Singer, guitarist and songwriter Chelsea Wolfe has been working with multi-instrumentalist, programmer and songwriter Jess Gowrie for years, but Mrs. Piss is a bit different. Their work is always dark, but there’s a dirgy, filthy weight to this that is both entirely welcome and utterly uncomfortable. We chatted to the two of them about new album Self-Surgery…
L.A. WEEKLY: How did Mrs. Piss come to be…
JESS GOWRIE: Chelsea and I grew up in the same city, Sacramento. We met in our early 20s and started a band called Red Host. That kind of kicked it off. Me joining in with Chelsea Wolfe [the project] in 2016, it just seemed like we picked up where we left off. It’s been 12 years or something.
CHELSEA WOLFE: We had about seven years of separation where we didn’t talk, and then when we finally reunited and started spending some time together, it was like no time had passed. We immediately picked up our friendship and our musical relationship. It was magical to see that hadn’t faded at all, and we were still able to write music together really easily.
Describe the sound…
JG: I would say it’s a mixture of a lot of different sounds. Chelsea and I have very similar backgrounds but we also differ and I think that was brought into this project. You’ve got grunge and a lot of ’90s influences that we both love, dabbling with industrial.
CW: When I stepped into this project, I had this vision in my that it was gonna be punk music. But it kinda immediately, as soon as we started playing, became clear that it was a lot more like metal and rock. That’s just who we are. I would say it’s very much a mix of metal, ’90s rock & roll, ’90s industrial, but also with punk spirit injected in there as well.
Why that band name?
CW: It was just something we would say when we were on tour together. It’s essentially about an energy and mood rather than something literal. It’s about embracing and empowering what the world considers to be your messy side as a woman. Just being married to the dirt — embracing it fully.
Are you pleased with the way Self-Surgery came out?
CW: Yeah. I think this was an experiment and us really doing things on our own. We had a little bit of help from some band mates to record and mix. But we produced it ourselves. Jess and I spent a lot of time in practice spaces working on the songs. It was very much the two of us putting ourselves into it. No matter how it sounded, we knew that it captured our friendship, that energy and stuff.
JG: For me, hearing the collection of songs together, I couldn’t be happier with it actually. I think it expresses the mood perfect that we’ve had over the past three or four years of being in a band again, but really it goes back for years and years since we started playing together.
How have you been keeping busy during lockdown? Did it affect the recording or rollout of the album?
CW: We had it finished. We mixed it in fall of last year. I was supposed to go on an acoustic tour in March, I went over to Europe and that was canceled. Once I got home from that and there was nothing else going on, it was like we should just focus on getting this out. We started talking to Sargent House and rolled it out from there.
JG: This has been in the making for three years. We had to find downtime in between touring. Whenever we had a little bit of time, that’s when we’d get together and either write or record. It took us quite a long time to get these songs together. But they were done before the pandemic.
CW: I feel like the process relates to the title because we really made it in pieces and then stitched it all together at the end.
What’s next for the rest off the year, particularly when lockdown is eventually lifted?
CW: The bandmates have been sending new Chelsea Wolfe ideas back and forth, but also Jess and I have been sending new Mrs. Piss ideas back and forth. We’ve been doing a lot of writing, and planning for when we can get together again. We don’t know when we can play shows again, so we can’t plan too much for that. But we look forward to being able to do it in person again.
Mrs. Piss’ Self-Surgery is out now via Sargent House. Hear it here.