The current independent music scene is thriving off artists’ ability to create and build fan bases through the internet. The fast-paced, high-volume nature of social media platforms goes hand in hand with the ridiculous frequency at which certain artists release their music.
Even in this environment, genuine and honest works of art prove to be the most enduring. If you want to make a statement, you have to create something that lasts. There is something to be said for taking the time to invest in your own product.
On the brink of releasing their sophomore studio album, Los Angeles-based punk-rock outfit Potty Mouth has been on a journey that echos this idea to the fullest extent. Their new record Situation Normal All Fucked Up (SNAFU), set for a March 1 release on Get Better Records, marks a significant point in the band’s young career.
Originally hailing from Western Massachusetts, it’s been over five whole years since Potty Mouth’s last full length release. Many artists wouldn’t dare risk sitting out for a gap like that, but Potty Mouth is anything but a typical band. Consisting of guitarist and vocalist Abby Weems, bassist Ally Einbinder and drummer Victoria Mandanas, the east coast trio has been active since the early part of this decade. Eight years later, what originally started as a punky, DIY group has blossomed into a tight-knit and dynamic contemporary trio.
The members of Potty Mouth have spent the last half-decade molding into the band they set out to be from the start. Since relocating to California, the group has released a second EP, gained immaculate touring experience around the U.S. and bolstered their inner circle with a team they can trust.
Their 2013 debut Hell Bent presented them as a group with both skill and emotional appeal. The album is an amazing entry point to modern pop-punk rhetoric: fiery guitar leads, razor-sharp drumming, fast-paced grooves, a youthful attitude and an unwillingness to accept the responsibility that comes with getting older.
Much like their first project, SNAFU is an extremely infectious record. From the thundering percussion on the opener “Do It Again” to the smoothly crafted “Fencewalker,” the latter of which is an excellent songwriting collaboration between Weems and The Go-Go’s own Gina Schock, the songs on the album flow seamlessly, each track as memorable as the next. The eargasmic riffs that make up “22” effortlessly slide into the bittersweet bliss of “Starry Eyes,” just as the blaring guitars on “Dog Song” meld with the sparse tempo and eruptive finish of “Bottom Feeder.”
On the surface, Potty Mouth’s music presents a colorful mode of angst-filled pop-punk. The simple nature of their songs suggest they opt for emotion over intellect, but alongside their uncanny knack for melody, the group maintains a steady self-awareness that further reflects the sentiment of their long-awaited new record. SNAFU is a healthy helping of noise, triumph and unabashed hard rock. It’s the sound of a band showing their true colors, playing the music they want to play.
I recently hopped on a phone call with Abby and Ally to talk about Potty Mouth’s new LP. We touched on the long lead-up to their new record, valuing creative freedom, the power of family and more. Check out our conversation below.
You guys have been on the west coast now for a few years, so by now I’m sure you’re pretty comfortable out here. How’s life treating you guys as you’re gearing up to drop the new record?
Abby: It’s been pretty interesting. Our life has changed in so many ways. On the east coast, you’re playing basement shows and local bars, whereas out here it’s infinitely more expensive. You have to be more intentional about your practice time, but there’s so much opportunity to meet people and play cool shows. It’s been really good for us, even though it’s been hard.
Ally: I feel like I’ve been working harder now than I ever have in my life. It’s all really positive stuff. Our top priority for a while now, has been this band and this album, which we’ve been working so hard on to get out into the world. But you know, living in LA, it’s all about the hustle. Abby and I both have full-time jobs. Just yesterday, we played a show and I went straight there from my job. My roommate was like “Oh, it’s like you’re putting on your costume.” It’s just funny, because I feel like the professional attire is more of the costume and my show clothes are really me.
You guys are still relatively young, but you’re certainly not the new kids on the block anymore. Your first record back in 2013 was received pretty well. Looking back on that period, how do you value that time now that you’re a few years removed from your debut?
Abby: Even though it wasn’t that long ago, the music industry felt very different back then. I feel like Spotify had just become a thing when our record came out. It didn’t feel like there was as much competition to get your name out there. Maybe it’s just living on the east coast and how that region can be its own music scene, but I think it was a really good time to start a band. We got to play a lot of shows with Speedy Ortiz, who was also starting at the same time, LVL UP, Screaming Females, Perfect Pussy and all these really cool bands. It was good we got a lot of that experience, being on the road early on, because now with all these changes happening, we know how to be autonomous and do things ourselves in spite of that stuff.
