Over the last handful of years, few punk bands have ascended quite like Mannequin Pussy. After 2016’s Romantic put the Philadelphians on the map, 2019’s Patience clearly primed Marisa “Missy” Dabice and her band to reach the next level.

But just as the genre-bending group were ramping things up (they were scheduled to play Coachella and a host of other major events), the pandemic ground everything to a halt. That delay led Mannequin Pussy to transform into a trio for the release of their Perfect EP in 2021 before adding not one but two guitarists into the lineup to tear up some post-pandemic shows.

Read more: 32 bands on their best Riot Fest memories—gallery

One such show came in an inexplicably opening spot on a side stage at Riot Fest in Chicago, where the now-quintet drew a bigger and more passionate crowd at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday than the main stage saw halfway through the day. Early start time aside, Mannequin Pussy always would’ve been a must-see set for punk rock’s biggest weekend. Their performance was unforgettable, with unparalleled highlights like calling an unnamed critic “a little normie-ass bitch” for finding it really hard to root for a band named Mannequin Pussy,” the debut of a brand-new song, having the entire crowd scream back “I still love you, you stupid fuck” during “Drunk II” and Dabice taking over Colins "Bear" Regisford’s bass so he could take the lead vocals on the set closer “Pigs is Pigs.”

Alternative Press sat down with Dabice just a few hours after the performance to chat about their recent past, present and future.

You released the Perfect EP last year, and you clearly have new music in the works. Is that a new album or just a few songs for now?

I feel very lucky just to be in a band that's still a band after the last couple of years. I don't know if we want to write 10 songs or 20 songs right now, and I don’t know what we want them to sound like just yet. We’ve really been wanting to experiment more and create more lush instrumentations and really push ourselves in new directions, but at the same time, we still have so many of the same feelings and emotions that are really best expressed through punk and hardcore music. I think our albums have always been a split between those two things, but I don't know what the next one [sounds like]. We're trying so hard to finish a record by the wintertime. That’s the ultimate goal, and it'll be so cool if it happens. We’ve been writing a lot of songs, and they’re all over the place, but they’ve been really fun to workshop and figure out. 

Mannequin Pussy — and the world — have changed quite a bit since Patience was released in 2019. How does it feel to be able to pick up where you left off before the pandemic, albeit with some different members?

The last couple of years have definitely taught us that change is often very difficult, but it's also often very necessary. Every change that has happened in Mannequin Pussy has not necessarily been the easiest emotionally — like losing a band member who you've played with for your whole life and written every song together. But, in most cases, you can really feel yourself entering a new era and reality — and sometimes, our new realities can still be just as beautiful as the ones before.

Particularly at a big festival like Coachella or Riot Fest where you have such a wide variety of attendees, Mannequin Pussy seem to draw an extremely diverse crowd in pretty much every demographic. Have you noticed the band particularly bringing people together from different scenes and backgrounds?

I think that's really beautiful. How can we not feel that kind of love, and how can we not recognize that? We absolutely see that when we look out into the crowds at our shows. All of these people are coming together because they’re really all feeling these emotions — and they're really heavy emotions. It’s all about recognizing that we're not so different. Sometimes when we open for bands, you definitely see a certain type of person. The crowd is often some mix of young white guys and old white guys. But that crowd is also very exciting to me because those guys like us, too, and it’s really bringing people together — including the white guys.

There aren’t a ton of punk bands out there that utilize three guitars, so what was the reasoning for bringing in a third guitarist?

Well, most bands can't afford it. [Laughs.] We couldn’t afford it for a long time. But no, I want to play guitar less. I just want to focus on singing. I think singing and playing guitar at the same time is already hard enough, and I don’t think you can really do both of them great. Honestly, you can be good at both, but you can’t be great. But also, we have all of those parts on our records. When we're practicing [for live shows], we're reinterpreting the songs as they are on our records. Our brains hear those other parts, and it doesn't feel quite right without them. When you realize that you’re utilizing more [parts] in the studio, why wouldn't you want people to experience that live? When we were still playing as a four-piece, I started to see people singing the top-line melodies that couldn't exist live because they were on keys or another guitar or backing harmonies. If we want to continue to be a band, we also need to expand and grow. We’re always changing, and that means expanding and growing. It just seemed like it was the right time to invite someone else into Mannequin Pussy.

Plus, it gives Bear the chance to take center stage and sing.

Exactly. When we have the two guitars, I can go to bass and it still sounds full. We don't ever want to drop down in volume there. No matter what, there always needs to be two guitars, and we can only do that with three guitars.

Both on your records and live, Mannequin Pussy have always mixed some quieter, introspective songs alongside pretty in-your-face hardcore and punk. How do you find that balance of not leaning too heavily one way or the other?

[When playing live] it’s often nice to be able to take a breath. When you're trying to get through a longer set that’s very high-energy, you really need your whole body to be able to have those moments. But sometimes it feels like it’s harder to balance because I’m not trying to only lean into one of them. That's why we've been doing things like putting all of our “singing” songs at the top of the set because if I'm going to potentially shred my voice a little bit on some yelling songs, I don’t want to yell a bunch first and then try to sing a pretty melody. And we get to end with the angrier stuff, which is more fun. I think it's so exciting that kids today are angry.