Nine years and three albums into their career, Philadelphia punks Mannequin Pussy’s fire is getting increasingly stoked. Shit, you only have to listen to the opening chords and the opening lyrics on “Patience,” the opening title track on their new album, to see that singer/guitarist Marisa Dabice and her bandmates haven’t calmed down at all.
And why should they? Patience is an intensely personal album, perhaps particularly for Dabice, essentially journaling bad relationships and various other personal experiences, all marinating in the inevitable influence of the current woman-hating administration. It’s a weighty record, but also eminently listenable thanks to some killer hooks, exemplary (if beautifully fuzzy) musicianship, and a super-cool riot grrl delivery. The reviews have been pretty much universally positive.
“It seems that way,” says Dabice. “I saw one negative review that said it had no depth, and I was like, okay. It was some very old man’s blog. So maybe not out target demographic anyway. But that shit doesn’t bother me.”
Mannequin Pussy originally formed as a two-piece by Dabice and Athanasios Paul, who originally played drums but has since moved to guitar. Kaleen Reading now occupies the drum stool, while bassist Colins “Bear” Regisford joined in 2016. With the lineup complete, and the second album Romantic released in 2016, the band set about doing all they could to improve during the intervening three years.
“On a simple level, just getting better at our respective positions in the band, better with our instruments, better at songwriting, more inventive,” Dabice says. “What it really takes to keep a band together for as long as we have is just learning how to communicate and appreciate each other in a group setting.”
To that end, Mannequin Pussy is a democratic unit. They’re generally on the same page, but they’ll have meetings and vote when necessary. One key decision in recent years was the switch from the Tiny Engines label that released their first two albums to the relatively giant surroundings of Epitaph Records.
“We were just really hopeful that someone would come along who would believe in us in a way that translates into that sort of investment that is both financial and emotional in many ways,” Dabice says. “Labels and bands are a partnership… and we’ve grown into a new stage of the band where, if we stayed where we were, we might have been held back from being able to realize our goals and ambitions, especially our artistic ones.”
It makes sense on many levels. For example, Epitaph head honcho Brett Gurewitz and his band Bad Religion have always tackled political and social issues head on.
“They were really clear that there was nothing about us that they wanted to change,” Dabice says. “They didn’t want to tell us who we are because we already know who we are. They didn’t want to tell us what kind of music we should be making because they like the music we’re making. They saw that we lend our voice when it seems necessary to certain aspects of the political climate. So knowing that they were coming from that place, it just seemed like such a beautiful commitment for each other. They have a lot of respect for individualism.”
That’s fair — Patience isn’t a typical Epitaph album, but then there hasn’t really been such a thing since the glory days of pop-punk. Far from a concept album, Patience does have a theme running through it — one of going through something traumatic and being forced to confront it, and then choosing to either let it eat away at you or to build yourself back up.
“It’s very easy to get caught up in the traumatic things that have happened to us and that can destroy us from the inside out,” Dabice says. “But you have a choice at a certain point to rebuild yourself. But that’s not something that happens quickly in a person’s life. That’s something that takes its course over a few years.”
Naturally, these are sentiments that most people can relate to and, as a result, Dabice’s self-therapy can be therapeutic to countless others.
“That’s an unintended positive consequence,” she says. “When you’re very honest about the things you’re going through, it often brings you closer to people who have also gone through incredibly heavy things in their life. It doesn’t really matter who you are or what demographic you belong to, whether that’s a straight white male or anyone else. Most people have gone through something that changes their perspective and the way they go through the world. That is a universal thing. Compassion is a universal thing.”
On the subject of compassion, Mannequin Pussy and Epitaph donated a percentage of the first week of digital sales to The Trevor Project, which focuses on suicide prevention in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I heard that they raised like $4,800, which is not bad for a week of digital sales,” Dabice says. “I felt very lucky that Epitaph brought forth that idea and then was generous enough to say that they’d match donations. There are not so many labels that would do that.”
This week, Mannequin Pussy performs at Bottom of the Hill, on a killer bill alongside fellow Phili band Empath, plus New Yorkers T-Rextasy. Dabice is anticipating a decent mix of songs from their three albums in the set.
“Some songs are still in our set from our last album, Romantic,” she says. “Maybe a few songs off of the first record. But it’s going to be pretty heavy on all the new songs from Patience. Some of which we have been playing live for years. There are so many things to be excited about. All the bands are going to be wonderful and inspiring to people. You could dance, you could cry, you could mosh. You could slow dance with your lover. It’s going to be fun.”
Slow dance? Hey, why not?
Mannequin Pussy with Empath and T-Rextasy
Saturday, Aug. 31, 9 p.m., at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. $20, bottomofthehill.com