Abby Weems, Ally Einbeinder, and Victoria Mandanas of Potty Mouth are defying everyone’s expectations, including their own. The post-punk band grew out of a shared desire to be in an all female music group, with no intentions other than finding an outlet to play shows and write songs. Since their 2013 debut album, Hell Bent, the band’s career has taken on a life of it’s own and has seen Abby, Ally, and Victoria move to Los Angeles and graduate from playing shows in DIY basements to rocking out in giant venues. Last year saw the release of a self-titled EP and recently Potty Mouth debuted the video for “Smash Hit,” an infectiously sarcastic response to those pressing them to make a radio ready single.
Potty Mouth’s attitude and unwillingness to cave in to industries pressures extends to their personal lives and political beliefs. The band members consider themselves feminists and with their signature sound they are making it known that women can rock out just as hard as men, whether on stage or off.
Indira Cesarine chatted with the women of Potty Mouth about their punk beginnings, band dynamics, and upcoming album. Read the full interview below and don’t miss Potty Mouth on tour with Chvches in New York City and Washington D.C. later this month!
Indira Cesarine: What is the story with your band name Potty Mouth?
Abby: Phoebe, our original second guitarist, thought of it. We spent a whole summer trying to decide on a new name and it was the only thing we could agree on.
IC: I heard that the name was inspired by Riot Grrrl group, Bratmobile, is that true?
Abby: No, that’s actually not true. People assume that because we are an all-female band but it’s just a happy coincidence.
IC: How did you guys meet and start Potty Mouth?
Ally: We all met in 2011. I had just graduated and was playing in a couple of other bands with men and really wanted to start a new band with all women. Phoebe and I were talking about this and we were like “Okay, who should we ask?” We knew Victoria was a really great drummer and so we asked her if she wanted to play drums. I actually didn’t know Abby at all, she was a friend of a friend and was still in high school. Phoebe was like “Should we ask her to play guitar even though she’s still in high school? We did and had our first practice at my house. We had no idea what we wanted to sound like and except for Victoria, we were all very new to our instruments so it was kind of awkward at first. We didn’t even have a singer but eventually Abby took on that role. We didn’t have any expectations when we started we just wanted to write songs and play some shows.
IC: You guys label yourselves as a post-punk all girls band. What is it about the punk movement that inspires you?
Abby: We had a DIY start. We came from a punk scene where we would play house shows and DIY shows so our music was very lo-fi. As we’ve matured as a band we’ve definitely gotten out of the punk scene and are more into a mainstream rock influence.
Ally: The punk scene is a subculture in which you didn’t have to have any sort of technical training or musical background to start a band. It was a very democratic musical scene in the sense that anyone could pick up an instrument and learn a few chords. You didn’t have to be good, but you were still able to start a band and be part of this larger network of people doing the same thing and connecting with each other on a very DIY basis. I think that whole independent label movement inspired that. We recorded our first music ourselves and we dubbed on cassette tapes and that was our first demo. Our first record was pressed by like three people who were in the punk scene. They don’t do it to make money but as a hobby. That’s how we started and that’s the only way I knew it was possible to do a band so it was definitely really important for us.
IC: Can you each describe individually what your role is in the band and what your previous experience in music was?
Abby: I sing and play guitar. My other role in the band is that I also write the basic forms of the songs. Before Potty Mouth I didn’t have any experience playing in bands, I grew up playing cello but I never really played guitar until I started in Potty Mouth. I had a lot of friends that were in bands that I was really jealous of so I had been trying to be in a band for a while.
Ally: I was 22 when Potty Mouth started and before that I started playing bass seriously when I was 21. I played in two other punk bands and that’s how I learned how to play. I was in a band before Potty Mouth where the person that asked me to be in the band literally just gave me a cassette tape with ten songs and said “If you’re serious about learning bass, try to learn these songs that I’ve already written.” I was able to learn bass through that band. Once I felt like I had enough confidence to play bass I started to think about having my own band so that’s where the idea for Potty Mouth came from. I grew up playing piano but I never played any kind of rock instrument. I had always gone to punk shows as a teenager and watched so many of my dude friends casually start bands and put out records and go on tour. I was always so amazed that it seemed so easy for them and that’s really why I wanted to be in a band. As for my role in the band, I play bass. Up until last February I had a job as an administrative assistant which allowed me to learn a lot of skills like how to set a budget. I also sat at a computer and wrote emails all day so I definitely have taken that role on in our band. I do a lot of the administrative work and the business end of it. Before we had a booking agent I would book our tours.
Victoria: I was 20 when the band started. I play drums and I started doing that when I was around 8 or 9. I started taking lessons with this jazz drummer and have been playing on and off since then. Potty Mouth is actually my second band, my first one was another punk band called Chemical Peel that I started with two friends from home in South Carolina. We actually went on a few tours with Potty Mouth so I would end up doing double duty on the drums and that was always really fun.
