Mannequin Pussy playing Mr. Roboto Project on Saturday | Pittsburgh City Paper

Mannequin Pussy playing Mr. Roboto Project on Saturday

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF C.J. HARVEY
Photo courtesy of C.J. Harvey

Mannequin Pussy’s Romantic is an absolute rush. At just 17 minutes, it’s one of the most frantic, anxious, shreddiest, most cathartic and most arresting punk records in recent memory. Not a single track cracks three minutes, most are under two, and the longer ones are sonic riptides that jostle themselves back and forth, swelling and soothing unpredictably. Hardcore-punk blasts like “Everything,” “Meatslave One” and “Ten” are performed with such ferocity that Marisa Dabice’s lyrics are virtually indiscernible amongst the cacophonous distortion and avalanche-like drumming.

This isn’t a slight to Dabice’s intense lines that read like late-night panic attacks, but you don’t even really need to know what she’s saying to get what she’s feeling. Romantic is so blisteringly visceral that it’ll consume you, scrub your thoughts clear and leave you gasping for air as it abruptly drops you off somewhere in the next town over, confused yet pleasingly purified by what just ensued.

“I think it sounds slow,” Dabice says looking back on it.

Although unintentional, this was the most hilarious remark she made throughout her phone interview last week with City Paper. As a listener, there’s not a single moment on any of Romantic’s 11 tracks that feel like any member is falling behind—quite the opposite, actually. Regardless, the Philly foursome have recently been tempo-tinkering with their songs on the live circuit, giving them what Dabice calls a “different energy.”

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF C.J. HARVEY
Photo courtesy of C.J. Harvey

“The songs aren’t being played or sung differently, but they’re faster now. I don’t know if that’s cause we’re anxious to get out of this album cycle so we don’t have to play these songs anymore … ” she trails off.

After speaking with the 29-year-old for some time, the band’s impatience with the Romantic material, released last November via Tiny Engines (The Hotelier, Adult Mom, Peaer), began to make sense. Mannequin Pussy aren’t the type of group to remain complacent — in any sense of the word — and their work ethic as a band has propelled them a commendable distance in the four years since Dabice and guitarist Thanasi Paul, both lifelong friends, started playing together for fun.

“In the very beginning, the goal for me was to learn how to play an instrument and really develop a new skill,” she says. “Playing guitar was something I always wanted to do but never thought that I could. On our last record, we wanted to go to Europe for the first time and go on our first support tour — and both of those came true. Now we’re like, ‘oh crap, we have to make new goals.’”

The trek to Europe is an important milestone for many up-and-coming acts, but Mannequin Pussy were able to share the stage with names like Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Solange and literally a hundred others during the massive Primavera Sound festival that they hit in Barcelona. Most bands can’t say that about their first trip over there, but Dabice seemed just as happy with the reaction they got in the small clubs as they did on the big stage.

“The least amount of people we played for was 10 people in Denmark on a Monday, but all 10 bought merch from us,” she says. “[Then we were] playing to a thousand at Primavera. The scale made things feel very different. It really felt like, ‘okay there are some people here who’ve never heard us before and some people who are screaming the lyrics back.’”

Intense crowd responses are still relatively new to Mannequin Pussy, and Dabice says that “seeing that wall melting down is exciting.”

“More of the shows we play, people are dancing around and singing along and I think that’s a really magical thing. To see people having an actual reaction to the music rather than when you start and people are staring at you with their arms crossed,” she says.

The Europe dates and their spring tour supporting Joyce Manor and AJJ were huge moments for Dabice, but another “wow” moment was seeing Romantic’s title track listed as the 14th best song of 2016 in Rolling Stone, one spot above Kendrick Lamar.

“I think my parents went to Barnes & Noble and bought like seven copies of that Rolling Stone,” she laughs.

The record itself racked up a significant number of year-end accolades last year, which, for an album so noisy and out-there, is an unusual feat. One of the reasons critics found Romantic so interesting though, was because it’s so hard to classify or throw into one specific sub-genre. As raucous and rattling as it can be, a track like “Emotional High” is an infectious pop banger; “Anything” and “Hey, Steven” feature cloud-covering swaths of distortion and less aggressive deliveries that invoke a strangely shoegazy vibe; and the choir-like intro vocals to the short yet momentous closer “Beside Yourself” have just a touch of recent Chance or Kanye to them. Mannequin Pussy clearly have a diverse set of influences and the way they blend them together is surprisingly euphonious, never sounding forced or clunky.

Their sound defies arbitrary genre-norms with representation from countless styles of music in a way that feels more effortless than many of their peers. In addition to each member’s acute musical abilities, perhaps some of that uniqueness also comes from the diverse representation within their lineup, which is something that’s still lacking severely within the rock world today.

“As us, we’re representative of what our lives are like,” Dabice says. “Our lives are diverse and we’re open to a lot more things than just the standard. Diversity still means men and women together on a bill. But that’s a very limited definition of what it means to be diverse.”

“We’ve avoided being kind of pigeonholed as a ‘diverse band’ because we’re just people in this band who really love each other,” she says. “Another ‘wow’ moment was when we were in Europe and we were like, ‘wow, we are a fucking family.’ We’re really there for each other in a really positive way and it makes touring so much easier to know that you have people that are looking out for you and caring for you.”

Mannequin Pussy will be playing Mr. Roboto Project alongside T-Rextasy, Zenizen and Dinosoul this Saturday, 7/29.