he fog machine was working overtime, the sweat stained floor following all but Thunderpussy’s encore glistened, the crowd tumbled and rolled together like a choppy ocean, Thunderpussy was going to come back on stage or this wave was going to turn to oil and tempt a match to ignite. Four fleshy bodies re-took the stage, and Whitney Petty launched into that machine gun burst of guitar fuzz that is the bands theme song. All but the birthday girl were down one layer of clothing, Whitney wearing nothing but a Duke-a furry jock strap with a raccoon tail snaking down the ass crack. Molly Sides defies the physics of the human form dropping to the stage knees out, temple impossibly stroking that sweaty floor. Daringly exposed Whitey straddles Molly’s howling body and shreds the guitar into splinters. The smoke billows, that voice explodes, the drums thunder and clash, the bass shakes the earth, the guitar squeals and bites, then the bomb goes off and leaves nothing but scorched earth. The crowd is a piles of satisfied ashes, the only evidence of the raw and honest performance is the carnage of the room a sign that says, ‘Thunderpussy was here’. They gave us everything they had and left nothing in the tank.
For most, merely standing on stage is enough to put a wall between themselves and the audience, to dawn the armor that protects them from exposing their weaknesses to the audience. For the natural born performers the challenge is the opposite, to get up on stage and tear that wall down, to remove that armor and still put on a hell of a show. The members of Thunderpussy live for that delicate place, that fragile moment when they get to express their unguarded artistic emotions for an audience. It’s one of the most beautiful and powerful things this outstanding band of badass women do.
Each member of Thunderpussy filled an artistic void; Whitney Petty was playing drums in the duo The Grizzled Mighty, but she longed to wield the stringed axe once again, and was curious to see what it would be like to take the lead as a shot caller. Molly Sides is the definition of the restless artist, trained as a dancer at Cornish College of the Arts, her aspirations led her to explore all kinds of performance including vocals with the band This Bitch Don’t Fall Off. But eventually dance took her away to Portland to work with the dance group tEEth, when the contract ran out she ended up back in Seattle and started dating Whitney. Molly’s time with This Bitch impressed Whitney but she could tell that her talents were being underused in the band, putting her up front would get the best out of her. “I saw Molly perform as a singer and it was just so obvious to me that [Thunderpussy] was a perfect way for her to reach a main stream audience with her dance. A huge part of her performance with Thunderpussy is toying with the audience with her spacial awareness and the theatrics…”-“she’s my girlfriend, she’s supposed to say that,” Molly interjects. But it’s all genuine admiration from Whitney, the two have so much respect for each other as artists, and when it came to filling out the rest of the band they searched for other musicians they equally respect.
Lena Simon was Molly’s classmate at Cornish and is one of the hardest working women in the Seattle music scene, with her hands in nearly a dozen musical projects including Katie Kate, La Luz, and her own Kairos. Leah Julius, known for her roles in Sundries and Cumlus rounded out this quartet of total ass kickers. “I think we were all trying to fill a void, because [Molly] missed singing, I missed playing the guitar, and [Lena] missed playing the drums. If I’d known that Leah Julius played bass it would have occurred to me sooner,” Whitney explains, but after a lot of back and forth with Molly, Whitney summed it up “I think we were born to be in Thunderpussy together. I think it’s the fruition of our entire lives.”
It’s unlikely that you’ve never seen a force like Thunderpussy before, from the moment they take to the stage they are dominating the audience with their raw sexuality, they beat you into submission, pounding your face with spiked high heels. You look up as Whitney lashes at the guitar her long flowing hair whipping the air. Blood drips from your mouth, but you can’t suppress a smile as Molly grabs the microphone and contorting her body into a dancers pose she belts some of the smoothest, most sultry, and soulful vocals, there’s just a hint of their razor blade sharpness that every once in a while strikes you unforgivingly. The smile expands across your face like a perverse Grinch and you realize you’re missing teeth. Leah Julius appears more restrained than her bandmates who just unleash themselves on the stage, but she hugs the bass tightly just managing to keep the instrument together in the face of her supreme thumping, the force of the instruments crunch is enough to crush hearts. That smile is wiped off your face when you feel the burning sting of a hot leather whip lash across your back, and Lena Simon is punishing the drums for all their past transgressions. It’ll be a miracle if there’s anything left of them when she’s done.
That sexuality was something I was hesitant to mention for a long time, afraid to devalue the incredible music Thunderpussy makes, but just like their name they have no apologies for the sexuality that they exhibit. “We’re women, and we have fucking great bodies, and we’re all so different. A lot it comes from our bodies, from our voice, from our arms, from our chest, from our core, our legs, our thighs, each one’s a power force,” Molly points out. At the front of the stage she plays the temptress, pushing and pulling against the audience with her voice as well as her body. Whitney appropriately scolds me, “See, I like to pretend that I’m Elvis Presley right now, and the reason your asking me that question [about Thunderpussy’s sexuality on stage] is not because I’m a woman but because it’s still provocative, and still controversial, and still so entwined with the soul of what rock and roll is.” The sex isn’t a gimmick, they don’t sacrifice the soul of the songs or their heaviness in order to express themselves physically, it empowers, it drives the unstoppable machine forward.
