Interview with Potty Mouth

Photo by Naz Massaro

We interviewed Ally and Abby from the pop band Potty Mouth! Potty Mouth originally formed in 2011 in Massachusetts, but recently relocated to LA. Abby Weems does vocals and plays guitar, Abby Einbinder plays bass, and Victoria Mandanas plays drums. In this interview, we talk about the artistic inspiration they found in visiting their friends on the East Coast, their thoughts on marketing and major labels in today’s music industry, and finally the importance of caution and taking it slow as the pandemic winds down.

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What’s your go-to gas station order?

Ally: Well, it really depends on what type of gas station.

Weronika: The gas station of your dreams. 

Abby: Yerba Mate.

Ally: I like to get a fountain soda, Coke Zero fountain soda. I really like–they’re really basic–but I really like those cheese crackers, the orange crackers with the cheese in the middle, and they come in like an eight pack. 

Abby: Oh yeah, I like those too! I like to pretend that it has protein. 

Ally: Yeah, I like those, And then a fountain soda and a Coke Zero.

Abby: A granola bar, like a Cliff Bar. Nothing too fancy.

So your latest release, “Let Go”, contains the line “love me how you want to.” What’s your love language?

Ally: My love language for sure is words of affirmation. I’m a word person. I’m a Gemini. I really, really, really value clear and direct communication, and showing compassion and affection through communication because I hate playing guessing games. I hate having to figure out what someone’s trying to say when they speak so minimally. So yeah, my love language is definitely words of affirmation.

Abby: I think my love language is comfort with distance.

Ally: I don’t know if that’s a love language…

Abby: Yeah, that tells you everything you need to know. No, my love language is just no love right now. 

Ally: No love. Yeah, no thank you.

How have people in your life changed you, or, how have the people around you impacted you in the most significant way?

Abby: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s about the relationship being doomed so much as like being okay with something coming to an end. And maybe you can come back to it, or when you come back to it, you’ll have a different appreciation for it, who knows. But it’s just like, everything comes to an end at some point. So like, just do things how you want to for the time being, and then when that happens, like figure it out for whatever is best for both parties. I mean, just as a random example, my bandmates have changed me so much, we were like a little family unit. It feels really lucky to have such close friends to just be able to talk shit out and be there for each other in different capacities. We’re also in a band.

Ally: Yeah, like chosen family. Or family chosen for your band? I would say my bandmates. And then our Sunday Zoom group, which is the group that we released the album that “Let Go” was on with. It’s a group of people that we’ve been Zooming with every Sunday for over a year, haven’t met any of them in person, but they’ve had like such a big impact on our own journey in the last 15 months of the pandemic, and like musical reparenting, just like basically having a support group with other artists to like, process the times with.

Abby: I feel like normally we get that when we go on tour, and we meet other bands, and we get to hear about like, “Oh, like, how are things going for you and your place in music?” or whatever. And we’re like, “How are you releasing your record?”. But since we haven’t had that, because of the pandemic, this Zoom group has been really cool.

Ally: I feel like once we start talking about like, friendships, I can go on and on. I feel like the last year for me, I feel really lucky in that I haven’t felt like I’ve been socially isolated because of the virtual space that we have. With our zoom group, it’s filled me enough where I don’t feel like I’ve spent the last year being totally isolated from other people. If anything, I feel like I’ve grown closer to other people, because I’ve just had more time. 

So adding on to the whole friendship theme, you guys recently posted a TikTok about visiting some friends on the East Coast and getting some inspiration from them. Tell us about some of your favorite memories with these friends or what you did. 

Ally: I’m glad you watched that TikTok because we’re still kind of new to TikTok and I’ve been having a lot of fun making things and learning how to use it. We’re millennials, so it’s like new social media for us. But that went along with the song “Saroce and Smokes” that also came out on that “Sunday, Someday” compilation, which Abby wrote like five or six years ago. She wrote it when I was living with some of our really good friends in Massachusetts. And it was just about a time we live together in this house. It was a really special house. It was the house that Potty Mouth had all of our band practices in. And it was kind of just like the headquarters where we all hung out. 

Abby: We had so many good parties–your comedy themed birthday party. 

Ally: Yeah, the stand up comedy themed birthday party! It’s the house where my cats were raised. They live here now in LA. Yeah. So yeah, Abby and I both visited the East Coast and it was a lot of fun. It was my birthday, so we had a really special gathering. And it was in place probably since we lived in Massachusetts, which was really nice. 

It’s not really often that like a pop rock or pop punk band hailing from the DIY scene makes it on major labels or kind of into the big leagues these days. I was wondering what your sort of perspective on growing and marketing a band in today’s industry is like?

