‘Loud bark, deep bite’

Marisa Dabice of Mannequin Pussy has got that dog in her

Credit: Millicent Hailes

Marisa “Missy” Dabice recalls a Pablo Picasso drawing that distills her philosophy on the expression of desire. In it, a nude man and woman are depicted mid-coitus while a peculiar voyeur, the pope, looks on. His face shows no judgment or embarrassment, only intrigue, as if discovering an old, ornate chalice he thought had been lost to time. 

The loud-barking lead vocalist of Philly-based band Mannequin Pussy, Dabice found herself captured by this work, transfixed by its questioning of the boundary between realness and rules — between our natural impulses and the societal pressure to live a life of restraint. 

“Man created shame around something nature gave us,” the 36-year-old frontwoman told Boulder Weekly ahead of the band’s upcoming two-night Colorado run in Denver and Fort Collins. “I’m just really fascinated by that place we live in, where things that can be so beautiful are also relegated to a place of absolute violence.”

If their name doesn’t make it clear, Mannequin Pussy couldn’t be less concerned with the rigidities of the status quo. The only rule at their shows is to unleash the wild, reckless energy we all harbor inside — to reject anxiety and shout along to every song, waking up the next morning with a raw throat and a voice that escapes as a phantom whisper. Embarking on a nationwide, mostly sold-out tour to promote their fourth LP I Got Heaven, Dabice and the band she co-founded in 2010 are purveyors of a self-expression characterized by the refusal to hide.

Critically lauded Philly punk outfit Mannequin Pussy comes to the Front Range for a two-night stint in Denver and Fort Collins, May 4-5. Credit: CJ Harvey

Taking up space

In the 14 years since the band’s inception, Mannequin Pussy’s success is born of laser focus: a relentless drive toward a promised land of sorts, an impulse akin to lust. Through label changes and bad break-ups, Mannequin Pussy has endured, and thrived, despite the obstacles set in their path. 

Now, with the arrival of I Got Heaven, a dexterous, critically acclaimed record produced by prolific indie-rock engineer John Congleton — who helped bring the band’s lush pop-rock moments and blistering hardcore riffs into a ferocious new register — Mannequin Pussy receives their reward after years of behind-the-scenes labor.

“It was quiet, secretive work, and it wasn’t until about, like, the end of August [2023] that we started to reveal all the work we’ve been doing up to the moment we’re in now, being on tour,” Dabice says. “This is kind of like the final unveiling.” 

Mannequin Pussy – “I Got Heaven”

Listen to the full album here: https://epita.ph/3wqHB8p “I Got Heaven” by @MannequinPussy from the album “I Got Heaven”, out now Order, stream & download: https://mannequinpussy.ffm.to/igotheaven Written by Marisa Dabice, Maxine Steen, Colins Regisford & Kaleen Reading Produced & mixed by John Congleton Engineered by Sam Madill Mastered by Greg Calbi

In August, the title track became the first single from I Got Heaven. The music video is set on a farm, where Dabice wears wavy extensions down to her ankles as she thrashes in a truck bed atop bales of hay, screaming: “And what if I was confident? / Would you just hate me more?” 

Self-assurance finds a throughline in Mannequin Pussy’s music, encouraging listeners to take up however much space they desire. That can mean donning whatever clothing you like or finding the authority in your autonomy, in a culture that tries to flatten expressions of confidence and self-esteem.

Anger is a blessing 

Mannequin Pussy’s popularity began to skyrocket in 2020, while the globe trudged through the coronavirus pandemic and a summer of social unrest sparked by police brutality. In times of great uncertainty where control seems miles away from one’s grasp, it might feel necessary to reach for punk music that gives permission to release anger, negativity or any other emotion there are seldom spaces for. 

I Got Heaven,’ the fourth LP from Mannequin Pussy, was released March 1. Courtesy: Epitaph Records

“I mean, we live in a culture of myths. And I think one of those myths is this idea that anger is [unacceptable]. It’s impolite, there’s no respect,” Dabice says. “But I don’t know how a sane person isn’t enraged by, like, everything. It’s like they tried to convince us that rage and anger are symptoms of insanity, but it’s actually very much a symptom of sanity, ‘right?” 

In the spirit of wellness, Dabice wants people to come to their shows ready to indulge in an evening of purifying ecstasy. Established fans of the band are familiar with a ritual that occurs at every Mannequin Pussy show: a “primal scream” performed in unison by every person in the room. Since rage is a privilege and anger a blessing, Mannequin Pussy creates moments for the angst-ridden to be loud and messy. 

Touring with fellow Philadelphians and Epitaph labelmates Soul Glo, Mannequin Pussy is experiencing a homecoming of sorts: each night recreating a space that is safe and welcoming, where fans and band members alike can exist uninhibited, free from what plagues them. 

“We energetically feel that the whole goal of this tour is to make people experience a night of cathartic joy in a world that makes it increasingly difficult to experience,” Dabice says.

And isn’t that what heaven is?

ON THE BILL: Mannequin Pussy with Soul Glo. 9 p.m. Saturday, May 4, Bluebird Theater, 3317 E Colfax Ave., Denver, Sold out. | 8 p.m. Sunday, May 5, Aggie Theater, 204 S. College Ave., Fort Collins. Sold out.


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