Thunderpussy isn’t out to make a statement against male dominated society, if anything they are respectful and restrained in the face of some of the more disgusting and demeaning comments, but that doesn’t mean they can’t slam the van doors on your fingers. They’re out to rock, they’re out to rock “harrrrrrd” and female empowerment and positivity is the byproduct of their artistic expressions. They take the power back from the dudes who’ve claimed ownership over everything in power and sex, and Thunderpussy’s not giving it back.
The band was formed quickly and they immediately were faced with the realities of writing songs and also expressing to the band members how that song works, “I don’t read music well, I speak a vocabulary that’s movement and anatomy, and not being able to say, ‘oh this is the key that it’s in, and this is where we start and this is where we end, this is a chord change…’ Being able to explain or express that a song that I’ve written should be played the way that I hear it, that was pretty cool,” Molly tells me, followed by what sounds to be an example of Molly’s preferred instructional method with words like bendy, trill, double bridge, and the phrase “bend it harrrrrd.” It’s just the kind of informal attitude that’s worked for the band. Though they don’t have a formal album or EP release they have a set of demos that have been circulating and what’s most impressive is the way they manage to capture the movement on stage, that playful attitude, that loose but controlled sound, they captured what it is like to see Thunderpussy on stage in a recording.
Song after song the band finds a way to keep things aggressive and heavy, while also being smooth and soulful, and deliciously loose. Songs could nearly fall apart at any moment, the glue that holds things together grips the frayed fabric tendrils mightily, and only once the song crashes to its final resting place does that grip break free. Every song leaves the listener with this smoldering pile of wreckage. Thunderpussy mines the depths of classic Rock and Roll, a perverse version of Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin riding a rocket and reaching the peek altitude at that restful moment before it bursts, Janis Joplin shredding gracefully and edgy.
Thunderpussy is in a class all of their own, and when I asked when their ravenous fans could finally satiate their hunger with an album or even an EP, the response was “when people start crashing helicopters into my front yard.” It’s possible that 2016 could be the year, but they seem to be in no rush, fans are grinding their teeth and salivating and when they finally do put something out it’s going to be mayhem. In the meantime They’re continuing to to cut their teeth on the stage, and will be writing some music for an upcoming film from Robert McGinley titled Danger Diva. The movie will star Molly Sides, and would appear to be the prefect project for Molly to display her many talents and for Thunderpussy to contribute to.
Back stage before returning for the encore, Molly instructs the band members to shed one layer of clothes. Whitney who jokingly planned to wear her “birthday suit” is making that a reality, sliding on the duke and having guest Drummer Ian Cunningham tape up her nipples. “I was nervous, I was like ‘I don’t think I can do it’ and everyone is stripping all around me, and there’s no time, you’ve got literally two minutes before you feel like the room’s going to explode, you’ve got to get back out there while the iron’s hot and strike. I was so nervous, but as soon as we got out on stage I was like, ‘this is the funniest shit ever, let me do a high kick.’ If it feels good do it.” From the audience you can read all of that fear and anxiety, but also the fun and total execution of the moment. When the band took the stage at Sasquatch this past May they played a cover of Dazed and Confused, a song they’d hardly had a chance to rehearse, and in the van driving over Molly broke down and declared that they wouldn’t be playing the song, her bandmates objected and a day later on the biggest stage in the Northwest Thunderpussy fed the beast and performed a version of the song that could put the boys from London to shame.
In order to get on stage and hand the crowd your insecurities and fears, get naked and shred on the guitar, or strike a powerful but vulnerable pose while belting a hauntingly beautiful song, or take the leap and perform an underrehearsed classic, you have to have an immense amount of trust for the people you share the stage with. Molly Sides and Whitney Petty surrounded themselves with two of their best friends, two people they have immeasurable respect for, two talented and dedicated people, and the payoff for all this is in the music. Thunderspussy should feel overly rehearse and gimmicky, but they’re absolutely real and present. Whitney sums it up like this “When you get up on stage and you’re able to be that vulnerable, that’s what makes you human and that’s what makes the audience go ‘they’re me.'”
YOU’VE GOT EVERYWHERE TO RUN/NOWHERE TO HIDE/HOW YOU GONNA MAKE IT IF YOU NEVER TRY. Thunderpussy is coming and there’s no use trying to escape them, give in and the let music wash over you in a hot sweaty bath of sweet, sweet, blues-rock soul.
You can find Thunderpussy at Thunderpussyusa.com, on twitter and instagram at @thunderpussiez, and all their music can be found at soundcloud.com/thunderpussiez. You can see them live in a show their calling A Nightmare before Pussy this Wednesday night at Neumos with Bod, Nightmare Fortress, and Dræmhouse. If I didn’t make it abundantly clear throughout this article, Thunderpussy live is an absolute must see. The above quotes were taken from an interview with Molly Sides and Whitney Petty for an upcoming episode of the Depthsounder podcast, be on the lookout.