Abby: Oh shit! You opened a can of worms. We’ve been talking about this a lot, actually. 

Ally: Potty Mouth, we’ve been a band for 10 years now. We started as like, very DIY, like, low expectations, punk basement, punk band. And then as we kept going, we realized we all loved it and loved being on tour and being able to do the more professional parts of the job as a way to make money, and like, who doesn’t want to get paid to play shows around the country? But, as we went on and started working with outside people, managers, and whatever–I don’t regret any experience we had because it was all learning, it was all growth–but I just feel like it’s a really hard time to be an artist. We live in a time where the economy of music is built entirely around streaming, and there’s just no money in that. And so, the money making opportunities that artists have nowadays are just so few and far between, so much of it is just touring. And of course, we haven’t been able to do that for so long now.

And then, the other part is getting your music placed in TV shows, or commercials, or movies, which is incredibly hard. I am just wary of anyone who exists outside of your art, who comes in all excited because they love what you’re doing, which, of course, is very flattering. But in the end, they exist in a profession built around making money off of someone else’s work, it really is what it comes down to. And I feel like managers, if anything, are just experts in timing, because they swoop in right when they see an artist is at a point where they’re about to start getting big opportunities that are coming because of their own work that they’ve put in. I mean, obviously, we all come from different places and positions of privilege that impact our ability to even have visibility, like at all, but I think that managers, they’ll come in right when they see that you’re in a good place. And then as the opportunities come in, they’ll make you believe that they’re the reason why you’re getting those opportunities, when really, they just swooped in at the right time. 

Abby: And labels do that too. 

Ally: And labels too. I feel like it just can have a really cumulatively detrimental effect on an artist’s development, because then you start to internalize this idea that you need those people on your team to continue to get opportunities. You start to doubt all the things that you were doing before that got you in that place to begin with, you know what I mean? It just breaks my heart to see–especially in younger bands who have found a lot of success on platforms like TikTok during the pandemic, bands that don’t even really have that much experience going out and playing shows or touring–getting taken up by bigger labels or management companies, and then suddenly, being indebted to these labels or these companies when they haven’t even made any money for themselves to begin with. It’s just a cycle it’s hard to get out of.

Abby: So basically getting on a major label is not the goal anymore.

Ally: Yeah. I would say finding a community and remembering the parts of music that feed you, which for me–and I think the reason why we all got into music in the beginning–was that community aspect, and because music made us made feel something. You don’t want to forget that as soon as you begin to have some success and others try to capitalize on that success.

Do you think that there’s a difference between how you would work with a major label versus working with a more independent label or smaller label?

Abby: Oh, yeah, we’ve done both. And it’s very different.

Ally: Yeah, it’s all about the amount of contact you have with the people who are responsible for helping you, and the rights you have to your own music.

Abby: The goals are different too. When you’re on a major label, it’s all about making money. It’s all about making a song that could be in this kind of movie or be a radio song or whatever. So you’re already coming at it from a place of creating from a capitalist point. And then it always comes down to the numbers, like, how many streams are there, how many iTunes sales?

Ally: Yeah, the goals are purely capitalistic. And then in the end, you know, when you signed to a major label, you don’t even have the rights to your own masters, you do have to have to sacrifice a lot. So right now, we’re with Get Better Records, that’s what we consider our home label. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. And with Get Better we have total creative control. 

Abby: We text with Alex [Lichtenauer] all the time. 

Ally: Yeah, all day, every day. It’s like directing our own art project, which is how music should be. And of course, we still outsource certain things. We love working with cool, creative people on music videos, and art. That’s like the fun part of it– it’s, like, working with other creatives to make something creative, rather than just working with like, really, anyone can call themselves a manager. There have been times in my life where I thought “I should manage a band”, you know, I can be CC’d on emails, be on top of logistics and all that, but like, I wouldn’t feel good about it. You know, I would feel like, unless someone really, really needed the help with organization, I can do that. But I wouldn’t feel good collecting commission off of… you know, most of the times managers aren’t even physically present when you’re doing any of this work. I could go on, and on and on…

So switching gears a little bit, you guys recently posted a throwback photo of your very first photo together as a band from 10 years ago. How does it feel to look back on that?

Ally: So weird. That feels like a different lifetime. 

Abby: Why weren’t we wearing shoes? It was February? 

Ally: No, I think it was February, or who knows? I don’t know. Maybe it was March or April. But it was when I lived in Pastel still. It was my first house after college, the first house we ever had band practice in. I met Abby at our first band practice, we didn’t even know each other–I mean, I saw her around it shows. 

Abby: Yeah, I’ve seen the Ally’s band play at, like, the local library.