IC: Who are your biggest musical influences?
Abby: Veruca Salt and Juliana Hatfield are two of my biggest inspirations. When we first started the band, Green Day was like my favorite band ever. The first song I ever learned was “Basket Case“ and after that I just realized how simple it is to write a song.
IC: You do most of the songwriting?
Abby: Yes, I’ll just start with writing a verse, chorus, or riff on guitar and some basic lyrics and melody and then Victoria and Ally write their parts based off of that.
IC: But you do most of the lyrics?
IC: Victoria or Ally, do you have any influences you want to mention?
Ally: I always say that I am influenced by Kim Gordon not because of Sonic Youth‘s music but because she is an example of a woman who didn’t start playing bass until her later twenties. That’s really cool because she went on to become such an icon in rock music and she made music her career. She still doesn’t completely identify as a musician and that’s something I can really identify with. It felt weird, I never really expected this to be my life, so when I read her memoir Girl In A Band I just felt so many parallels between her experience and how I feel.
Victoria: Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana have two of the best rock drummers out there in my opinion. I like Dave Grohl because he plays really heavy but he doesn’t over play, he keeps its simple. I think its always good to have that kind of restraint in a band.
IC: What song that you’ve released so far do you feel resonates with you the most?
Abby: I would say “Cherry Picking” just because that song is the most stand-out song that we have released in our career so far. It really shows how much we’ve learned about songwriting and how comfortable we are with our instruments compared to when we first started playing.
IC: What has your biggest challenge been as a band?
Abby: Just accepting the band as our life because we never expected to be here so it’s been a really uncomfortable change for us, but it’s been for the better. It’s definitely a challenge that we have fully taken on because we really enjoy it but it has been a really hard thing to go from having a normal life to centering your life around music culture and being on the road.
Ally: I agree with Abby, it’s definitely been an uncomfortable transition and we’ve all made a lot of personal sacrifices in our own life to get to where we are. Abby deferred going to college when she got accepted. I quit my job that I really loved and was comfortable in but we chose to really make the investment and even now it’s weird. We just moved to LA from Massachusetts and we’re all living together for the first time and that’s a new challenge. We spent a lot of time together anyway but now we’re not only bandmates but we’re roommates, business partners, and also friends. We see each other every day are are learning how to communicate with each other and how to be around each other in all of those different capacities.
IC: What has the biggest highlight been so far?
Abby: I would say playing with the band CHVRCHES. They are incredibly nice people and they also have the best fans out of any shows that we’ve ever played. It feels like every time we play with them we get new fans for ourselves and they feel like true fans. They are talking to us on social media all the time and some of the fans will bring us donuts to our shows. It’s really cool to play these really big shows and feel like you’re actually cultivating a following.
IC: You guys did a performance at the MoMA over the summer. How was that?
Abby: It was really cool. We were playing in conjunction with an installation that was happening so it wasn’t a conventional rock show. Whoever was at the museum at the time could wander into the sculpture garden and watch us so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought no one would come but the whole courtyard was filled with people. It was a really strange but awesome experience.
IC: You debuted at Lollapalooza this year?
Abby: That was our first time playing a big festival which was also really weird but really exciting. That was another circumstance where we didn’t know if anyone was gonna watch us. People would just walk by and stop and by the end of our set there were hundreds of people standing over by the stage we were playing. It’s really cool when it feels like people are actually coming because they are genuinely interested in your music.
IC: Do you consider yourselves feminists?
Abby: I think that everyone should be a feminist. We are all very political people in our personal lives. It doesn’t really come out in our music but we will have political discussions in interviews or just on our own personal time.
Ally: We are are absolutely feminists. To me it’s a no-brainer. Even though our lyrics aren’t explicitly political we try to practice our politics in the everyday decisions and interactions that we have. It’s something that we are super conscious about. Being a woman in rock music culture is almost a political act in and of itself because you’re constantly up against all these gendered expectations of you. You’re constantly operating within a culture that is still heavily dominated by men who think that they are more confident than you or more deserving of success than you. We always have to confront those ideas. Being in this band has just enhanced my own personal feminist practice.
IC: So what’s next for you guys?
Abby: We are about to go on tour with Against Me!
IC: Any new albums in the works?
Abby: We just finished recording one single and we are going to start recording the rest of the album really soon, probably in the next couple of weeks. You’ll definitely be hearing new music from us soon!
Check out Potty Mouth’s latest video for single “Smash Hit” below:
Photography by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Fashion Editor Indira Cesarine
Makeup by Daniel Avilan
Hair by Isaac Davidson