Interview with Potty Mouth

starBelieve it or not, Western Massachusetts has quite the music history when it comes to kick-ass alternative rock. You have Dinosaur Jr. hailing from Amherst along with ex-Sonic Youth punk rock power couple Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon who have lived there for nearly a decade. Miracle Legion and Polaris front man Mark Mulcahy call Springfield home and out of Northampton are awesome bands like Speedy Ortiz and Potty Mouth making names for themselves. Potty Mouth will play at Fete on May 10, and I had the chance to chat with bassist Ally Einbinder, guitarist and vocalist Abby Weems and drummer Victoria Mandanas about the show and whatever else has been happening with one of the best bands in New England.

Rob Duguay: So Potty Mouth will be playing at Fete on May 10. I find it stupendously weird that bands from Massachusetts have a hit or miss experience when it comes to playing a show in Providence. Either you have a huge crowd genuinely wanting to check the band out or you are playing for the bartender and the sound guy with only a few people there for the show. With that being said, what’s your opinion of the scene here in Providence from a touring band’s point of view?

Ally Einbinder: There’s some really exciting bands coming out of Providence right now, like Downtown Boys and Malportado Kids. Both bands share members and I can’t get enough of either. I live in Boston so PVD doesn’t feel that far from me and I get to hear about or see a lot of cool bands from that area because of the geographic proximity.

RD: Potty Mouth is from Northampton, which has a great cavalcade of up-and-coming acts like yourselves and a contingent of legendary musicians like Mark Mulcahy, Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis and ex-Sonic Youth founder Thurston Moore. What’s the music scene like in Northampton and is it difficult or easy for a local band to get their start there?

AE: The scene in Northampton is sort of amorphous from my perspective. The population of young people is constantly changing as people move in and out, due to the high number of people who move to the area primarily for college or grad school. Both Victoria and I moved to the area for college and we basically decided to stay because we had created this band. I think that’s what happens with a lot of folks. They’re drawn to the area for school, and they stay because of some creative pursuit they establish while they’re here. Starting a band here is as easy as you make it for yourself. There is definitely not a shortage of creative people who play or have an interest in playing music. There is not a shortage of accessible venues, either. It’s got enough of a “small town” vibe that finding others to play with and finding places to play doesn’t feel totally overwhelming. Crowds at shows are usually very affirming and open to hearing weirder, more experimental stuff. For me, Western Mass. has always felt like a comfortable place to try something new.

RD: Is it true that there’s a money hungry guy there who owns nearly every music venue and shop in Northampton who has a bad reputation for screwing over bands by doing things like taking a cut from your merch sales or not coming through with a guarantee that he said the band was going to get?

AE: There is a person in Northampton who owns several different venues, none of which we have played. Fortunately, there are also many, many great independently owned venues, shops, and non-profit spaces in the area, which makes it so there’s really not a shortage of alternative outlets for supporting both local and touring musicians and other creative people. A great example of this is Flywheel, a 100% volunteer-run, non-profit art space in Easthampton. Recently, the Julie Ruin and Screaming Females played a sold-out show there. As a touring band, you quickly begin to learn about the reputations and business practices of different venues in specific cities around the country. It feels good to know we live in an area with lots of alternative options.

RD: One thing that I found very cool about Potty Mouth is that you have a riot grrl angst that exudes the styles and attitude of acts like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney as well as musicians and performance artists like Kim Gordon and Kathleen Hannah. Do you find a huge influence in any of those acts and what’s your opinion on the state of the riot grrl movement in the 21st century?

Victoria Mandanas: Riot grrrl was great for a lot of people in its day and its influence continues to be far-reaching, but what we are doing is more along the lines of pop punk, or punk pop. Yeah, we share a name with a Bratmobile album and we’re all fans of their music but the ideas a lot of people have about our relationship to riot grrrl are for the most part projection.

RD: Last year Potty Mouth put out their debut album Hell Bent; can fans expect any new recordings to come out in 2014?

Abby Weems: I think so! We’re working on a ton of new stuff and hope to record our second full length this summer, so maybe something will get out there later in the year. We do actually play a lot of new songs live though!

If you’re looking to see what’s happening in New England musically beyond the comforts of Providence, head to Fete and check out Potty Mouth on May 10. Grab a copy of their awesome debut Hell Bent that’s been out for the past year and bask in the sounds of an amazing rock & roll band. Join me and have some fun!

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