Music » Music Stories & Interviews

Philly punks Mannequin Pussy are racing headlong into the mainstream – via Orlando

Pussy riot

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"Our music is for someone who really wants an intense, cathartic experience."

With a full heart and weary body, Marisa Dabice of Mannequin Pussy is barely unpacked from the band's European tour a day before they kick off their North American tour. Despite the exhaustion, the songwriter tells Orlando Weekly with assured clarity that "as an artist, my only real job is to take things out of the shadows, and put them into the light to be shared with other people."

Philadelphia punks Mannequin Pussy – consisting of songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Dabice, guitarist Athanasios Paul, bassist Colins Rey Regisford and drummer Kaleen Reading – are riding an incredible wave of momentum, grounded in radical vulnerability and transformational storytelling.

The band with the unforgettable name (realized during a classically drunk night of inventing band names) has been steadily on the rise. Since 2014 they have released three albums, their first two on Tiny Engines and their latest, Patience, out earlier this year via punk powerhouse Epitaph Records. Totalling 10 tracks at 25 minutes, the record is an evolution for the band, the result of painstakingly hard work and raw honesty in songwriting.

Dabice has always identified as a confessional songwriter, but Patience represents a pivotal point in the songwriter's journey: "It's been a natural evolution in the way that we get a little bit more comfortable in sharing bits of ourselves. ... At this point, every story has come from something that I've personally experienced."

Patience digs deep, unearthing trauma, violence, self-hate and devastating heartbreak. Though often endured in isolation, those experiences are not unique, but rather part of a "collective consciousness," as Dabice puts it.

"I think it's really important to remember that sometimes people privately suffer with things and they might not feel comfortable talking about it," says Dabice. "So any place you have an ability to build compassion, it's important to do that."

With Patience, Mannequin Pussy has manifested such a place. In "Drunk II," the record's lead single, the singer turns to partying and alcohol to cope with the end of a relationship. Forlornly, Dabice sings, "I've been going out almost every night, I've been drinking everything I can get my hands on, I pretend I have fun." Stormy guitar accompanies increasingly fraught lyrics, "And everyone says to me, Missy, you're so strong/But what if I don't want to be?" Set to swirling music, "Fear/+/Desire" addresses domestic violence and sexual assault with chillingly vivid lyrics: "Does holding me down make you feel desire?/Leave my body till I can return/I'll unlearn."

Profound enough as it would be, Patience does not only embrace vulnerability. Track by track, the record careens between fragility and ferocity. At times, Patience is ruthless to an immensely satisfying degree, capturing a sense of reclamation and redemption. During "Cream," Dabice screams, "I was standing in the gates of my hell!" before catapulting into Spanish lyrics with equal rage and command.

The record's journey ends in triumph and optimism. There's strength found in struggle, power found in pain, and progress made in the difficult journey of self-love. The final track, "In Love Again," captures that spirit. Dabice belts with joyful determination, "I want this forever. Let's start anew. Let's see it through."

During our conversation, Dabice at one point muses that there's "an ability to transform anger into something beautiful." With Patience, Mannequin Pussy demonstrates that masterfully. There's a reason why the band finds itself at their current juncture. For the first time, they don't need their day jobs. They are in constant tour mode, playing to fans who know the lyrics to every song. The more revealed, the more audiences can relate.

Dabice knows this, and cherishes the responsibility. "Knowing music's ability to transform and reclaim our power," she says, "I feel honored to be part of someone's journey with that."

music@orlandoweekly.com

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