10 Questions with Marisa Dabice, lead singer of Mannequin Pussy
PJ MCCORMICK // OCTOBER 11, 2019
Two weeks ago, Mannequin Pussy tore Oberlin up for the second time in as many years, this time showcasing their new album, Patience, in an all-out blitz of a show at the ‘Sco. While their first two albums also toed the line between noisy-punk and poppy, glued-to-your-brain melodies, it’s Patience, released in June, that contains their most accessible arrangements to date, with lyrics from lead singer Marisa Dabice that solidify Patience as the raw, vulnerable, exciting, ugly, break-up record of the year. On lead single “Drunk II,” Dabice howls her way through one of the most honest break-up songs of recent memory, “going out every night” to “pretend she has fun.” But it’s the chorus where she really gets real: “Everyone says to me/‘Missy you’re so strong’/But what if I don’t wanna be?” Elsewhere, on the fast-paced “Cream,” Dabice sings that she’s: “Standing at the gates of my hell/I was looking at myself like/‘Girl, what you did? Take a look at yourself right now.”
It’s Dabice’s willingness to get candid that make her the ideal interview subject. This week, as Mannequin Pussy rest before the next leg of their first headlining tour, The Grape spoke to Marisa by phone about her star chart, Greta Van Fleet, and the perfect sandwich.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What was the first album you remember being in love with?
Probably Sum 41’s All Killer, No Filler. I was probably in like, 8th grade. I saw them play on like MTV or some shit and then like went to Sam Goode and bought it.
First concert you went to?
The first concert I went to was Jimmy Eat World and Piebald [a pop-punk band from Andover, Massecusets] when I was like, a freshman in high school. It was one of those instances where I realized that like sometimes the opener is gonna blow you away more than the headliner. I remember Piebald being infinitely more memorable than anything else, so I think I always remembered get there in time for the opener.
An album from this year that you’re really enjoying?
It’s definitely not something from this year but I’ve really kinda realized recently that Radiohead is my favorite fucking band. And I think I was in denial about that for a long time, but recently I’ve been like digging into their history and discography and like, falling in love with every album again. It’s kind of all I’ve been listening to.
I love them so much. They’re one of the only bands I can think of that from album to album it’s clearly them, but they just have such a progression. They seem to like, burn down everything that they do and rebuild it.
How checked-in to your star chart are you?
I feel very connected to my three major signs. I am a sun Virgo, a rising Sagittarius, and a moon Leo. I feel very connected to my moon in Leo. Other people have told me that there are a lot of front-people in history who also have their moon in Leo. It’s a very like, flamboyant, creative, look-at-me placement. But I’ve also read that it makes you more optimistic and friendly and stuff like that. I don’t feel as like, burdened by like the worrisome and the nitpicking need for perfection that my Virgo sun gives me. So I think it allows me to be a little bit more fun.
But my chart is over all like 50 percent fire and I think I’m a very intense, fiery person when I want to be, and I really feel connected to that. I’m very happy that astrology has become such a mainstream thing over the past couple years. I think it’s just like, one of those things where at a certain point in your life you have enough failed relationships with people that you’re like, “what the fuck is going on with me and eveyrone around me?” so people just delve into astrology super hard. It’s kind of incredible to me at this point that some people don’t know their charts. How do you seriously have no interest in this? But that might be my slightly narcissistic Leo moon talking.
Mannequin Pussy just wrapped up part one of your first headlining tour, supported by Empath and T-Rextasy. Was there a highlight show of the tour with those groups?
I feel very blessed to be able to say that there were so many highlights shows from this tour. With T-Rextasy especially, every show was kind of a highlight because I love their band so much. When you love a band and you’re on tour with them you get to see how the performance gets tighter and tighter every night. The LA date [in August, at The Echo] was a really magical show, I loved watching them and really seeing how the crowd interacted with them.
In the past two years, you’ve played two shows at Oberlin (one house show and one at the ‘Sco). Are there any marked differences between playing colleges and playing real venues?
There’s no real standard experience for college shows. Like, it’s good money to play a college, but it’s usually not very fun [laughs]. In my experience a lot of college students are really struggling with who they are and how to express themselves, and with realizing it's totally okay to just like have fun at a show. Which is why Oberlin’s so great, because everyone there is just sort of an outward freak and seemingly very comfortable with themselves and their self-expression. At Oberlin, people were going fucking hard, but I feel like at a lot of other college shows people are pretty timid.
College shows are really hit or miss. Sometimes the only people that come out to a college show are like, the ten people that work at the radio station and everyone else on campus doesn’t give a shit. But then you have an experience like we did at Oberlin, where people came to party and gave a good time and dance.
What’s the worst reaction you’ve ever had to your band name?
99% percent of the people that tell us that our band name is horrible and that we should change it are like, much older white men on the internet. And like, I don't really care what older people have to say. I'm of the mind that the old ways need to be burned down, and we need to make our own. I don’t really agree with much of what the older generation does or how they live their lives or how they treat other people or the planet. So I don’t really care.
Most overrated artist working today (in any medium)?
I think I’ve publicly challenged them to a battle of the bands before, but I would have to say Greta Van Fleet. I mean like -- what is going on there? And how are these dudes winning Grammys? I just don’t fucking get it.
But the last time I said that I during an interview they made the headline of the article something like “Watch out Greta Van Fleet...Mannequin Pussy’s coming for you” and the journalist really did what they could to stir up some sort of drama. And like, I’m cool with that, get your clicks, whatever. But for an entire day on Instagram and Twitter I had like 13-year-old girls that had avatars of the Greta Van Fleet boys threatening to kill me. You know, they had to stan their man.
It’s just so easy to be an attractive man making mediocre music. You can make an entire career out of that. But for the rest of us, you have to work a lot longer and a lot harder.
Most underrated artist working today?
For a while I would’ve said Phoebe Waller-Bridge [of Fleabag] is underrated, but she just won three Emmys for her writing. So I feel like she’s fucking rated.
Right now my favorite sandwich to make has been veganaise, tempeh bacon, avocado, sauerkraut, and then I like to add mustard as well. I like a gooey, wet sandwich. Sauerkraut is like, very necessary for me. I love kraut. I feel like the Germans and the Koreans really dominate the world of kraut. But really any sort of fermented cabbage -- I’m here for it.