Concert preview: Perfect Pussy singer Meredith Graves recharged and ready to rumble - if a bit more quietly now

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

With Perfect Pussy, Meredith Graves has amassed a roster of injuries more in-line with a professional football player than a punk singer, registering damage to her rotator cuff and both knees - not to mention the lasting harm she's done to her vocal cords in the three years that have passed since the band's 2012 formation in Syracuse, New York.

"I've destroyed myself; I've watched the waves take the sandcastle away piece by piece," said Graves, reached in her current home of Brooklyn for a late November phone interview. "The thing about the demo (I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling, from 2013) and [Perfect Pussy's 2014 full-length debut]Say Yes to Loveis that there are maybe one or two parts total where I'm not singing. I sing the whole record and yell and yell and yell because I never had any sense of what to do onstage if I wasn't screaming."

The effect was further amplified by the band's loud, urgent recordings, in which Graves' voice tended to exist somewhere beneath the swirling instrumental debris, only occasionally breaching the surface.

"The initial desire to bury [my voice] on recordings translated to the band being too loud in the live setting and no one being able to hear me, including myself," she said. "So I screamed past what's reasonable, and I've actually done permanent damage to my vocal cords."

As a result, Graves has taken more time off from the band over the last year, pausing to rehabilitate both body and mind by investing herself in yoga, a blossoming writing career (Graves has taken on freelance gigs as a cultural critic forStereogum andThe New York Times, among other outlets) and a new relationship that took root just as the action around Perfect Pussy started to slow.

"I've had a year to have a really healthy, cool relationship, to make some new friends and to really find myself as a writer," said Graves, who described Perfect Pussy as a single, 10-legged entity, and admitted stepping outside the quintet, even temporarily, initially left her feeling as though she had "lost [her] sense of self." "It's like I'm increasing in size every day, and I now exist independently of this band in small ways."

With action around the group now set to resume the usual chaotic pace - Graves, who joins bandmates Ray McAndrew (guitar), Garrett Koloski (drums), Ali Donahue(bass) and Shaun Sutkus (keyboard) for a Double Happiness concert on Friday, Dec. 4, said the crew has written roughly eight songs for a new album, including one tune, "The Women," which has become staple at recent shows - the singer sounded determined to avoid a return to her most physically destructive onstage antics.

"People are used to me screaming and moving and throwing my body around, and now I really want to see what happens when I'm just standing," Graves said. "The clarity that has settled in is about my own limitations. I'll be doing less of everything, I'm pleased to announce."

She will be playing the guitar more, however, taking up the instrument on a handful of songs as a further means of self-preservation, like a ship dropping anchor to buoy itself in the midst of a ferocious storm.

"[Playing guitar] is something I've always wanted to do, but people got so excited about me throwing myself around with a microphone that I felt obligated to do that," Graves said. "But when you hurt yourself enough, eventually you feel like you need a weapon to protect yourself from yourself. That's the purpose the guitar serves in my life: It stops me from hurting myself."

Graves initially started playing the guitar with an idea of making a solo record during her down time, though she eventually scrapped those plans in order to focus on her own physical and emotional well-being, and to allow herself time to accumulate new experiences to write about.

"Writing a solo record and going that far inward and retreating from people didn't seem fun, and sometimes I just want to do things that feel good and are fun," she said. "Working on personal relationships and getting enough sleep and learning how to balance all of my weight on my hands, those are all going to lead to a solo record, eventually. I have to live for a while … or I would have written a solo record about what it's like to be on tour with Perfect Pussy."

This healthier state of mind is further reflected in Graves' recent writings for the band, which have moved beyond more inwardly driven past efforts, gradually embracing a worldlier, more communal point of view.

"Growing up like I did, where pain or anxiety is your default resting state, you come into adulthood with this great sense of inner focus but no real idea of how to live in the world," she said. "Being lucky enough to advance past that even a little - which I really have in the last couple of years - all of a sudden the colors are brighter and there's more possibility for me. I see other people now and all I want to do is run towards them."

Double Happiness

8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4

482 S. Front St., Brewery District

doublehappinessohio.com

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