A Chat with Marisa Dabice
We've experimented with a couple of different interview formats here at DC, but wanted to try out something less formal and more conversational in this new year. After all, the site's tone has been drifting away from journalistic and towards candidness, so why not mirror that shift in these feature pieces? When we finally got down to listing who we would most like to chat with, Marisa Dabice's name was right at the top. The singer and guitarist of Mannequin Pussy is such an electric force, and pillar of Philly punk. So we reached out and were absolutely stoked when she obliged!
We've been big Mannequin Pussy fans for a while now, and their most recent album hovered around our top 20 favorite albums of the 2010's. It still gets a lot of spins a these days, and even as this site branches into all sorts of left-field genres, it's one we revisit often. Deeply earnest in tone and mixed in such a way that sets each band member's instrument alight, Patience is an all-timer.
Over the course of an hour of back-and-forth messaging, Dabice shared a bit about her love of tie-dying, revisited Patience highlights, talked Philly collabs, and even alluded to some new music. We've published the chat verbatim, which just might become a new thing here at DC. It's a bit raw and imperfect, but fun to read and reread. Anyway, check it out below, and a MASSIVE thanks to Marisa Dabice for her time and her art.
DC: Hey hey, lemme know whenever you’d like to get started. I’m just peeling some veggies, so no hurry whatsoever.
MD: Hey! Yes, let’s go.
DC: So how’s your Monday been? What did you get up to today?
MD: It’s been nice actually! Since I don’t have a 9-5, the concept of “Monday’s” aren’t really something that enters my consciousness too much. I did some house cleaning in the morning. Packaged up some gifts I made for some friends. Went for a walk with a friend who I’m working on a project with. Came home, made some food, and made a shirt.
DC: You know, I was actually curious to ask if you do music full-time. It’s hard to suss that out via Instagram, but it sound like you do, then?
MD: I’m very fortunate to be able to say yes to that question. It’s weird timing though. I had multiple jobs for YEARS and then when Patience came out, it did well enough and gave us so many touring opportunities that I was able to quit all the other jobs I had. But that was short lived - about 7 months of touring and then boom, the pandemic started.
DC: Damn. That is rough timing for sure, but so great that the album opened so many doors.
And you’ve been cranking out serious merch, too! You seem to be a pretty prolific tie dyer.
MD: Haha, yes, tie dye is my second love, after music. The merch kept us afloat last year. It’s tough in a band because you split all the income between the band members, but again, it’s extremely lucky that we’ve been able to make it work.
DC: Yeah, I gotta order me a MP crew neck next time you do a batch. Always too late to the game. I love seeing those reposts of superfans who rock like 8 shirts in their wardrobe. It’s awesome.
MD: It’s so cool to know there are people out there who have an entire drawer filled with shirts that say Pussy on them. DC: Hahaha. Love it!
Mannequin Pussy, photo credit: Scott Troyan/courtesy of the artist (via NPR)
DC: Back to Patience for a sec. It was my first exposure to y’all. So I can’t claim to be a long time fan, but it fucking knocked my socks off. Like big time. I cycle through new music real fast, but that’s one that I return to a lot. What do you think led that album to really be a breakout for the group? MD: It’s hard to say, but I would imagine it was a combination of the fruit of years of work and dedication and practice mixed with signing to Epitaph and having access to the kind of financial support that allows creative ideas to truly flourish. Our first album was recorded in two days, Romantic in two weeks, and this one we took a few months on, in-and-out of the studio. I’d never been in the position before, where there’s a label telling you how much they believe in you. It always felt like me believing in us and trying to convince other people of it haha. DC: That sounds really sweet, actually. I’m not a musician but I’m sure it’s incredibly affirming to know that a bunch of folks out there have that faith in your craft. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you once say that Drunk II is your fav MP song? Maybe I’m off on that. Prolly weird to name favs, too. MD: I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but it is the one I’m most proud of - for some reason those are distinct categories to me.
