Sometimes it seems as if not much has changed in punk in 2015. Men still rush the stage and grope female band members, there are all-white, all-male acts that give themselves names such as Black Pussy and others – like metalcore band Emmure – sell T-shirts that read “Keep Calm and Ask Your Girl What My Dick Tastes Like”.
Perhaps as a result of an unspoken breaking point, last year saw a surge in women in punk, both new (Speedy Ortiz, Ex Hex, Chumped) and established (Sleater-Kinney, Against Me!). One of the most prominent voices is 27-year-old Meredith Graves, who fronts the Syracuse hardcore band Perfect Pussy and has become a significant mouthpiece for both punk and young women. She confronts misogyny wherever possible, be it through performing shows with her band, penning articles addressing the language used by beefing male musicians, or writing about beauty and flower-arranging for online teen mag Rookie. (The name Perfect Pussy – in contrast to Black Pussy – is intended to deflect critics who define women in music based on their appearance.)
However, being the kind of person whose definition of contentment is “having every finger, and some toes, and maybe an elbow if I run out of toes, in a pie”, Graves doesn’t just define herself by her band. Next up in her DIY empire is a new record label and book publisher, Honor Press. It’s built on the mantra “no snobs, no phonies, no shitheads” – a line that she hopes will help to breathe more authenticity into punk music.
“I’m sick of seeing teenagers worship losers,” she explains. “What we have now is a scene full of terrible role models: skeezebag men naming their bands horribly offensive things that in any other context would be hate-slurs, men who go into interviews with female journalists and make disgusting, sexual comments… This sort of behaviour has been normalised. I hate it, and I want to create a refuge for other people who hate it, too.”
She takes a mindful approach to who she works with, intending only to sign bands who are honest, don’t have “garbage politics” and don’t adopt the cool and uncaring stance that’s so typical of hardcore punk bands. “The bands I want to work with make demos, listen, refine, consider,” says Graves. “They’re people who move through the world carefully.” A case in point, her first release last week, The Unlawful Trade Of Greco-Roman Art by Sacramento’s So Stressed, took the band two years to make – a significant fact when you consider that most hardcore bands don’t last for longer than that in the first place.
Graves is not, however, limiting herself to releasing hardcore punk. After this, she has “major desires to put out jazz, experimental and hip-hop records”. Irrespective of what Graves’s next release is, though, the one thing you can be sure to expect is the same as what she always delivers with Perfect Pussy: brutal honesty.
This article originally appeared in the Guardian Guide on May 30, 2015 and can be found online here.