Hometown favorites Thunderpussy take the stage at Sasquatch! Music Festival on Friday, the same day their self-titled debut album drops.
There’s a very predictable way to make the rock ‘n’ roll hellions of Thunderpussy groan louder than the feedback from a Marshall double stack. A mere mention of the rage-click headlines that have popped up over the last few years pronouncing the death of rock ‘n’ roll has four sets of eyes rolling on the patio of Brouwer’s Cafe.
“Duuude,” says Whitney Petty, the Joe Perry-worshipping guitarist, with a wince. “It’s a funny joke. Are there people that seriously think this is real? … For someone to say that rock ‘n’ roll is dead, you don’t know what rock ‘n’ roll is then, because it’s a feeling that will never die, that lives in the loins of every young person. It’s like the true feeling of rebellion; it’s everyone that’s ever had one shot too many.”
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Obviously, trolling bloggers haven’t heard Thunderpussy, Seattle’s torchbearers of loud, recalcitrant rock music with enough undeniable melody to keep them off subgenre fringes. Over the past few years, the Zeppelin-channeling quartet has become one of the most reliable live acts in town, bringing their hair-flipping fury to clubs and festival stages like Sasquatch!, which they play for the third time Friday (7:15 p.m., El Chupacabra stage).
To this point, Thunderpussy has been defined by its amp-roaring performances, which find singer Molly Sides cavorting and howling on stage while Petty plays fledgling guitar hero, and the rhythm section — Leah Julius (bass) and Ruby Dunphy (drums) — hits the throttle. It’s not the sort of reputation you shy away from, but in the absence of much recorded material, that’s really all the band’s had to hang its hat on. Until now.
With their long anticipated debut album dropping Friday with major-label backing, the big question was how those ’70s-steeped rockers from their hallmark live sets will translate on record.
“Everybody said just capture the energy of your live set and it will be great,” Petty recalls. “We all in our own way were like, ‘[expletive] that.’”
Instead, Thunderpussy had no qualms separating their live show from their self-titled album, unhindered by whether or not they’d be able to recreate certain elements on the road. Without being beholden to it, the record exalts the spirit of the ’70s, which Petty describes as “the era of album-oriented rock.” Finally faced with making their own, Julius saw an opportunity to show people something new.
“People who’ve seen us live or just heard about us or whatever, I feel like they very much are like ‘Thunderpussy! Live rock ‘n’ roll band!’” she says. “Clearly we are very much that, and that’s [expletive] rad, but there definitely is this other side to us. … I think when the album comes out and people really sit down and listen to an album and not the singles, it’ll make a lot more sense.”
Back in fall 2016 — a year before signing with Stardog Records, a long dormant imprint under the Universal umbrella initially launched for Mother Love Bone releases — the group holed up in Ashland, Oregon to record with heavyweight producer Sylvia Massy, whose credits include everyone from Tom Petty to Tool. They were unaware of Massy’s big-deal status at first, but connected with her inadvertently through a referral from longtime Seattle DJ Marco Collins. The chemistry was instant and Thunderpussy spent about a month living together (“Real World Ashland,” they joke, but less drama and more weed) and recording at Massy’s studio built in an old church.
“As soon as we walked in, the doors were wide open to be exactly who we were — to laugh, to cry, to get [expletive] up — but be there to create exactly what we were meant to create,” Sides says.
Through the fertile sessions — for which Massy requested they write at least twice as many songs as the 15 they came in with — Thunderpussy emerged with a record that not only does redlining live favorites like “Thunderpussy” and “Speed Queen” justice, but also features less raucous numbers like “Young and Pure,” spiritually closer to the acoustic headphone tracks on Petty’s favorite albums of the ’70s.
Set staple “Torpedo Love” now feels even loftier, freshened up with a string section hired and recorded after the Massy sessions by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, who became Thunderpussy’s most prominent booster after catching them at Sasquatch! a few years ago. (“All he wanted to do was talk about my pedal board,” Petty recalls. “I was like, ‘Who is this guy?!”)
After flying back to Washington for Sasquatch!, Thunderpussy returns to the road amid their “world domination endeavor,” as Sides wryly calls it, which features dates with Black Pistol Fire. Despite the record deal, the hometown darlings insist not much has changed — they’re still “four sweaty ladies in a sweaty van,” Petty says.
And they said rock ‘n’ roll was dead.