Contributor’s Note: Alyssa Milman is breaking out on they own with Puppy Angst and everyone should take notice. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of they other band, Blushed, or not, you should definitively check out they new project to hear some of the best noise coming out of Philadelphia. Check out their Facebook page for music and shows!
How is Puppy Angst different from your other project, Blushed?
Genre wise, the two are pretty different; Blushed is surfy, garagey, and a little dreamy at times. We add a lot of cheeky moments to our songs and we border on being bizarre and silly sometimes as well. Missy does pretty much all of the songwriting for Blushed, although we might pursue a song idea I had in the near future. She provides the song shells for Blushed and we fill them out, which is kind of my role in Puppy Angst. Puppy Angst as a full band project also has a dreamy quality to it, but I’d describe it as a lot more dark, gazey, and noisy than Blushed is. The subject matter in Puppy Angst is mostly introspective and deeply personal, because I draw from my own feelings and experiences, whereas in Blushed, most of the songs are story like and less raw because of Missy’s different songwriting process. The result is that Puppy Angst is definitely a bit more emotional and raw. Even though there are some differences, I feel a level of ownership over both projects that makes me super proud to play in both bands and that’s the main thing that I enjoy about it – I can say “I created this and it’s a reflection of a part of myself that I want to share with the world” which is all you can really ask for from a creative project.
What’s your songwriting process? What has been inspiring you recently?
Recently I’ve been coming up with most of my ideas when I’m absentmindedly noodling while watching TV (usually something I don’t have to pay attention to like reality shows or something like that). When I come up with something on guitar that I like and feel like I can develop into a song, I’ll either try to come up with lyrics on the spot or look through notes I wrote down on my phone and see if there’s anything that can be fleshed out further. My inspiration usually just come from my own experiences and feelings, and I rarely if ever attempt to write about something that isn’t directly related to something I’ve dealt with. A lot of my material recently has been about changes in my life, growth, struggles with mental health, moving on from things––all things that are hard for a Scorpio to do (lol).
Who are some of your biggest influences?
I really look up to bands like Death Cab for Cutie who have been around for ages and have managed to put out so many albums, all of them unique and exceptional. I’ve been a fan of theirs since middle school and I stand by them to this day, which is pretty impressive. To me it feels like their focus is always on songwriting first and the other stuff second, and that’s how I approach music. I was a music theory major for my last two years of college so I have a strong background in it, but I really don’t approach songwriting from a theoretical or technical perspective. I just find stuff that sounds good to me and roll with it, then add stuff on later to make it more interesting. Other bands I’ve been listening to a lot who inspire me–whether it’s songwriting wise, tone/style wise, or a mixutre of the two–are Hop Along, Shannon Moser, My Bloody Valentine, Title Fight (especially their more recent releases), Thin Lips, Japanese Breakfast, Kississippi, Cloud Nothings, and Nervous Dater.
How has playing in the Philly DIY scene shaped you as a musician?
I can pretty confidently say that if I hadn’t started playing DIY shows, I don’t think I’d have ever given my being a performing musician a real shot. I came to Philly as a college student who’d never been in a real band and I ended up falling in love with the place and staying, in part due to the freedom and potential it gave me to play in a band. Without my experiences in the scene, I wouldn’t have ended up pursuing it the way I am now and focusing so much of my life and attention on writing, practicing, playing, promoting, etc. If you’d asked me my senior year of high school where I thought I’d be at age 22, I’d have said that I’d be a music therapist because that’s what I thought I wanted to be at the time. There are of course a lot of issues within DIY scenes and a lot of change that needs to occur, so I know it’s not perfect, but it gave me the confidence to go for it. If I wasn’t exposed to so many people putting themselves out there and playing DIY shows, I don’t know if I’d have even considered pursuing being in a band.
As a non-binary musician, do you feel that your writing has a unique perspective?
Yeah totally. I find myself dealing with a lot of sexist behavior at shows, because I present feminine so I get read as a woman everywhere I go. On tours, I’ve had my boundaries crossed for one, but I’ve also had people assume I wasn’t in the band or ask “what band do you sing for?”, I’ve been told in a surprised and kind of condescending tone that I’m actually good at what I play, I’ve had people assume they were complimenting me when they say “I love chicks who play guitar”. That last one gets me because even if I didn’t identify as nonbinary, it’d still be an insulting, tokenizing thing to say. On the other end, I’m in some Facebook groups for women and non-men in music, and while the groups are a really great place to avoid sexist behavior, I still deal with language that isn’t gender inclusive, the main one being “ladies” to address the group; I really hate being called “lady”, “miss”, “m’am”, “girl”, etc. Even when I know it’s not malicious, it’s still tiring to deal with and makes me feel like I’m kind of an outsider; I don’t want a place in the boys club, but I don’t really feel like I belong in other spaces either when the language isn’t gender neutral. I think all non-men deserve their time to shine in music and we’re more powerful together, so I stay in the groups and just hope that the gendered language subsides with time as people learn and change their language habits. I feel like all of these experiences kind of infuse the way I think about and experience things, and the feeling of not belonging or feeling out of place inspires my writing a lot. On the other hand, the part of me that’s been silenced or made to feel like I’m not good enough because of sexism in music is what fuels my need to say “hey that’s just not true and I really don’t care what you have to say about it”; it’s the part of me that creates my noisy guitar tones, inspires my cheeky backing vocals in Blushed, and just lets me play and sing how I want to, even when it’s not the quiet stuff that people would expect and want from someone who looks like me.
How do you see yourself changing as an artist in the future?
I hope to grow and get better at everything I do! I feel like I’ve recently started coming into my own as a songwriter, and I feel more confident now about my playing and singing than I have in the past so I plan to just keep working at it and learning new ways to play and finding new ways to emote through my singing and playing. I know that with my changing tastes I’ll probably develop my sound as well; I don’t want to end up as a band that writes the same album over and over again. Everything feels very new and like there’s a lot of places to go from here, so it’s exciting to just live in what I have and hope for the best.
And there you have it! Fans can check out PUPPY ANGST in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the following locations:
Sat. 12/1- Great How’ve You Been Fest at Pleasure Mountain Ballroom
Fri. 12/7- the blank space (w/Upsetting, Tombo Crush, and Rob Blackwell)