Ally: Right. Yeah, I mean, so much happened. Abby was in high school when we started. I had just graduated college. So now I’m in my 30s, and [I’ve] had just so many different experiences…

Abby: I mean, it’s like a lifetime, being a band. Yeah, I feel like we’ve matured, grown up from children into adults, while being in a band.

Ally: Yeah, some some tours more than others have aged us in particular.

Abby: I know isn’t it wild? I didn’t even know Allie or Victoria before that. We were like “Okay, here we go!” Now we’re just gonna travel the country together and play music.

Weronika: I think awesome too, even, if we want to go back to the whole friendship thing. I feel like a lot of people say like, “Oh, you know, as an adult, it gets like harder and harder to make friends”, or to meet people, because you’re kind of in a routine. You’re not in school, so you don’t see the same people every day. But it’s like, music or being in a band, or any of this, creates those opportunities and continues that sort of relationship growth with other people. Based on what you said, it kind of sounds like that to me, which is super awesome. And, you know, it gives me some hope for the rest of my 20s, that maybe they won’t suck that much.

Abby: Your 20s are scary. 

Ally: I feel like things have just gotten better. I feel really lucky that I somehow figured out how to prolong the youthfulness of it all, because you’re right, I think that as people get older, there is this idea that friendships aren’t as important or as relevant. And then, for a lot of people, that’s just by virtue of circumstance, like, having to spend a lot of time at a job where you’re not friends with your coworkers or whatever. I feel lucky to be in an industry and have a lifestyle where just by virtue of what we do, interpersonal relationships are very important. The connection you have with people are very important. 

Abby: Because who knows what connection could lead to playing a random ass show somewhere cool, meeting new people, or leading to someone you can stay with in another city.

Ally: Right! You’re always going to want to have band friends, because no one else, you can’t talk to anyone else about some of these experiences, 

Abby: It’s crazy.

Ally: You know, the only other people who can really understand what we’re talking about are people who have been, like, working musicians, have toured a lot. It’s just living in a way that, especially as we get older, is less and less conventional. I personally have a lot of friends who are married or getting married, have kids, having kids, and buying houses, and I love them. We’re so close. It’s just my life is not that way right now. 

Abby: And that doesn’t have to be the goal. 

Ally: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be the goal. It’s just important to have people who can understand our lifestyle. 

Abby: Yeah, and you don’t feel like a loser.

Photo by Naz Massaro

So kind of going back to “Let Go” and the compilation that we were talking about–the compilation titled “Sunday, Someday”, also features other artists like Nervus and Koji. Could you tell us more about how this collection kind of came together, and how your single sort of fits into that project as a whole.

Ally: We were supposed to go on tour with Koji and–not Nervus–but a band that shares members with Nervus, they’re not a band anymore, they’re called Milk Teeth. So we were supposed to go on tour them in April 2020, and obviously that was cancelled. So when that was cancelled, Koji reached out to us, we obviously hadn’t met them (still haven’t met them), but they reached out to us over the internet and was like, “Hey, I’m thinking about getting the group of people who are supposed to be on tour together on Zoom so we can all meet each other and kind of, like, processes this crazy moment we’re living in.” That was the first time we ever Zoomed, it was on a Sunday in April, it was like April 26 or something 2020. And then literally from that Sunday on, we started Zooming every single Sunday, we still do it every single Sunday. So it’s been over a year now! There are some Sundays where we spend literally hours together, like four or five hours. 

Abby: One person will hop off for a little bit and then come back on. 

Ally: It really is like a virtual community room. But, the original goal was never to make a record together. But as we kept talking and getting together every Sunday on Zoom, we realized we all had songs. We all had songs in our stockpile that hadn’t been released on anything. So we were like, “Okay, let’s all pick up a few songs that we want to put on a compilation together, and let’s do it!” We asked Get Better and they were down. And that’s how it happened. We already had our two songs tracked, but then Em from Nervus mixed them, and then Koji mastered them. That’s the case for all the songs on the record–they were all either mixed or mastered by Koji and Em. And then art was done by Abby. So it was a real like, collaborative effort, group project, all done virtually.

Abby: It’s really cool because the whole process made all of us realize, like, “Oh, it’s so important to have friends like this, where you can have each other’s opinion when you’re putting out a record,” just about all the different numbers of, like, how many records to make, and the distribution, [as opposed to] just usually just doing it by yourself. As a band, it’s hard to know what the right things to do in the process are, but the fact that we did it as a group, we were able to do press together, and it just felt a lot better to do it as a community.

“SNAFU” is now two years old, what have you taken away from that process and release that you keep with you today? 

Abby: Whoa, it’s two years old! That’s crazy! 

Ally: Last year doesn’t count for anything. That’s how you have to think about it.

