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Harry Pussy

“We’re probably the most hated band in Miami,” said Harry Pussy drummer Adris Hoyos. “We usually get a really negative response when we play,” she continued. “Last time we played a live show, somebody was yelling out, ‘Your pussy stinks!’”

In the music world, a band plays a set, people listen and applaud, and the band sometimes performs an encore. Everybody goes home happy and satisfied. Somehow Harry Pussy got things backward. More often than not, the band clears out the room of whatever club they play in after only a couple songs. At the end of the concert, all who is left are a few noise freaks and drunks too wasted to lift themselves off the bar stool. The music is deliberately ugly, brutal, and maniacal. Compared to Harry Pussy, Sonic Youth looks like middle-aged cocktail jazzsters.

Adris explained, “It’s a lot of fun when people get upset and walk out of the club. That’s a big part of why I enjoy this music. It’s nice too, ‘cause music is very personal. For us, what we’re doing, nobody else is doing it. It’s weird, too, when they play our songs on the radio on a few occasions. We did a radio interview at NYU and they played our songs. It was like, ‘This music does not belong on the radio.’”

I can’t even imagine how they were able to mention the band’s name on the air. More than a year before I purchased my first Harry Pussy record, I had heard of them solely by name recognition. Did they choose their name to gain attention or to offend people?

“Neither, actually,” said the guitarist Bill Orcutt. “It’s from a biography of John Lennon. Apparently it’s one of his pet names for Yoko Ono. We thought that was funny.” Are you Beatles fans? “I totally hate the Beatles. I do like some of John Lennon’s records.”

In a conversation a few days before the interview, Adris mentioned that Harry Pussy wasn’t a serious band. I thought perhaps she meant they weren’t trying very hard at what they do. She clarified, “We’re not like a Miami band. A lot of these Miami bands are in it to get signed by a major label or something, to make tons of money like professional musicians. We’re not like the other bands around here. We don’t have a mailing list. We’re into it because we like playing together.”

Harry Pussy began playing together about two or three years ago, when Adris and Bill ventured into a studio with $500 and no preconceptions about what kind of music to record. Though Bill had played in numerous Miami bands before, Adris had never even touched a drumstick. The ensuing seven-inch record was intended as an art project, not the first single from a regular band. “We were kind of embarrassed by it,” Bill said. “We weren’t sure exactly why we did it.”

The five hundred copies pressed sat on the floor in Bill’s bedroom for months; he showed them to almost no one. A friend who operates a recording studio sent out a few as promos, and eventually distributors such as Ajax picked it up. “So then, even though we weren’t playing any live gigs, suddenly we were a ‘band.’ I wouldn’t have done another record if we hadn’t sold the first one.”

After hearing their second single, the Philadelphia-based noise record label Siltbreeze signed Harry Pussy and, a few months ago, put out their first full-length album. Much more extreme than the first singles, the LP is a bit similar to the trash-blues aesthetiticians Pussy Galore minus the Rolling Stones kick, and to fellow Siltbreeze labelmates the Dead C at a rare, frenzied moment. Unlike those two bands, Harry Pussy remains essentially tuneless, which is a very, very good thing. With the addition of Mark Feehan on second guitar, the band has only gotten more intense.

Harry Pussy, though, has much less in common with noise rock than expected. Influences Adris mentioned were punk and hardcore bands, names like Black Flag and Circle Jerks. “I always thought I was playing punk rock, but it didn’t come out like that. I couldn’t play Led Zeppelin’s ‘Four Sticks.’ I couldn’t copy another song if I wanted to. Not all stuff is, like, noise stuff. We have a lot of slow songs, and I think a lot of people like that.”

Somebody must like it. Harry Pussy returned from a two-week minitour in August. Highlights included playing a Siltbreeze festival in Philadelphia and a gig at New York City’s Knitting Factory. More people turned up for these shows than they do in the band’s hometown. Performing in front of a “large” crowd was nerve racking for the band, which feels at ease with audiences of five or ten.

In October, Harry Pussy hit the road again, this time playing a few dates with the nerd-rock terrorists Three Day Stubble (check your back issues of Bananafish for the scoop on these guys). A date in Atlanta with the indie-rock heroes Smog and Sebadoh was pretty happening, too.

Harry Pussy isn’t really concerned with increased recognition. Like a true punk, Adris said, “Harry Pussy is about no future. I know it’s a cliché, but … I’ve got a big Sid Vicious poster on my wall. There’s just no future.”

Originally published in Ink Nineteen in November 1994.

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