In a time where hip-hop is America’s most popular genre, rock music thrives through new rock stars. Female bands aren’t as much of a foreign concept as they used to be, but how many bands do you know named Thunderpussy?
Already facing the struggle of working in a male-dominated industry, Thunderpussy has legal troubles of trademarking their name, considered too vulgar by the Patent and Trademark Office. Phoenix New Times spoke over the phone with bassist Leah Julius about their name.
“Whitney (Petty, guitarist) came up with it and thought it was funny and fitting,” Julius says. “Since then we’ve kind of embraced it: It’s a powerful name, and we’re powerful. We’re trying to reclaim what’s been male-dominated for so long: the word pussy and the rock-and-roll industry.”
In this legal fight, the group is in limbo, awaiting approval for their trademark. The Slants, an all-Asian-American band with a similar case, took their legal fight to the Supreme Court in 2017; their name was considered “disparaging” according to Harvard Law Review. The case, Matal v. Tam, ended in the band’s favor, allowing The Slants to trademark their name, yet Thunderpussy was still denied. According to the group in another interview, the reason was that the name is considered to be too “scandalous.” “It’s still a fight for sure,” Julius says.
Aside from battling for their band name to get trademarked, they had to work on their craft in order to establish themselves with their debut album.
“We took our time with it,” Julius says referring to their self-titled album. “We knew we didn’t want to rush it to make a record. We wanted to do it right and make sure it’s something we’re really happy with.” The album, Thunderpussy, was released in late May.
The group collaborated with female producer Sylvia Massy for the project. “She was the energy and the person we were looking for,” Julius says. “We found her and the time was right and we created a little monster.”
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As unique as Thunderpussy is, having an an album that’s powered by women all the way to the production level, they understand the impact of their work. “One of my favorite parts about doing this is when people come up to us after a show or we get a message saying whether our song meant something to them, or us just doing our thing inspired them to do their thing,” Julius says.
Fans of rock and roll can enjoy what sounds like a ’70s-inspired sound on Thunderpussy. Arizona listeners may notice the reference to Sedona in the first hard-hitting track “Speed Queen.” New Times learned through the phone conversation that lead singer Molly Sides was born in Arizona, but grew up in Idaho. Nevertheless, if listeners want to know what these cats are all about, the track “Thunderpussy,” a self-titled song on a self-titled album, is a great introduction.
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Julius wasn’t able to speak much about their upcoming project, but hinted at its release in 2019.
She also gave her opinion on the current state of rock. “There seems to be this popular culture thing that rock is making a comeback,” she says. “We’re kind of in the mindset that it never really went anywhere. People have always been maintaining great rock music.” Julius also emphasized her hopes that rock continues to include more women and nonbinary artists. “Something a little more diverse than white men,” she says.
Whether readers agree with their political views or not, these rad gals know how to rock. Rock is not dead, it lives through Thunderpussy, but these cats are looking to take control of everything, from their name, to the industry.
Thunderpussy. With The Struts and The Wrecks. 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 2 at the Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe; 480-829-0607; marqueetheatreaz.com. Tickets are $25 to $45 via Ticketweb.