Ally: I think you’re right, especially with Spotify. It didn’t play nearly the same role in 2013 that it does now.
Refocusing on the new album – SNAFU is out March 1. This is something you guys have been deeply invested in for a good while, musically and personally. You moved across the country, sacrificed a lot time in order to make the record you wanted to make. Considering all the things you went through to get to this point, what does it mean to you guys to be able to release this record independently with total creative freedom?
Ally: It means a lot, because I get to share it alongside my partner, Alex, who started Get Better Records ten years ago. This past year, we started running the label together and I’m really excited about the album for that reason. We have more creative freedom with the rollout of the record and it’s also an opportunity to grow and get better as a business. We have a lot of other releases coming up later this year that I’m really excited about. What’s better than a legit business collaboration with your best friends?
Abby: One thing that’s been really good about how we’re doing this release is that it feels really freeing compared to the way we would talk to labels in the past. Before, we would frequently be asking ourselves, “Okay, what are they looking for? Is it this kind of band? What can we do to fit into that? What kind of song are they looking for? What kind of look?” – no one could ever tell us exactly what they wanted from us. It was apparent we weren’t seeing eye to eye on certain things. It’s very freeing to be in complete control and know that this is us and we don’t have to think about what other people want us to be. We can just do this and if people like it then that’s great.
All in all, how long did the recording process take? Was it pretty scattered? Had you been sitting on some of the material for a while?
Abby: Both. It was a lot of music we had written a few years ago. We had tons and tons of demos but had never gotten the chance to get in the studio. Once we did, we picked our favorite songs that we thought would fit the best together. The recording process was really scattered just because of the studio being under our old management company. They had a lot of other bands trying to get into this one studio at the same time, so we would get a couple days at a time where we could record guitar, bass or vocals. It took a year or year and a half, just because we would only be able to get into the studio a couple days a month.
I want to talk about the music on SNAFU. From the get-go, every song is punchy. Considering the time frame in which you were making the project, did you have a strong idea for what you wanted the record to sound like?
Abby: Our last EP was a good little sampler for us to experiment with higher level production sounds and adding synths and extra little sparkles. We definitely wanted to make a record that was really high quality sounding but still in that rock and punk format. Our songs are really melodic so I don’t think it translates well if we went for a more lo-fi sound. Our main references were Garbage, Weezer, Veruca Salt – guitar-driven bands that still sound really clean and crisp.
One of the recurring themes on the album is individual empowerment. As the title acronym signifies, there’s obviously a lot of messed up stuff going on in the world right now. How do you guys as a band continue to ‘embrace the chaos’ amidst all the bullshit?
Ally: We’re just there for each other.
Abby: That’s what I was going to say!
Ally: Life can feel very overwhelming for so many different reasons at any given time, especially once we moved out to LA. Our lives changed a lot. That itself was a risk we all took. It’s been so comforting just having Abby and Victoria; we’ve stuck by each other’s sides for eight years now. We’re all very different people, but we know each other so well, the only thing I can really compare it to is family. They feel like my sisters.
Abby: We’re all are realistic people and trust each other. It’s a good reality check when it feels like the rest of the world doesn’t seem like anyone fucking understands what’s going on.
Overall, SNAFU is a really balanced project: it’s hard-hitting, catchy, even really pretty at times. It’s a bold statement of a sophomore record. I imagine it’s going to get some serious exposure on the road. What else do you guys have planned for this year? Ultimately, what does this album mean to each of you?
Abby: We are planning to go to SXSW. We still want to get more showcases, if you know anyone who’s throwing some (laughs). Besides that, we’re looking for tours and we have a bunch of west coast shows coming up. We do have a UK booking agent, so we are planning to go to Europe finally this year.
Ally: And I would say the album to me represents perseverance and resilience.
Abby: Yeah, definitely.
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Image by Nazrin Massaro. Listen to ‘SNAFU’ on all digital streaming platforms March 1 and preorder the LP on vinyl or CD via Potty Mouth’s website.