DC: Right on. I like to revisit the closing four tracks a lot. Something about the melodic elements on Who You Are and In Love Again bookending the gnarliness of Clams and F.U.C.A.W. hits just right. But it’s all great, really. MD: In Love Again might be my favorite. It was the song we wrote most collaboratively and it’s so much fun to play. I like when songs fall outside of the traditional structure and create their own. DC: Yesssssss. That fade out with the tambourine baps! MD: Kaleen’s percussion work on that song is flawless - she’s such an inspiring person to play music with. Plus it’s my first guitar solo on record so it has a special place in my heart. DC: Your guitar solo on that song has a real Carry the Zero feel, but really, the perfect album closer.
DC: So...you’ve got new music soon I hear. But no details yet?
MD: Yes! Soon enough more details will be out. Right now I’m just giving notes for final mixes and working on treatments for two music videos. It’s the post production - pre release work right now. DC: Fantastic. Is it an extension of the sound found on Patience? Or if not, how does this new album (if it is, in fact, an album) sound different? MD: I think in a way, yes. We recorded with Will Yip again (the producer and engineer on Patience) so it feels part of that same world. We wrote three of the five songs in the studio, which is something we’d never done before. We usually work out songs for months, sometimes years, before we go to record. It was more intuitive than planned. I really wanted to make a digital hardcore album and had all these small demos in my head that I was ready to share, but we got in there it just felt right to write in the space. DC: Interesting. Well I’m super excited to hear it when I’m comes out, for sure. Can I switch gears and ask you a couple questions about Philly before I let you go? MD: Sure! DC: So I’m out in Portland and have always loved the music scene out here, but have never visited Philly. It just seems like there’s a lot happening there, musically, these days. What do you enjoy about Philly, as an artist? MD: Well I think there’s a direct connection between the affordability of a city and its music and art scenes. I’ve lived in Philly since 2014, and the city has changed so much since then. Sometimes it’s not good for too many bands to be coming up out of the same city - gives too many people the idea to move there haha. DC: Hahaha for real. Part of why I’m asking is because a few Portland bands I know relocated out there for the scene and relative affordability. MD: But what I love about Philly is the community of other artists I have here. There’s so much talent and creativity and a real desire to create things. We have two choices all the time: we consume or we create, and a lot of people get caught up in the former. My favorite thing about creating work is the collaboration it takes, and I’ve found incredible collaborators here. This period I described earlier (the “pre release” work) is some of my favorite because it’s when I invite those other talents into the world we’re creating through our music. It’s changed, obviously with COVID, but the hunger to make things is especially strong right now. DC: Oh for sure. As an avid music consumer, I feel absolutely flooded by new music (in a good way). I spend so much time outside of work sifting through Bandcamp and taking other people’s recommendations and absolutely love it. Well I’ve kept you an hour, but wanna give you the chance to share anything else you’d like at this point. Anything you would like to add? MD: Nothing I can think of right now! DC: Sweeeeet. So regarding format, I can either summarize this convo or post it verbatim with some minor grammatical edits. Do you have a preference? MD: Up to you! No preference for me. Verbatim gives a conversational feel, which is always cool. Any other questions you have you can always send on. DC: I agree! About the verbatim bit. I was inspired by this piece in a zine I just read, so really, thanks for giving me the opportunity to try it out. And really, for carving out time in your evening. I really loved talking to you! I’ll let you know when the piece gets published, and hopefully I get to see y’all play live soon! After some new music, of course. MD: Thank you! It was nice to talk about music. New music comes out starting in March, so not so far away. I’ll have new band photos as well. DC: Woot woot!
To check out Mannequin Pussy's music and merch, hit their Bandcamp page through this link, and it sounds like there's more to be uploaded soon. One final thanks to Marisa, who graciously set aside some time for this interview. She's a real one.
Cover photo credit: Marcus Maddox (via CityBeat)