‘Weird underlying tensions you can’t put your finger on’ A pre-Twangfest interview with Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker of Wussy
Cincinnati-based band Wussy will be playing Twangfest 16 at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room on Thursday, June 7. Formed in the early 2000s by Chuck Cleaver (formerly of Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker, the band plays witty and catchy indie rock, most recently demonstrated on the albums “Strawberry” and “Funeral Dress II.”
Cleaver and Walker gave KDHX a few minutes of their time to talk about what they’re listening to, how Lana del Ray makes them cry and the thick soup that is midwestern summer.
Joe Duepner: How are you guys doing?
Chuck Cleaver: We’re doing well. Well I can only speak for myself.
Lisa Walker: I’m doing fine [laughs].
What are you guys doing right now?
LW: This time of the week we cut out to do band stuff like answer emails or phone calls and things like that.
CC: Yesterday we ordered T-shirts.
LW: Today we order stickers.
CC: But if you didn’t mean what are we doing immediately and meant what is the band doing, we’re gearing up to go on a tour. We play your place first. Your town, not your house. Then we’re going to head west and go down the California coast across the desert.
Do you find touring in the summer is easier than touring in the winter?
CC: Generally, yeah, just because of the weather. Heat is a pain in the ass though.
Do you think more people come out to shows in the summer?
CC: It really depends. Any town that is a college town no, but it really depends where. Places like Chicago where they are really used to shitty weather people will come out anytime. Places that aren’t used to bad weather though, you don’t get anybody at the gig. Some people won’t come out just because of rain.
LW: Like here [in Cincinnati].
CC: I’ve had people say “I can’t come out because it’s supposed to thunderstorm.” I say, “Really?”
Cincinnati’s not much different from St. Louis in that aspect. I think a lot of bands are a product of their environment, say Joy Division and Manchester or Galactic and New Orleans. I’ve never been to Cincinnati, but do you guys think you embody the feeling of Cincy?
CC: That’s a good question. I think as songwriters we embody more where we’re from.
LW: Do you think we’re products of our environment, Chuck?
CC: We are products of our environment.
LW: I would say so. Cincinnati and St. Louis are very similar. Humid river towns that are pretty, but where there’s a lot of weird underlying tensions you can’t put your finger on. I like St. Louis a lot, I think the cities remind me of each other.
CC: The miserable summer of soupy humidity.
LW: My dad would always take me to the zoo during July for some reason. It would be like walking through soup. Walking through a cat house in soup, it’s not good.
CC: The ape house is worse than the cat house.
CC: Yes. They throw shit at you.
LW: [laughing] Anyway, both towns have great zoos. And they’re both good beer towns partially founded by Germans. It’s a beer and pork town. There’s a lot of bellies here.
CC: But to answer the question. She and I are both from rural areas and grew up kind of by ourselves. So yeah our writing is very much affected by where we’re from. [Something inaudible.]
LW: Oh he was just making fun of himself.
Self-deprecation is a very midwestern thing.
LW: It is.
CC: Very much so, my dad used to call me “old bumble” as a term of endearment. I think “motherfucker” snuck its way in there too.
CC and LW: Thanks dad!
Are you working on any new songs?
CC: A few.
LW: It’s all Chuck’s stuff, so it’s not very good. I’m just kidding. It is all Chuck’s stuff though. I will probably write more on the road. I’m just in the gathering phase right now and listening to a bunch of stuff. We tend to write in waves, each of us separately.
CC: It’s really nice to have two writers because…
LW: You can take a break.
CC: Yeah and you can only do that with someone you trust. You trust them not to write anything too stupid. Every once in a while I’ll give birth to a turd and she has tell me it’s not very good.
LW: Or I’ll fix it.
So what are you listening to right now?
LW: Well I’m in a Rolling Stones phase. I go through those several times a year. I listen to a lot of classic rock. I like some of the quiet new stuff like Bon Iver.
LW: Hey, you liked them when you saw them live.
CC: Aww, horseshit.
LW: I like Beach House. It’s not the music I want to make but…
CC: Journey are better than that crap.
LW: I really like this band called Pentagram right now.
CC: Oh, Pentagram are awesome.
LW: They kind of sound like Sleep but they were around way before them.
CC: They’ve been making records forever, like since the ’70s.
LW: They were very ahead of their time in a metal way.
CC: I just got a working turntable for the first time in a while so I’ve been listening to mostly ’70s and ’80s stuff. I drug out a bunch of 78s and I’ve been listening to those. So we’re all over the place. I don’t listen to a lot of the new stuff for no reason other than I’m ill-informed I guess.
LW: The computer will tell me what I’ve been listening to.
CC: The computer will tell you what to listen to.
LW: Rolling Stones, Beatles, Sonic Youth and the Kinks.
CC: And after that it’s all a bunch of bleep and blip shit.
LW: I know.
CC: That’s terrible. I’m very opinionated. Most of the new stuff I can’t stand. We’re in that phase right now of semi-popular music where we’re in an Air Supply phase of…
LW: We’re going to sit on the couch in our perms and play “All Out of Love” over infomercials late at night.
CC: A lot of it is like the musical equivalent of a wet dish rag. So dull. A lot of the stuff they play on Saturday Night Live is miserable. The YouTube sensations that make me wonder if people even like that kind of crap.
LW: That one girl…
CC: Lana del Ray.
LW: Yeah, that was hilarious.
CC: It was so terrible. It was like a bad high-school talent show. It was like your older sister when she was a sophomore in a gown and wailing about something. I almost started crying. I don’t care if I don’t get played on that show, it’s shit.
I can’t argue with you there.
LW: You know what I’ve been doing musically lately: Chuck will come over and we’ll put this on in the background sometimes. Netflix has this classic rock music documentary series by VH1. We like to watch those and geek out.
CC: There’s a Ronnie Lane one that’s really good.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. we look forward to seeing you at Twangfest.
Chuck and LW: Thanks and we hope to see all of you there.
Wussy performs Thursday, June 7 at Twangfest 16.