Challenging & Introspective: We Spoke To Marisa Dabice of Mannequin Pussy

Mannequin Pussy

Irresistibly confrontational, Mannequin Pussy’s new effort is fast, chaotic and very effective. We spoke with frontwoman and founder Marisa Dabice about their ace new full-length Romantic, social media, US Election and much more…


You and Thanasi Paul started the band as a duo. What did lead you start Mannequin Pussy?
Oh, you know, the crushingness.

How did Kaleen Reading and Colins Regisford join the band and what did they bring to the band’s dynamic?
Kaleen and us had a mutual friend who basically set us up. [laughs] Like a romantic matchmaker but for musicians. Kaleen ended up playing like two shows with us and then we all left together for a month long tour with us on our first full US tour. That was two years ago and we haven’t stopped making songs together since then. Bear we met after he wrote us a very long email asking us to play his annual 420 Philly show. He promised to make us cookies if we played the show and we played the show and there were no cookies. A month or so after that, we just started asking around to see if anyone might wanna play bass with us to see how it felt and he was one of the first people who seemed to really want to.

How’s it like the writing process like within the band?
It varies from song to song. Most every song starts with a guitar part and we jam on that until the song feels right. We probably have anywhere from 3-6 songs at any given time that are still in that woodshedding stage. Each practice we go back to them and try to figure it out a little bit more every time. Sometimes Thanasi or I will bring a finished song to practice but for the most part we all work together to finalize the dynamics and feel of a song.

You have such a diversity of genres in your music that fit so well together, which you go from erratic hardcore tunes to more noisy punk rock songs. What bands or records did inspire you while shaping your songwriting?
We really don’t talk about much about specific bands when making music. I make a very serious effort when in the songwriting phase of an album to not be listening to music because I don’t want too much to seep into my subconscious, you know? We just focus on what we’re doing and don’t use too many outside references.

Your new album Romantic is fierce, fast, loud and really catchy and introspective as hell, and it’s 17 minutes long!!! How was the whole creative and recording process for the album?
We recorded it in Philadelphia at Big Mama’s Recording with Evan Bernard and Chris Baglivo. We took a week in the studio, two days to live track the album, and then maybe a day or so of guitar overdubs and one synth and some shakers, and then the rest of the time was recording vocals and mixing. For me personally, this was the first experience I had truly making a record. Our first record was kind of haphazardly thrown together and I didn’t have the prior experience to feel as active or comfortable in that situation, so this was the first time where I felt both ready to make the record and really able to contribute and learn from everyone else around me. I don’t want to make a record with anyone else, Chris and Evan were the best. They really understood us and what we wanted to bring out of our music onto a record and it can be a tricky to find engineers who can really make you feel that level of comfort and trust in them.

What does “romantic” mean to you?
Acceptance of your emotions; displaying them openly and honestly.

Marisa, your lyrics deal with a lot of emotions and moods that we all can really relate to and get inspired by. How do you approach the writing of your lyrics and what did inspire you this time around for Romantic?
Writing lyrics is my L’esprit de l’escalier. You know, that French term for coming up with the perfect response just too late? When I find myself in certain situations I freeze up and can’t think of anything to say until the moment has passed. It’s my chance to say what I wish I had so I’m usually speaking directly to a person or to a situation in my songs.

Opening Romantic you say “I am not ashamed to be lonely, but I’m afraid to feel it so deeply,” this sentence really strikes me, and after listening the album countless times, Romantic had this strong power on me, it gives the listener a cathartic experience, but at the same time brings a clear feeling of introspection. It reminds you that you’re human, that’s normal to have emotions and that’s normal to have ups and downs. Do you agree?
Yes, I agree.

Henry Rollins says America “tied a rock around its neck and threw itself into a river” by electing Donald Trump. What are your thoughts over the whole messy US election and how do you see the rise of someone like Donald Trump taking over?
Rivers are generally kind of shallow. Not to mention they’re always moving, if one was to take this rope from whence it’s came from upon their neck and instead tossed it to their side one would simply stand up and walk out of the river. This peak of the rise of Donald Trump implies that his fall will soon follow.

Equality, tolerance and decency are values that somehow will be put on hold or they will ignite some sort of consciousness awakening?
Equality, tolerance, and decency were put on hold throughout this entire election. We failed to defend these values every single day the corporate media blasted us with images of Donald Trump and played out his disturbing rhetoric. The only positive that could possibly come of this is exactly that consciousness awakening and I already see it playing out around me. More and more artists are using their platforms and local shows as a means to spread awareness about organizations that are defending the rights of people who are threatened by this new administration, and to have benefit shows to maintain a steady flow of income to those same groups. This is an important moment where people need to ask themselves what they’re willing to defend and fight for and figure out for themselves the best way to go about being active.

Personally, with the downfall of media, the social media constant stupidity we almost feel like we are just a passenger in this world, because these people steer their boat wherever they want to go, but the current moves in a direction that is beyond their power. On the other hand, there’s inspirational people like for example DeRay Mckesson (Black Lives Matter), that somehow might can force a change, because it feels that the only way it’s fighting for each other. Is it fair assessment?
Yeah, I definitely agree. It’s too easy to let yourself feel powerless when you’re basically living at the bottom. I, and so many of my friends and peers, don’t have the kind of wealth and power required to get the government to pay attention to so how can feel like we’re being effective and not just yelling into the echo chamber? You usually have to focus first on the micro – the personal communities that you actually live in. Start small and then focus on seeing it spread.

What are your thoughts about the current Philadelphia music scene?
Don’t move here.

In few words, how would you describe 2016 for Mannequin Pussy?
An incredible year for us personally in an otherwise depressing and trash year. I feel grateful for all that’s been happening for us but we’ve also worked very hard on art.

What plans do you have in store for 2017? I know that a January/February tour with Joyce Manor and AJJ is already on the menu.
Yup, doing our first support tour with Joyce Manor & AJJ. Then in May/June we’re going on our first European tour to play Primavera in Barcelona and then doing a month in the EU/UK.

What have you been listening to lately non-stop?
Natural white noise and new age meditation music.

Words: Fausto Casais // Photo: Scott Troya – Romantic is out now on Tiny Engines.
You can also read the interview here:

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