Potty Mouth: "It Is Not Our Job To Teach The Rest of the World How To Not Be Assholes"
When Potty Mouth started, where did you play?
Our first show was in a house, in May, 2011. We were called Vacation then, but we changed our name that summer because there was another band called Vacation. We actually played a show with them soon after, so it was good that we changed our name. So we played a lot of houses, but now we're playing a bunch of bigger venues, like the Middle East in Boston. There aren't really huge venues in Northampton, so we play art spaces and bars and restaurants. I think we all prefer house shows, though, because people dance more and there's more energy. That's probably because they're more drunk.
You mentioned earlier that people think you're all younger than you are. Why do you think that is?
I don't know. I think because we look young. And I guess it's cool to think of some sort of teenage girl punk band. People like that idea. Abby is young, and she's been in this band since she was 17. It annoys me a little bit. I get it all the time in real life, too, because I do look young. I'm the oldest in the band, but I look the youngest, and Abby's the youngest, but she looks the oldest. But it only annoys me when it seems like we're not taken seriously because of it. People assume that we're incompetent, or something. And since we're all women, that comes up all the time, too. To have those two things combined is very frustrating. It feels like people are being condescending.
At the end of the "Damage" video, the band finds entertainment by looking at an unplugged television with a drawing of a dog taped to it. And you also have a song about a dog called "Dog Song," right?
That's a dog drawing that Phoebe did, which we use on some of our shirts. The song's about Abby's dog, Lily, who's a really old family dog. Abby always thinks about how lonely Lily's life must be because she's always sitting at home while everyone's at work, or locked in the backyard waiting to be fed. The whole song's about the dog. For some reason, people hear it and think it's about women, because some of the things could sound metaphorical. People interpret it as being about women having to be subordinate, but it's really just about Abby's dog.
I read another recent interview you did where, in response to that feminist interpretation of "Dog Song," you said: "We are not a political band." Why do you think people make that assumption?
People see an all-female band that plays music that's kinda punk inspired, and they say "Okay, this is a riot grrrl band." That's a really lazy comparison to make, and so I go out of my way to say we're not a political band. I don't want to dis-identify with riot grrrl, though, because I love that music, and it helped me get into punk music. And it's also just coincidental that our name comes from a Bratmobile record. Phoebe came up with that name randomly. She thought of it while she was on the toilet, and when she told me, I told her it was the name of a Bratmobile record. She didn't know that. It's a nice coincidence, but it wasn't intentional.
But because of that, and because we're all women, and we play punk-inspired music, people are ready to slap on the riot grrrl label. It's annoying, because then we're compared to Bikini Kill and L7 and I don't think we sound like those bands. I wish people could describe our music in a way that doesn't rely on those references. I don't even know how to describe our music, though.
Our only explicitly political song is "Girls XL." I actually wrote that song, and I wrote it because I was pissed off about this message we got from a male friend that accused us of being too confident, as if confidence is a bad thing. He said we should just be quiet and not be in a band. It was an annoying road block for us. We shouldn't have to apologize for being confident. Abby and Phoebe had never even played guitar before our first practice. We didn't really know what we were doing at first. We didn't know how to write music or anything. And right around this time, this guy sent me this message. I was like, "Fuck you, we're doing this for the first time, so don't tell us we're being too confident." None of the other songs have a political message, though.
Why do you think so many all-female rock bands get dumped into the riot grrrl category?
I don't know, but it's very annoying. Any band with women in it has the same problem. When you read a review about an all-male band, the gender never comes up. Especially not in terms of the other bands they're compared to. You never read shit like "This all-male band sounds like this all-male band which sounds like this all-male band." We live in a time now when more women are playing music, so people should write about these bands in the same way that all-male bands are written about.
It also seems like it's assumed that all-female bands must necessarily have some sort of political, feminist agenda.
It is not our job to teach the rest of the world how to not be assholes. About a month ago, we were written about on Brooklyn Vegan. There was a picture of us--and I understand that website is the worst of the worst when it comes to trolling--but the comment section was fucking ruthless. The picture showed the four of us sitting on my bed, and it's the most inoffensive picture ever, and almost every comment was like "yes, no, maybe, never" all in reference to whether or not the commenter would have sex with us. At first I didn't even understand what that meant, but then I realized they were all about sex. And then the comments got even more sexually violent, or just violent. One commenter said they hope we get in a car accident and die on our way to New York. There were comments about how we give women a bad name because our music is bad and we can't play our instruments.
These comments made us all so upset, because we've never experienced anything like that before. It really is a different experience being in an all-female band. You can't even have pictures of yourself on the Internet without people saying things like this. This guy tried to tell us that we shouldn't have expected anything otherwise when we put that picture on the Internet. I said, "Fuck you, are you fucking serious?" It's similar to those people who say women deserve to be raped because of what they're wearing. It makes no sense. We shouldn't have to be invisible to avoid comments like this. We were all really mad. All the posts on Brooklyn Vegan about other female artists all have the same bullshit, too.
There are so many terrible humans in the world and the Internet brings them all together. And Brooklyn Vegan, in particular, attracts the worst of the worst.
Also interesting is that I submitted a comment to the post to correct some of the show information that was wrong, and I submitted it as "Potty Mouth." I got a message saying it may take a few moments for the comment to post because all the comments are moderated. My comment was never actually posted, but the article was updated with the correct information. So that leads me to believe that there is a person on the other side moderating these comments and deciding what matters and what doesn't matter. There's someone behind the scenes approving all of these terrible comments.
This was gonna be my next question for you: Now that people are paying more attention to the band, is there anything about that attention that you hate? But I think you just answered it.
Yes, that is absolutely the thing we hate the most. We want attention, and we want press, but we don't want the press to make us cry. But all those comments really did was make us all feel more confident about the band. Now the band is much stronger.
Potty Mouth play Thursday night with Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Waxahatchee, Swearin' and Weed Hands at 285 Kent, 8 p.m. On Friday, Potty Mouth plays with Aye Nako at the New Museum, 7 p.m.