“This has been my dream since I was 11,” said the band’s Whitney Petty. Their new single, “Speed Queen,” is available to hear now.
Just three years ago, Molly Sides and Whitney Petty were performing over the sound of plates being scraped and martinis being shaken at The Pink Door restaurant in Seattle.
In the time since, the two have built a forceful, hard-rocking, all-female four-piece called Thunderpussy. The band and their high-energy shows have drawn crowds from Seattle to New York to the U.K. — and the attention of Stardog/Republic Records, which just signed them to a multiple-album deal.
“It’s the first song that has the full machine behind us,” bassist Leah Julius said of the song the other day. “And so we had to make sure that it represented us well.”
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Thunderpussy hits the big time with a solid following, built from years of performances at galas and fundraisers, The Showbox and Sasquatch!, the Upstream Music Festival and the Mural at Seattle Center.
Fans will have a chance to celebrate with them on New Year’s Eve, when Thunderpussy will play The Showbox at The Market. It’s being called a “Fire and Ice Ball,” and not a traditional rock show, but a party like no other.
After all, they wouldn’t have gotten any deal without the support of their hometown fans.
“We just want to make the city proud,” Julius said. “That’s something we’ve talked about a lot. We are a Seattle band, and we don’t want to move. Why would we want to move? These people have made us what we are.”
In the meantime, the band members are still reeling from their meetings in New York City, where Stardog/Republic — both part of the Universal Music Group — played their music and flashed their name on screens throughout the office. Employees — many of them women, which is important to the band — came around to welcome them to the label.
“When we left and got into the cab, I started crying,” Petty said. “This has been my dream since I was 11.”
Sides — known for her dance-inspired, onstage undulations, including bending all the way backward and leaning far into the crowd — had always wanted the band to have control of everything from music to costumes to touring.
“When this came about, it was a scary moment of, ‘Do we give in and do we take this path? Or can we still do it by ourselves?’ ” Sides said. “But your arms can only extend so far. You can only extend yourself so long.”
As they progressed, the band — Sides, lead guitarist Petty, bassist Julius and drummer Ruby Dunphy — found they had a lot of support behind them.
Their first single, “Velvet Noose,” was released on Hockeytalker Records, a label owned by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, who started working with them after seeing them perform at Sasquatch in 2016.
A few weeks after that festival, Thunderpussy headed to Oregon to record with producer Sylvia Massy, who has worked with Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash and Prince.
When the record was finished, McCready helped get engineer Josh Evans to mix the tracks, then “played it for everybody,” Petty said.
One person who heard it was Chris Cornell, who sent McCready an email that he forwarded to the members of Thunderpussy the morning Cornell died.
“I am so excited, that sounds amazing,” the Soundgarden frontman wrote of their record. “I am so excited about what’s to come.”
Republic/Stardog paid them “just enough” so they could leave their jobs, although Sides will continue teaching Pilates and Dunphy will graduate from Cornish College of the Arts next spring with a music degree.
William Morris Endeavor signed as their booking agency (“Ruby thought William Morris was a person,” Petty cracked) and Seattle music attorney Ed Pierson — who also represents Macklemore — became their legal representative.
“We don’t have to book our own shows!” Petty said. “We don’t have to take the light rail to the airport! I mean, I don’t mind doing it, but when you have all your gear …”
Dunphy recalled opening a bank account at BECU recently and being asked her occupation. “Musician,” she said.
“It was the first time I had said that,” she said. “Then when they found out I was the drummer for Thunderpussy, they said, ‘We’re putting that instead: Drummer of Thunderpussy.’ I am living a 10-year-old’s dream.”
Julius agreed: “I’ve been doing this a long time, and I never thought at 29 I would be signing a major record deal. It’s a totally different level. I get to run around on stage in sparkly bras for a living? What?”
At the label offices, the band was asked what they needed to succeed. Help with the website? New merchandise? A fan club?
Yes, they said. All of that.
But this signing has caused them to think more about what they want.
“I want a lot of things,” Sides began. “I want to be a good person. I want to reach everybody. I feel like when people hear our name, they think, ‘It’s so vulgar.’ But it’s the opposite. We’re ferocious, we’re positive, we’re inclusive. Because you can’t get anywhere by yourself.”
About that name: While the band owns the Thunderpussy trademark in Washington state, it is still waiting for approval of their federal trademark. That hinges on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now deciding the constitutionality of a 1946 law called the Lanham Act, which gives the federal Patent and Trademark Office the right to reject trademarks that are “immoral” or “scandalous.”
“The presumption is that once this comes out, a decision will come down on Thunderpussy’s trademark,” said attorney Ben Kerr, who is representing the band pro bono and wrote its federal trademark application.
Going forward, Petty wants to follow the example of one of her heroes, Tom Petty, who died Oct. 2.
“Everything he was is what I want to be,” Petty said of Tom Petty. “The man had so much integrity. And I love the idea of being a live act that’s spontaneous and incendiary. He respected his fans and he fought for what was right, all the time.
“He was the perfect example as an artist, and I want all of that.”
Julius wants to start a music nonprofit that collects and repairs used instruments and provides them to kids in need — and offers group classes. She’d also like to buy her mother a house. And become the new face of Alaska Airlines, like Russell Wilson.
And Dunphy? What did she say she wanted?
“I didn’t say anything,” Dunphy cracked. “So I didn’t sound like an idiot.”
All she has to do is graduate, play well and remember how lucky she is.
“To me, this means ‘Don’t drink, don’t do drugs, stay true,’ ” she said. “I think this is gonna be big.”
Said Sides: “To have this platform to keep working for our craft is such a dream come true. We like to think we think outside of the box. Now we just have a better box to work out of.”