If you're talking about reckless actions that result from the fog of complicated human emotion, pity sex might just be the saddest. But Pity Sex, a four-piece rock band from Ann Arbor, Michigan, that checks all the critical shoegaze/emo/postpunk revival boxes, mixes a dose of sanguine uplift into their layered guitar-centric arrangements. Pitchfork ended its review of 2016 full-length White Hot Moon with the curious question "Emo is growing up, but is Pity Sex?"
Yet it's clear that this is a band of full-blown adults – Orlando Weekly even lucked into a chat with frontwoman Britty Hakes, who runs a psychology lab studying time and human cognition at the University of Michigan, at the very un-rockstar-like time of 9:15 a.m.
Orlando Weekly: White Hot Moon came out in April, but this is the first full tour after its release, right?
Britty Hakes: Right. We finished writing and recording everything about a year ago, but I was unable to tour because of my job. It's definitely felt like a long process, so it's really nice to finally play the songs live – get it all out on the table and have people like it.
Had the format or structure of the songs changed in that year?
No, we're playing them all true to the album. We're not much of an improv band.
Is that because you all treat the time you're able to devote to Pity Sex with such regard?
My job definitely comes first for me. I love playing music, whereas work is something I plan on doing as a means of self-sustaining. I don't want the band to become something I have to depend on for money – that's when you start phoning it in.
You definitely don't phone it in when it comes to addressing sensitive topics like fractured relationships, broken intimate connections and the balance of physical versus emotional satisfaction.
That comes from work and more creative activities being mutually informative. There are people I work with who are really one-dimensional – they're great at what they do, but work is all they think about. I would feel really unfulfilled if that were my approach. Being in a band and having other interests outside of just science and music are really important to our music and to the way I conceptualize things like relationships and temporal orientation.
Speaking of looking to the past, were you surprised when reviews of White Hot Moon focused so much on specific '90s alt-rock touchstones supposedly intrinsic in Pity Sex's music?
No, because I think it's all just a matter of availability heuristic: One reviewer reads another review, and they're really happy to compare everything to something that is obvious. Of course bands are influenced by the '90s – that shit was sick – and I'm not even going to deny that I was influenced by my formative years. Reviewers using "shoegaze" and "emo," though ... that's just a matter of feeling comfortable using those terms because other people do. It's definitely a pretty fair description, but I just tell people we sound like the '90s.
Also, "shoegaze" and "emo" mean nearly opposite things.
The fact that you can write that a band is emo and shoegaze in the same fucking review doesn't make any sense! Obviously those terms have lost a lot of their descriptive ability over the years.
Maybe that will be the enduring legacy of Pity Sex – bridging the gap between such disparate genres.
I'm going to go ahead and say I agree.