Two parts, Tina Turner’s legs. One part Prince’s squeal. Add a pound of Elvis’ iconic shake and David Bowie’s blue eye — and et voilà! That’s the recipe for Thunderpussy’s sound — at least according to the band’s lead singer Molly Sides and guitarist Whitney Petty. Who are we to argue?
The Seattle-based quartet, which also features Leah Julius on bass and drummer Ruby Dunphy, captured the attention of Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and are gearing up to release their full length, self-titled debut, produced by Sylvia Massy, on Stardog Records/Republic Records. In anticipation of the album, Billboard can premiere their video for “Velvet Noose.”
Sides and Molly talked to Billboard about the story behind the song, their history with Pearl Jam and what it will take for women to get more recognition in male-dominated genres: “Let’s high-kick stereotypes in the ass,” declared Sides.
Billboard: What’s the story behind the song “Velvet Noose”?
Petty: The name comes from a quote we heard while listening to an interview with Twisted Sister. The band was talking about the dangers of getting too complacent with a modicum success. It’s the story of what happened to Rocky Balboa. A little taste of money and power and you lose the eye of the tiger. The things you own will own you. You gotta stay hungry or you’ll be hung by the velvet noose.
We recorded it for the first time with Sylvia Massy when we recorded the rest of our debut record, but it just wasn’t right, something just wasn’t working. Everyone was very disappointed because we all loved that chorus. But we just couldn’t do it justice. When we left her studio we went to work with Mike McCready and Josh Evans who had their own ideas about the track and how we might get the version we were all looking for. It turned out they were right and the song you hear now was finalized with the help of their incredible creative intuition. And Sylvia loves it too!
Were you a fan of Pearl Jam before Mike McCready reached out to collaborate? Do you have any memories from your youth of listening to Pearl Jam?
Petty: Everybody who lived through the ’90s knows Pearl Jam. I mean, those guys are legendary. I admit that I did not actually sit down and listen to Ten all the way through until after we met Mike, but when I did — when we all did as a band — I realized that I intrinsically knew every song on that record. And I knew every nuance of that guitar solo at the end of “Alive.” I mean, it’s just so classic, and I must have heard it on the radio a thousand times before we ever met.
What has been so incredible is getting to know Mike first as a person, and a mentor, and then discovering his career and his genius now, as his friend. And actually, now we are all big fans. My favorite record is Vs.
K.Flay was the sole woman up for a Grammy in a rock category this year (she lost to Foo Fighters’ “Run” for best rock song). What will it take for female acts to get more recognition in male-dominated genres?
Petty: I think what it’s going to take is exactly what we are seeing in popular culture right now. This is an important time for women and for minorities. We are starting to see a shift in the collective unconsciousness. I think it is undeniable that there is an awareness brewing of inequality that we have not seen in this county for decades. We just got back from CES [a consumer technology business conference] in Las Vegas where we were asked to participate in a panel of incredibly smart and talented women in the music/tech industry on exactly this topic.
Sides: It truly was an incredible panel and being able to listen to so many intelligent women was very inspiring. One of my favorite quotes was said by Fly Si founder, Dr. Knatokie Ford: “If the rules aren’t built by people like you, they probably won’t work for people like you.”
Life is a chaotic game and doesn’t always work in our favor and yet, we all have to play it. In order for things to change, we have to do something about it. We have to be the game changers. I also believe women need to stop shaming one another and tearing each other down. We have to support the positive advocates if we want to generate positive change. It’s time to break down the rules that don’t work or don’t apply to us and create ones that do.
Petty: Women are waking up. Men are joining the fight. People are recognizing that diversity breeds creativity, and the world is watching. I’d say the time is ripe for Thunderpussy to high kick the patriarchy where it counts with a thigh-high, rhinestone encrusted, platform boot.
Sides: Let’s high-kick stereotypes in the ass.