By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
"We could hardly even play before Kreamy 'Lectric Santa because people would walk out," recalls Hoyos, who had never played drums until Harry Pussy's first recording session. "I can remember having people just walk out because they couldn't deal with us."
The din created by the duo on its first two singles captures the sound of those early shows. On the maiden single, they grind at a slow, almost stately pace. By the second, released later in '93, the trademarks of the Harry Pussy sound have been established: short, tight songs during which Orcutt flails away at his four-stringed guitar (stripped of its A and D strings), and Hoyos smashes into her trap set with the intensity and abandon of an angel-dusted Keith Moon. On their third single ("Please Don't Come Back from the Moon," on the Los Angeles-based Blackjack label) and their untitled debut longplayer on Siltbreeze, the racket became louder, meaner, and at times shorter. They added local guitarist Mark Fehan to the lineup, and took a few short hikes up the East Coast and throughout the South and Midwest to baffle and perplex a new group of listeners, who naturally assumed that the band's musical anarchy was created on the spot.
Not so, says Orcutt. "I've long since given up convincing people that we rehearse," he sighs. "Sometimes I just refer to it all as improv because I get tired of the skeptical looks and arched eyebrows when you say otherwise. I'm not bragging, but I used to be the kind of guitar player that when I came off-stage, people were buying me beers and asking me for guitar lessons. I was good. And to suddenly be in a band that's semi-successful and having people say, 'Ah, just learning how to play, huh?' But now it's become like a joke, trying to tell people that you've been rehearsing this stuff that sounds like noise -- like it's something somebody could do without having to think about it."
Any close listen to the Harry Pussy canon lends credence to Orcutt's statements. Particularly on the six-song EP released in 1994 on Planet Records, and the band's half of a split-release with Washington's Noggin, there is a complexity in Harry Pussy's chaotic constructions that transcends the limitations of postpunk's legion of improv racketmakers. Both Orcutt and Fehan play with equal amounts of control and invention, creating knots of squalling sound, while Hoyos thrashes her drums and cymbals, laying a foundation of delirious noise. On the two epic tracks that make up Ride a Dove, live cuts recorded on tour last winter are woven into some four-track tape manipulations that greatly expand the Harry Pussy sound (as does an increased emphasis on Hoyos's slasher-flick screams and wails).
"The opening stuff on the album is the freest we've ever done, but the rest of it is just ridiculous how much it was rehearsed," Orcutt says of Ride a Dove, which the band will be touring behind in June. "The songs are shorter and more arranged. Those little bursts of songs are all worked out.
"In a way, this is our 'dicking off' record, because it's so out there," he concedes. "But there are very few things on there where we're just jamming. Harry Pussy cannot jam. You can make a four-stringed guitar sound like two, but when you add another guitar on top of that, it just becomes this huge wall of sound without a steady beat. You can improvise to an extent, but it's not like playing blues licks on top of chord changes. When you go out, it's just impossible to come back. You have to know where you're going next. We have to have a structure to it, otherwise the energy level drops. It's like a weird psychology, but for some reason, even though it just sounds like noise, unless the structure is there, and everybody's in it, everything just fucks up.