Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves chats about her new record label and modern beauty standards in music.
Text by Katie Muxworthy
Photography provided by Meredith Graves
Approx reading time: 7 mins
A passion for crafting hardcore punk and a love of the Kardashians are two things you wouldn’t exactly expect to sit side by side among a person’s interests. However, musician, writer, TV host and all-round 21st century renaissance woman Meredith Graves asks; “Why the fuck not?”
Fresh from radicalising the DIY punk scene through her outright frightening stage presence with band Perfect Pussy, to collaborating with feminist publication Rookie, using her own unique, profoundly critical voice, Meredith Graves is working on a solo career, her own label - Honor Press - and fronting MTV News. Refreshingly, it appears that Graves is fast becoming a zeitgeist voice that pop culture didn’t even realise it needed.
“Working on my own label feels like an opportunity for me to go back to school, for a secondary education. It's the grad school I could never afford,” explains Graves as she talks about her experiences in building Honor Press. With the record label’s inaugural release, provided by noise rock trio So Stressed, it’s clear to see why Graves is excited about her new venture.
More than a connoisseur, entrepreneur and a director, she is a fan. Graves comes across as humble and - relative fame and critical success be damned - still community orientated.
“I learned to stop worrying and love the music industry through immersing myself in it and by insisting that I was involved in everything that was going on around our band. I worked, as my bandmates did, closely with Captured Tracks (Perfect Pussy’s label), on the release of our music, from concept to execution and to marketing and advertising.
“What really convinced me to start my own label was hanging out with the people that run Captured Tracks, and actually becoming friends with them. I know lots of bands will sign to a label and say ‘we’re over here, and you’re over there and you’re going to put our records out’. I can’t do that. It turned into this immense interest in me becoming part of a world that I was then only transiently involved with and just wanting to scoop them up and do a project with them too.”
Honor Press and Captured Tracks are, technically speaking, the same people, but working in a different configuration, with Graves at the reigns as creative director.
“They’re holding my hand as I learn how to take a label out of my bedroom and into a world where I can actually take care of really good artists that I love, because I’m only working with my friends.”
This ethos is one that Graves applies to all aspects of her work, shaping the industry into something that fits her mould, not the other way around.
“I’m excited about being in the music industry. I know a lot of people want to shit on me because of that, because I come from the punk scene. But I’m absorbing as much knowledge as I can so I can go in and do things my way and then elevate the voices that I think need to be heard.”
That punk scene is one that Graves and her bandmates turned on its head. Perfect Pussy’s jarring aggression and raw emotive lyrics, combined with the brute force of the band’s stage presence, demanded that the typically male-dominated hardcore punk scene take notice.
“When I started in Perfect Pussy it was very reactionary for me, because I was fed up with the way the men were treating me in the hardcore scene. So I said, ‘I want to start a band where I act like a male hardcore singer’. Everything I have learned about violence, and calling people out has been through this hyper masculine lens.
“The first time we got on stage, I had never played live with the band, and I immediately went ballistic and just lashed out at people in the audience. It terrified people and really excited them, and what they didn’t realise was that I was appropriating male-ness. Then it was me wearing dresses on stage, and using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. I’m talking about feminism through this male behaviour.”
Not only is this unquestionable raucous stage performance Meredith’s singular force of light on stage, her brutally honest lyrics have earned her a strong legion of followers. On the track ‘Driver’, Graves screams, “You don’t know shit about me, focus on yourself, and the choices you make”.
Surely Graves must receive a particular type of therapy from her performances?
“I think people overestimate the amount of catharsis I get from writing my lyrics. I’m very critical of my own work and lyrics are first and foremost the kind of writing I do.”
Also judging Graves’ writing, and liking what they read, is a new wider audience, turned on to her work through numerous feminist and music publications. Through such mediums Graves muses on many of the issues that affect young women - and young people in general - today.
“I wish to lead by example. I will go into the music industry and I wear fluffy 1950s dresses and cover myself in glitter and show up to shows with cupcakes, get up on stage and scream, throw up blood in a brutally noisy punk band. Then I go and DJ and play Uptown Funk three times in a row because I think its funny, then I go home and sit around in bed with my friends and talk about Syria. You can do all of those things and it's okay.”
A voice of a fitful, contradictory generation that is nonetheless starting to make its voice heard, Meredith represents an audience that has previously been sniggered at, not taken seriously.
Confident in her own individuality, it almost felt a waste to discuss body image with a woman who is so, so much more. But it comes up, and Meredith is more than happy to discuss her views on those people who questioning her solely about fashion.
“The older I get the more beautiful I become, not by society's standards but because I’m learning to give fewer fucks. When I was 15 years old I was beautiful and I hated my body, when I was 20 I was glorious. I’m 27 now and I’m soft in weird places, my hair always looks weird.
"I’m getting wrinkles and my boobs are saggy and I’m just like I get up every day and I put my dress on and my make up and think ‘Hell yeah, I’ve now been around long enough to not take any shit and that’s the most beautiful thing.’ I look fucking great because I don’t care. I don’t seek other people’s approval on my outfit choices because I’m a grown-ass man. Of course it looks good, I left the house in it.”
“I’m that bitch with the perfectly smooth moisturised legs but armpits and a crotch that looks like Bigfoot. You can catch me at the beach with a bikini that shows my pubes sticking out, but I will shave my legs. There’s nothing more attractive on a person than full-on facial hair. Do you know how much better my life would be if I had a little moustache?”
Perhaps it is a voice that has yet to find a sufficiently big platform, but Meredith Graves’ approach to her music, appearance, critics and writing, is an essentially earnest one.
Text by Katie Muxworthy
Photography provided by Meredith Graves