Abby: So for that record, recording it was pretty interesting because we were with a management company at the time that had their own studio at their office and their own in-house engineers. So, we came at it from this perspective of like, “Oh, my God, this is awesome! We have access to this legit studio that, like, Justin Bieber has recorded in! We can make our song sound amazing! And we have this engineer who we can just literally tell what to do!” So I think we went in kind of crazy with that. We really gussied up our songs. It was like cool to have that opportunity, because now I feel like we look back on that and realize that kind of sucks the fun out of it in some ways. We were just sort of walking into the studio, getting the best take, and then clocking out. Whereas now, it’s like music is a more spontaneous activity, and it is creativity. I’m just excited to record in a space where we can just fool around and not feel pressured to make the perfect song.

Ally: Yeah, totally. If anything, I was gonna say, I think what we learned from the process of making “SNAFU” is that we don’t want to do that again–well, not only can’t we, because we don’t have those resources, but it was unnecessary. I think having, again, that thing about having all this outside influence and external kind of people who all think they know what’s best–it resulted in us being so perfectionistic and precious about what we included and what we didn’t include.

Abby: It was soul crushing. 

Ally: In the process, a lot of really good songs didn’t get put on that record. I mean, they’re gonna go on our next record. And that’s how I feel about the next record, now we get to make the record that we really want to make. Not to say we didn’t want to make “SNAFU”, of course, but there was all this pressure for it to be the best of the best of the best of the best. That’s not what music is supposed to be. It’s not. I mean, I personally have been a chronic overachiever, perfectionist, throughout high school and college. And then I look back at those those years of my life and I’m like, “What was it for?” Why was I doing that to myself? I was I was operating under this philosophy that you had to cause yourself pain to produce good work, and it was just so unhealthy. Not to say that’s what we did with “SNAFU”. 

Abby: I feel like there is a lot of misconception of that in music anyway. I feel like there is definitely a cliche in music that you have to be like a pained soul, or whatever, to make good music. But yeah, we just had really high expectations [for “SNAFU”] because of the facilities and like, “Who else had recorded there?” We got swept up in it.

Ally: Yeah, and other people’s opinions on what songs are good and which made the cut, which didn’t. It’s gonna be really fun to make the next record, which we’re doing this summer. I’m so excited for a lot of these songs that we’ve had for a while now to finally see the light of day, and knowing that it’s all ours, you know, it’s all just our record. We don’t owe any of it to anyone else.

How do you hope to see the scene and live shows evolve post-pandemic, now that tours and shows are back on the rise?

Abby: Slowly… 

Ally: It’s important to remember we’re still in a pandemic, we’re personally not rushing to get back out there because we’re not interested in being part of the clusterfuck; I don’t want to be a part of this, like, sense of urgency while there’s also what feels like a scarcity. I mean, so many venues have closed, venues are still closing. I mean, we just learned about The Bootleg in LA, it’s closing. So it’s like, we’re still feeling the effects of this pandemic. Just because things are beginning to stabilize the United States, it’s not like this in other places, like even in Canada, even in England. As people start to travel… I don’t know, I’m just very wary of rushing back into anything. Of course, I’m excited for us to tour again. We’ve got some things planned.

Abby: We’re lucky that we haven’t released an album or anything in the last year, because there’s no rush or pressure to sell records or anything. But even so, I just don’t feel the need to rush to play a route or play to a roomful of people who feel weird about being there.

Do you guys have any upcoming plans, like hanging out with more friends on the East Coast, or releasing anything? Or just vibing? 

Abby: Definitely vibing. 

Ally: We have so many plans. 

Abby: Yeah, we’re doing like a Potty Mouth retreat this week because Ally and I are about to go out of town. But, we’re getting ready to record a cover in a couple of days. And we’re working on artwork for an EP that we’re going to release in the fall. We’re also going to record a new album in August.

Ally: With Koji! 

Abby: Yeah, Koji is gonna come out here.

Ally: We’ll meet Koji for the first time when they come out here to record our album, which will be amazing. 

Abby: It’s gonna be so fun!

Ally: And then we’re playing Treefort Festival in Boise in September. So, we’re really excited to go to that and hang out with other bands because it’s just been so long since we’ve had that kind of thing. Our two “band friends” that we’ve seen at all in the last year have been Kelli [Mayo] and Kurtis [Mayo] from Skating Polly. We just made a music video with Kurtis, actually. It was so fun because he stayed at my house for a few nights while we worked on the video, and Kelli came too. It felt so good. Like, that’s what I mean by “being with your people”. It felt so good to be with these friends, we’ve been on two tours with them. There’s no other connection like that, with the people that you went on tour with. I’m just excited to meet up with some other friends when we’re at Treefort.

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