Despite the band’s name — “so genius, but so stupid” — Thunderpussy doesn’t want to make a statement. Just great music.
“Wait, so you want to talk about music?”
Leah Julius asked this with a mix of incredulousness and relief. Most interviewers, she said, start off by asking what it’s like to be a girl in a band.
The name of said band, though, sort of begs the question: Thunderpussy.
It’s part smirk, part camp, part challenge. A feminist mic-drop before the amps are even plugged in. Once they are, though, it doesn’t really matter what these four women call themselves.
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They’re good. They’re young. They know how to play rock ’n’ roll. And they know how to entertain, whether it’s on a few feet of floor at The Pink Door or — more recently — the stage at Sasquatch!
This weekend, Thunderpussy will play the mainstage at Capitol Hill Block Party. (They’re scheduled to play on Saturday at 4:45 p.m.)
And in September, they will begin recording their first album.
They’re headed for Something Big, and they can feel it.
But first, the origin of the name, so we can be done with it.
“It’s so genius, but so stupid,” explained lead guitarist Whitney Petty, sitting in a booth with her bandmates at Cafe Solstice on Capitol Hill. “It was always a joke.”
A friend made it up. It was tongue-in-cheek and provided them “a wall of puns,” she said.
But when things got serious, when this wasn’t just a lark but an actual band, there seemed no other choice but Thunderpussy. They were committed to it.
“It’s a challenge,” Petty said of the name. “You have to prove yourself. It’s a struggle, because people have a preconceived notion. When you hear ‘Thunderpussy,’ you have all these questions.”
So people come to see them seeking answers — and leave knowing they have seen a great show.
Frontwoman Molly Sides is like a sequined go-go dancer let loose from her cage, bending backward to the floor, or leaning forward, almost into the crowd, drawing them toward the stage.
Petty will sometimes stand or jump over her, while Julius, the bassist, and drummer Ruby Dunphy will keep the power going.
Their sound is a bit precocious for a group of women in their 20s. You hear classic rock with tinges of Elvis Presley and ’70s punk — all with a thread of blues running through it.
Despite heavy word-of-mouth and high-profile bookings, Thunderpussy is not signed to a label. That’s a surprise to those who have seen them perform — but not to those who know them.
This is how they want it; to maintain control, to preserve what they put on stage.
“We create events,” Petty said. “We want to create experiences. We have been doing this all along, all ourselves.
“We want to keep constructing it the way we envision it.”
In September, Thunderpussy will head to Oregon, where they will record their first record with producer Sylvia Massy, who has worked with Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash and Prince.
They met when Thunderpussy was called in to help Massy teach a two-day class at Creative Live. “We did one song with her,” Julius remembered, “and looked at each other like, ‘something’s happening here.’ She heard what we had been hearing in our heads.”
Said Petty: “Now all of us are chomping at the bit to get a record that stands up to our live show, then get in the van and tour our asses off and make music for people.”
The band started in 2014 with Petty and Sides. They later pulled in bassist Julius, who was — and still is — playing drums in a band called Sundries.
Dunphy has been behind the kit for the last five months. She is a Cornish-trained jazz drummer who has played in bands between here and Chicago (“Endless, endless,” she said of her band history).
“I didn’t think it was going to work,” Dunphy said of Thunderpussy. “I never played music like this, never heard it. But I became intoxicated by it.”
Said Sides: “When Ruby showed up, I hit my knees. In love.”
All of them have day jobs. Petty is a gardener; Julius works in a creative-marketing firm; Dunphy is a sound-engineering assistant at Cornish; and Sides teaches Pilates and is curating performances for the upcoming Out of Sight Festival at King Street Station.
Thunderpussy has been doing well, making money, but hasn’t pocketed a cent.
“We’re just feeding the band,” Sides said. “Every show we’ve ever played is an investment into this brand.”
Which explains their lighting, costumes and polished videos, including “Welcome to the Disco,” which only has four cuts.
Ask them about their influences, and their sound makes sense.
Julius, the bassist, was raised by Dead Heads (“I don’t remember my parents listening to anything else”) who took her to Bumbershoot and EndFest every year.
One of her stepbrothers was in a punk band, and sold her her first CD: Green Day’s “Dookie.” She is inspired by Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, who came out as a transgender woman in 2012.
“It turns out that all of those words I thought were so cool,” Julius said, “were written by a badass lady.”
Sides, the singer, grew up in Ketchum, Idaho, with a father who listened to Elvis Presley, brothers to the Beastie Boys and a mother who made Barbra Streisand’s Christmas album an annual tradition. She fell in love with musical theater, dance and Etta James, which explains everything.
Petty, the lead guitarist, moved to Seattle from Marietta, Ga., to work on a boat, but longed to make roots here, and did so playing drums in a band called The Grizzled Mighty. When she started playing guitar, she tapped into the Marshall Tucker and Townes Van Zant of her childhood.
Dunphy heard everything in her house: The Ramones, Willie Nelson, Eminem. She made a set of drums with barrels and sticks in her backyard. In high school, “I fell in with the baddest young jazz cats in Chicago.” Later on, she was inspired by RiotGrrl founder Kathleen Hanna and Bikini Kill.
Unlike the RiotGrrl movement, though, there’s no feminist intent behind Thunderpussy. They’re not trying to make any statement. Just music.
“That’s been one of the biggest things with us,” Sides said. “We hate being immediately pegged as an all-female, feminist rock group. It’s about the music.”
Said Petty: “In the words of Mick Jagger, ‘It’s only rock ’n’ roll.’ ”