Interview: Mannequin Pussy Vocalist, Guitarist Marisa Dabice Talks New EP, ‘Perfect’

Mannequin Pussy vocalist and guitarist Marisa Dabice, who goes by the name Missy, is scrambling to find a quiet place in her friend’s house to chat about the band’s new five-song EP, Perfect. 

She resorts to a pair of pink kitty-cat gaming headphones, but isn’t able to connect by Bluetooth, laughs, and gives up. 

“These are pretty sick, but I don’t know how to work them,” she says. 

Formed by Dabice in 2010 as a two-piece, Mannequin Pussy have since released three albums, the latest on punk institution Epitaph, and now this new EP.  

When Dabice and the band decided that “digital band practice” wouldn’t work for them, they booked a week in-studio to pump out some new tunes, hoping they’d come away with a cohesive EP. 

“We didn’t go in there thinking, ‘Oh, let’s write a whole record,’” Dabice says. “Let’s just hope we can write a few songs, and by the end of the second day we, had five songs we were sure were going to be on the finished EP.” 

Dabice hasn’t shied away from writing songs about her traumatic past and feelings of isolation, including beating a rare form of cancer on her face when she was young, coming out the dark tunnels of toxic relationships, and seeing her life through the lens of depression.  

“These things can be very traumatic, and it numbs you out to the world,” she says. “[The cancer] changed my perception of how we process these big events in our lives. It made me understand at a younger age that what we do has a very big impact on the way that we feel mentally, and ignoring what happens in our life has an adverse effect on us.”  

Dabice started talked about playing guitar when she was 15, and says she let depression get in her way until she was 23. Just as she was gaining momentum with music, her mom had a stroke, and she moved back home to be a caregiver with her dad. 

“Just I was trying to understand this one experience, I was thrown into another that was very painful and again made me feel isolated from the people around me,” she says. 

Perfect is a wild ride through wall-of-sound, ’90s, alternative rock; angry-as-fuck punk; contemplative indie rock, and shoegaze-y slow burn. It even includes a ripping, hardcore song called “Pigs Is Pigs,” about police violence against Black people, with bassist Colin “Bear” Regisford behind the mic.  

“I love Bear’s hardcore voice,” Dabice says. “He has a great scream. I saw him screaming one time in his old hardcore band, and I was like, ‘Whoa, dude, what? You have to have a song!’” 

While the band, rounded out by drummer Kaleen Reading, has always thrown stylistic variations into their albums— 2019’s Patience, also on Epitaph, is a prime example— the new EP covers lots of ground in five songs. 

“We’ve never limited ourselves to one genre or one specific sound— that’s not true for the human experience, that we continually express ourselves in the same way,” Dabice says. 

Although its five songs weren’t meant to have a common theme, in retrospect, Dabice can spot similarities, at least lyrically.  

“Examining it in a rearview way, it’s obvious there are many types of loss all over the record,” she says. “Loss of control of your life, the actual loss of human life, the loss of people in our life that used to be very present, and not getting to be with them anymore, the loss of people from state-sanctioned violence. It just pops up in a lot of different ways in our lives.” 

Like most of us, time alone over the past year has given Dabice ample chances to spend time with her thoughts. She used what was “piling up in my mind” as fodder for recording the new songs. With the Perfect EP serving as another signpost to Mannequin Pussy’s more-than-a-decade lifespan, Dabice’s songwriting arc, and the band’s trajectory, could go a number of different ways.

“I used to predict the future, and now I don’t,” she says. “For now, all I have is hope and caution. I just know I’m really proud of the EP and very excited.” 

Watch the video for “Perfect” here:

For more from Mannequin Pussy, find them on Facebook, Instagram, and their official website.

Photo courtesy of Mannequin Pussy.

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