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August 2019
Feature

Mannequin Pussy reflect on life, love and heartbreak: "Love is my ultimate muse"

Guitarist Marisa Dabice tells us about their third record, ‘Patience’.
Published: 10:47 am, June 24, 2019
Mannequin Pussy reflect on life, love and heartbreak: "Love is my ultimate muse"

Philadelphia favourites Mannequin Pussy are experts in portraying the highs and lows of love, heartbreak and moving on with noisy, super-relatable punk. Guitarist Marisa Dabice tells us about their third record, ‘Patience’.

Hey Marisa, how’s it going?

Eh, it's going alright, American politics are infecting my head right now. I have a hard time separating what happens in the news from how I'm personally doing. Trying to work on that though...

So, the press release for ‘Patience’ describes it as your “most personal” album to date, is that because of the subject matters covered, or the way you’ve broached them? How do you rate these things?

Haha, that's such a classic thing for a press release to say. Every album we've ever made has been personal! I've never been the kind of lyricist to pick words at random out of a magazine and string them together (although that is a good tactic for when you're feeling stuck). Once Patience was done, and I started listening back to the mixes, I had a few moments of just sheer panic. I was listening back to what I said and started asking myself: oh fuck, do I really want to admit all this so publicly? I hadn't experienced that before with an album. That moment where you wonder if maybe you should self-censor, asking yourself if you're actually ready to talk about these things with an audience, is a crucial one. I think it's still going to be a struggle with a few of the themes on the record, but I'm trying to shed the shame of some of these experiences.

Has being three albums deep, or just growing older, impacted the topics you want to write or sing about?

Love is my ultimate muse. I love every part of a relationship - from those beginning weeks of lust to falling in love and then to when it's nothing more than a pile of ashes, and you're stumbling around heartbroken wondering if you'll ever feel happy again. For a long time, my coping mechanism in life was denial; if I could just blackout traumatic experiences, then I wouldn't have to suffer through them. While that may be nice in theory, the fact is that it doesn't work forever. Eventually, you're going to have to come face to face with your biggest traumas and figure out how to accept that they've happened and survive. This is the first record that I started to explore certain experiences that I had previously ignored, I think it made for a few very difficult days in the studio, but ultimately I'm proud that I decided to confront it.

Which musicians do you personally connect with, in a similar way to how you’d like fans to connect with your band?

I love Michelle Zauner [Japanese Breakfast] so much. She's not only a great friend to me, but she's also a musician and peer that I'm so inspired by. When I listen to her albums and the words she's singing I experience that sensation where you're like "how did this person get in my head and put into words what I've been struggling to say for so long???" She writes about grief and sex and desolation in such beautiful ways. And she shreds on guitar!!

"For a long time, my coping mechanism in life was denial"
Marisa Dabice

Did you have a strong vision for this album when you first started writing it?
Yes. By the time we were in the studio to record I already had mock-ups of what the album cover should look like, and two storyboards for the music videos I wanted to make ('Drunk II' which is already made and I'm so proud of and then another one for High Horse which I hope to make eventually). This is actually the first record we've made that I feel like is cohesive. Our albums past have felt more like collections of finished songs, but to me, Patience is the first album that takes these different themes and sounds and really explores them. I've already started writing up LP4 and have a mock-up for the album cover haha. I see each album as an opportunity to build a little world.

How was it recording with Will Yip? He seems like a good bloke to have in the studio.

Will is the fucking best. Since I'm always striving to out-do myself, I thrive on constructive criticism, and I've never met anyone who can hand that out as poetically as Will Yip. He knows how to zero in on parts of the song that you can't hear anymore, how to pick you up when you feel like you can't possibly do another take... he just knows what to say to get the best out of you. I feel incredibly lucky that we met and he wanted to work with us - I don't think we could have made this record the way we had envisioned it without him.

How did you end up with bongos on ‘In Love Again’? Did you experiment with many different instruments in the studio, or were they brought in especially for that track?

Ok at first I was heavy anti-bongo, I was like, wtf y'all this does not need it!!! But the more time we spent on the outro to 'In Love Again' I realized that I should just shut up and trust Kaleen, who is a master of drums and percussion. We were trying to do something we'd never done before, and she took that opportunity to create a "percussion odyssey", and I love the way it turned out.

Are there any other slightly-weird instruments you’re keen to work with in future?

Oh, of course! I'd like to explore more orchestral elements on the next record. Maybe try my hand at learning the harp or the Koto. Incorporating slightly more electronic elements would also be fun. Many of the demos I make at home have samples and electronic drums... I dunno, for awhile the approach was so bare bones. We wouldn't really do anything that we couldn't re-create live, but that's so limiting! The experience of making a record shouldn't be hindered by that. I'm excited to see what we'll create next.

How do you approach curating the tracklistings for your records? It feels like you guys are pretty restrained; there are way too many 15+ track albums that go on and on and on thanks to streaming.

The sequence of an album is one of the most important parts of a record. Everything needs to have its place and have a flow to an album. I think we're restrained because I'm not very prolific. I write a song maybe every few months and honestly, we spent so much time on tour the last two years that writing became very difficult. It was more like, ok we have 14 songs that we can record, let's record them all and see if anything should be cut. And usually, there is some outlier song that just fit... even if I love a song, but it's not really serving the album then I have no problem giving it the axe.

Are you guys impacted by boring things like industry metrics and streaming data, or do you try to ignore it all?

I don't know anything about those things, haha. I think that's what your label and manager are for?

What else do you guys have coming up over summer, are you touring lots? Do you have a holiday booked?

We have a praci-cation planned. We're going away together as a band for a week to learn the rest of the record. Right now we know how to play about half of the songs on Patience, so since we have a tour coming up in August, it's time to learn the other half. I also have a fair amount of demos I want to start working on as a band. It's never too soon to start dreaming up the next record.

Taken from the July issue of Upset. Mannequin Pussy's album 'Patience' is out now.

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