On a Monday night in Allston you won’t often find the most engaged of audiences, particularly for a local band. But while the record release party for Potty Mouth’s debut LP, “Hell Bent,” was modestly attended, it had the feel of a much bigger event. Instead of the typical aloofness, the 50-odd fans were packed close to the stage, perhaps suspecting that they might not have many more opportunities to get this close to the young four-piece.
The band, led by frontwoman Abby Weems, were charging through a set of their ’90s-stylized punk on songs like “The Spins” with their blend of laid-back surf-guitar cool, and brash, crashing feedback. Guitarist and vocalist Phoebe Harris excitedly and self-deprecatingly announced that her family was in the crowd. They were beaming with excitement, and for good reason; the band’s record has quickly garnered a slew of praise everywhere from NPR to Spin, Vice, The New York Times, the Guardian, and here in the Globe.
There’s a seemingly endless appetite for any music that reads “ ’90s” of late, with that decade’s R&B, grunge, and punk aesthetics all resurfacing, and “Hell Bent” is no exception. The band takes its name from an album by germinal riot grrrl act Bratmobile, after all, so comparisons to that era of DIY-punk are unavoidable. But there’s substance beneath the style here. The seemingly slapdash songs like “Sleep Talk” are imbued with counter-melody and indelible, if obfuscated, pop hooks. It’s no coincidence that that song’s chorus repeats “in my head in my head,” because that’s where it will reside for a long time after a listen.
That term “DIY” has come back into focus lately as well, and it’s an appropriate shorthand for the band’s sound, but also an accurate description of its origins, even if increased attention and touring opportunities are making it more difficult to maintain. “I’m not going to pretend we’re strictly a DIY band anymore, because we’re not,” explained bassist Ally Einbinder, who, like drummer Victoria Mandanas and Harris attended Smith College. “When we started we were; we did 100 percent of everything ourselves. It was a lot of work, but that’s what all bands coming from our community do to get anywhere.” When they began about two years ago, they had no expectations. Harris and Weems didn’t even have any experience playing their instruments.
“I think that comes from the DIY spirit, thinking ‘OK, I don’t need to be a technically trained guitarist, I’m just going to do it.’ When we did our first tour we just did it ourselves, when we wanted to get press I sat at a computer and did it for hours, and one thing led to another.” The band now has a booking agent, a publicist, and a record label who are taking up the cause. “That’s almost the reason we’re not DIY anymore, because we put so many DIY hours in,” Einbinder said.
Putting out Potty Mouth’s record was a no-brainer, says Old Flame Records’ Rob Mason, who heard their music from another one of his bands, the Boston standouts Mean Creek. When he first heard “Hell Bent,” he “was shocked that the LP wasn’t already snatched up by anyone else. It seemed to be fate that I got to actually hear it so early along and help put together a team for the girls to release the LP properly. I knew from day one that I wanted to put out “Hell Bent” because I was on a quest to get a band that was female-fronted, and the fact that this LP that was super addictive was made by four relative newcomers was really exciting to me.
“It’s been really fun to work with Potty Mouth as they’re really smart ladies who stand up for what they believe in while being a really awesome rock ’n’ roll band. I can’t wait to see where they go from here. Hopefully on to bigger and better things. I think we're off to a great start.”
The speed of that ascension is relative, of course. It’s different when you’re in the middle of it yourself, Einbinder said. “For us it feels slower than rest of the world is perceiving it.” “Hell Bent” was recorded a year ago, and they shopped it around for six months before anyone bit. “For a while it felt more stagnant, we were like, ‘OK, when’s something going to happen? Now we’re just excited because it does feel in a way, like, ‘Oh, our hard work is paying off.’”
The annual Halloween cover show festivities kick off early this year with “Halloween 2,” with one of our favorite Boston bands, Fat Creeps, headlining as Blink-182. Really not sure how that one is going to work, but we need to find out. Also on the bill Saturday night at the Cambridge Elks Lodge are Guerilla Toss as the Cramps, Nice Guys as Meat Loaf, and Designer as the Mummies. . . . Boston’s Rebuilder celebrates the release of its first CD, a self-titled six-song EP, at the Middle East on Friday night. Songs like “Everything That I Hate” are careening, melodic punk. Following the show, the band will set off on an East Coast tour to Florida and back. Joining them on the bill are Riki Rocksteady, Great Lakes, and Rough Francis.
Luke O’Neil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.