FAST LEARNERS Potty Mouth (Ally Einbinder, Phoebe Harris, and Abby Weems are pictured) meld minimal garage-pop and surfy post-punk with super-hooky harmonizing and girl-gang vocals.
On the top floor of Ally Einbinder's house in Western Mass, back behind her Creamsicle-colored bedroom, is a tiny attic with low ceilings, lit by one pink lamp, with walls covered in Xeroxed, vintage punk posters. On a recent Tuesday night, the bassist for Northampton garage-punk band Potty Mouth sat in her attic with two of her bandmates, vocalist/guitarist Phoebe Harris and lead guitarist Abby Weems. They tell me about the band's first year. "I had been playing bass for a couple of years but still hadn't been in any band that pushed me creatively to do my own songwriting," says Einbinder, who also plays bass in punk trio Outdates and with new-wave-inspired post-punks Honeysuck. "Phoebe bought a guitar when we started the band."
"I was playing guitar for like two months," says Weems, a recent high school graduate from Amherst. "Victoria is the exception," Einbinder adds, speaking of their drummer Victoria Mandanas, who is currently at home in South Carolina where she also drums for punk trio Chemical Peel. "She's been playing drums since the second grade."
Potty Mouth was an idea Einbinder and Harris had early in 2011, while bored on a retreat at Smith College — where Einbinder works and Harris was then a senior. They knew Weems from shows at Harris's apartment, and sent her a Facebook message on the spot. In only a little more than a year, that idea has turned into something radical. Sipping jars of wine in the attic, the Potty Mouth girls tell me stories about their 10-day tour with Chemical Peel earlier this summer ("It was like a traveling slumber party") and about their first show at a Western Mass punk house ("We were all so fucking nervous!").
By last September, they recorded a demo tape in Einbinder's basement — a meld of minimal garage-pop and surfy post-punk, marked by super-hooky harmonizing, girl-gang vox on tracks like "Drip-Dry," and simple yet resonant Beat Happening-inspired lead guitar on "Dog Song."
With only that tape out, Potty Mouth quickly had a few different labels interested in releasing their music. In July, their studio-recorded debut 12-inch EP Sun Damage was released as a three-way split by Brooklyn-based Puzzle Piece, Cambridge label Ride the Snake, and Northampton's Feeble Minds Records. "We already had everything recorded and they all vaguely knew each other," says Einbinder. "They were like, lets just do a three-way split and put out 750 copies . . . they all have different networks. Catherine [Humphreville, from Puzzle Pieces] was interested in the gender aspect of our band. She only puts out bands that are female or queer. And then Chris [Strunk, of Ride the Snake] has his audience which is different than Josh's [Smith, from Feeble Minds], which is more straight-up punk. . . . It's been good to have them all work together."
The EP was recorded by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air Studios in Amherst, and its six tracks are some of the best Massachusetts post-punk released this year. Highlights are a cleaned-up version of aforementioned "Drip Dry," and lead track "Hazardville," inspired by a town in Connecticut by the same name.