklyn-based Puzzle Piece, Boston label Ride The Snake, and Northampton’s Feeble Minds Records. Both are well worth a listen; check out “Drip Dry” and “Dog Song” to start.
Now, after less than two years of playing relentlessly around the Northeast and beyond, Potty Mouth is getting ready to finally release their debut full-length, Hell Bent, out 9/17 via Old Flame in the US and Marshall Teller in the UK. The album was also recorded at Dead Air Studios, and includes their best songs yet; hear “Damage” and “The Spins” below. It’s a record I grew increasingly excited about last weekend, as I watched them close out the first night of Ladyfest Philadelphia, where they played to an enthusiastic crowd and sounded tighter than ever. At that show, I couldn’t help but think back to Ladyfest Easthampton, and about the ways in which bands like Potty Mouth are expanding the conversation about what it means to be a a forward-thinking feminist band: intentionally crafted but not outwardly political, in touch with the legacy of riot-grrrl but dismissive of lazy comparisons to it.
“Slapping the riot grrrl label on us just because we happen to be women playing a type of music that happens to be reminiscent of another era in time seems like a lazy conflation,” Einbinder says. “I think Potty Mouth’s music would be described very differently if people spoke about us using a similar degree of non-gendered language with which they speak about bands with all male members. In no way do I want to dis-identify with the politics of riot grrrl (indeed I think having a strong movement of women in the male-dominated culture of punk is still very important), it’s just that I would like to see people, especially music writers, push themselves more to describe our music through a non-gendered lens … GENDER DOES NOT EQUAL GENRE.”
Check out the first two singles from Hell Bent below.