Potty Mouth has come a long way since its 2013 full-length Hell Bent, and now the band’s got the sound to prove it. The western Massachusetts-based trio of singer-guitarist Abby Weems, bassist Ally Einbinder, and drummer Victoria Mandanas hopped from lo-fi rock to polished alt-rock on its new self-titled EP. After a last-minute swap of producers from Chris Walla (of Death Cab For Cutie) to John Goodmanson, Potty Mouth fell snugly into its proper alt-rock sound as Goodmanson channeled the ’90s sound the band aimed for: Veruca Salt, Hole, Nada Surf, and beyond.
“This big production is something we’ve always wanted but was never possible until now,” says Einbinder. “We got to spend the first two days rehearsing the song in the studio, and John would take notes and write feedback about the arrangements: cutting the chorus in half, moving a bridge, whatever. We had free reign over the studio and got to use all the gear in there.” By the end of it, the three were experimenting with instruments they never would have dreamed of using: Leslie amps, a glockenspiel, and Moog synths.
“For me, it felt really fulfilling just in that our sound has progressed so much since our last record,” says Weems. “The kind of music that we write prefers to have that big sound. Had we been in a more lo-fi studio, that wouldn’t have come across. We recorded our first two records in our friend’s studio in Western Massachusetts. He’s really great, but it’s not the same experience as going into a professional studio and working with a producer. If we had the resources from the very beginning to sound like that, we would have done so.”
With every ‘90s alt-rock comparison, Potty Mouth’s pride increases. Their choice to chase the sound of heavy-hitters—Veruca Salt, Juliana Hatfield, Hole, Foo Fighters, The Breeders, That Dog, Garbage, Nada Surf—is exactly that: a choice. “It’s cool when other people hear that,” explains Einbinder. “With our last two releases, anytime someone offered a reference in what they heard, it was always so far off from where we thought we were coming from. The dynamics between the verses and the chorus here are a transition from less hectic-ness—the guitar will come halfway through—into a big, heavy chorus—guitar, bass, drums all come in at once—that sounds great.”
In the music video for “Cherry Picking,” a girl collapses on her bed after school, takes a bong hit, and envisions the members of Potty Mouth appearing one by one in her room. Come the end, she’s dancing, singing, and playing in the band with them. “Representation is everything,” explains Einbinder. “If a young girl sees us playing and realizes that she’s never seen other young women play that rock music, she may feel inspired. When I was younger, I hardly saw any women playing music. I think if I did, I would have started playing a lot younger. In the music video, we didn’t want to position ourselves as an unattainable ideal because, in the end, she can be just as much a part of this as we are.”
Usually when a fan joins a band in a music video, it’s a blown-up ordeal where they play on an enormous stage to a sea of people, spotlights and cameras galore. In “Cherry Picking”, it’s low key without going 0 to 100. You can play music without filling the shoes of a superstar. “One of our biggest goals as a band is to potentially inspire young girls to try playing music,” says Weems. “We can use our band and our reach to break down the barrier between how people build up bands and the reality of how it can be a simple, fun, relaxed thing.”
The three aren’t excluded from that equation either. Potty Mouth formed back in 2011 as a quartet. They’ve since lost a member, gained a member, lost a member again, and dealt with underscored issues in between. “We’ve all progressed, evolved, and come to understand our instruments differently over the four years,” says Einbinder. “As we mature as musicians, so do our songs.” That much is easy to track in their recordings alone.
Keeping their status in mind helps illuminate the fact that music wasn’t actually their career goal when they formed. Back then, music was only a hobby — a decision in itself that should never be looked down on. “None of us expected to be here, really,” says Einbinder, who planned on storming grad school for a PhD in sociology. “That’s why I like doing interviews; you put your ideals into practice. The idea of selling out is ridiculous. Are you supposed to stay DIY punk forever? The bigger audience you reach, the greater ability you have as a band to make an impact. You’re not selling out because you’re not changing your ideals. You just have a wider audience in which to practice your ideals.”
With that, they turn to acts like Speedy Ortiz and Downtown Boys for inspiration to put ideals into practice as much as possible whenever possible. Speedy Ortiz recently implemented a hotline for safer spaces at shows. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a step in the right direction. Downtown Boys fight for inclusivity at each live show, tackling race, identity, and privilege with unparalleled passion. “We just saw them play a boat recently and Victoria, the singer, gave an introduction to the song that said it was about inheritance tax,” recalls Einbinder. “That’s something I never thought about that critically. After I heard that song, I was like, ‘Damn. Yeah. Inheritance tax! It makes sense!’ Recognizing that and pointing it out in real life started out by seeing them and having that idea introduced into my head.” It won’t take long for Potty Mouth’s live shows and their emphasis on leveling the gender playing field to have that effect on others, too.
POTTY MOUTH, BONG WISH, AND URSULA. MON 9.21. GREAT SCOTT, 1222 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 9PM/18+/$12. GREATSCOTTBOSTON.COM.