Nasvhille Pussy’s Ruyter Suys
‘Oh fuck yeah. Are you kidding me?’
Nashville Pussy’s Ruyter Suys (pronounced “Rider Sighs”) laughs infectiously down the phone when asked if Australian crowds take easily to the band’s particular brand of psychobilly southern rock. ‘We do glorified beer drinking pub rock; Australia should be our second home, I think.’
The Atlanta-based four-piece are heading to our shores in March to play the Golden Plains festival in Victoria, and a pair of club shows in Sydney and Melbourne. It will be their third trip to Australia, but the first time they’re playing festivals rather than club gigs, which Ruyter thinks will be ‘super cool’.
As Ruyter is known to be a big AC/DC fan, it seems pertinent to ask if a trip to Perth to visit Bon Scott’s grave is going to be on the agenda at some point in the future.
‘Ah, fucking hell man,’ she all but wails down the phone. ‘We’ve been wanting to go to Perth since as soon as we found out that’s where Bon Scott was buried. But it’s seemingly impossible. Every time we ask the booking agent to put us out there, they’re like “oh it’s so far away, it’s not worth it, blah blah blah”. But we’ve been begging to go there. We didn’t know it’s on the opposite end of the continent.’
Given her response, it was perhaps unkind to mention the ritual of taking a bottle of whiskey to Scott’s grave to share with the great man.
‘We’ve been trying to do that for as long as we’ve been a band! It’s one of our goals. If we don’t do it while we’re Nashville Pussy we’re going to have to go as tourists when we’re little old ladies and men and go there with our bottle of Jack. It’s one of those things you have to do before you die. If you have anything to do with rock and roll, this is on the list, man, you gotta pay your respects. It’s pissing us off! Bring us to Perth! We wanna play there!’
Recently, Elle magazine published a top twelve female guitarists list, and the Canadian-born Suys, possibly one of the most under-rated guitarists in rock music, made the list with the likes of Joan Jett, The Cramps’ Poison Ivy and The Runaways’ Lita Ford. She says it’s the only time she’s ever thought of the publication as “cool”.
It turns out that Ruyter started playing music at a very early age. ‘I’d been playing piano from when I was three or four… And then I got kind of sick of it when I was about eight years old and my dad had a guitar, so I just picked that up. And within a few months they rented me a bass, and I got sick of it within a week or something, and then I just kept playing my dad’s guitar. Finally they bought me an acoustic guitar – I guess that was when I graduated from elementary school.’
Playing rock and roll wasn’t her first choice of career. ‘I tried to be responsible for a while and I went to university and got my degree in fine arts, then did bronze casting for a while. Then I met my husband [Nashville Pussy frontman Blaine Cartwright and he was like “you’re a way better guitar player than you are an artist – why aren’t you playing guitar?” And I was like… “you know, that’s kinda mean but you’re right”.’
“I always wanted something a little more. I travelled a lot, and I always wanted to travel more, and obviously guitar was always my first love, but I never thought it was possible to break into the music industry in my early 20’s.’ She laughs again. ‘You know, life is over by then, may as well settle down. And then I met my husband and he’s like “fuck that, man, let’s start a band”.’
Nashville Pussy’s musical influences are diverse, with elements of southern rock, metal, punk, psychobilly, and stoner rock – depending on who you ask. Ruyter explains that her personal influences are varied as well.
‘My parents were hippies, so they played for me a lot of Frank Zappa, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, of course The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel… and I learned how to play on guitar pretty much all that shit. That was like guitar 101: learn every Beatles song. And then I got into Hendrix and Neil Young and stuff like that, more guitar-specific stuff. And then I got into Led Zeppelin and my whole brain exploded. Then I got into Metallica and then Iron Maiden and all that shit.’
Meeting Blaine resulted in another set of influences. ‘He got me listening to the Ramones and stuff like that. I never really listened to punk rock til I met him. I’m your classic guitar geek, I listen to all the stuff you’re supposed to in the 80’s if you want to be a guitar god.’
These days, Ruyter and Blaine listen mostly to the classics. ‘We mostly listen to like a lot of southern rock’, she says. ‘Early ‘70s rock for the most part, and a lot of soul, and funk and shit like that. We’re kind of all over the place but we’re still pretty deeply rooted in the early ‘70s.’
I ask if any new music makes the grade for them. ‘Uhhh… no! Me and Blaine are the worst of the band when it comes to new stuff. Karen [Cuda] and Jeremy [Thompson] are a little more open minded. But we do listen to Airborne [they’re] like, AC/DC on speed or something. Fucking hilarious man, those guys rule.’
From Hell to Texas, the band’s sixth studio album, was released in February 2009 – but a lot of people still don’t know about it. ‘Our record label went belly up right as the record was coming out in the United States,’ Ruyter explains. ‘So we’re still able to tour on it, let’s put it that way!’
I wonder if working so closely as a husband and wife team has its challenges, but Ruyter clearly doesn’t see it that way. ‘It’s awesome man! I love that dude,’ she says. ‘We’re husband and wife, so we usually argue about like, directions and things like that. We do your typical husband and wife things. But, generally we get along probably better than anyone in the band. We really like hanging out with each other.’
To finish things off, I ask what Australians can expect from Nashville Pussy shows in March.
‘Some good, old, down-home, getting sweaty in the back seat of a car, dry-humping rock and roll, man. It’s like, there’s no pretence. I think Australia is a really good place for us, there’s not a lot of “snob” people that we meet, you won’t meet a lot of guys with like, hair gel and shit like that. It’s like a long-haired sweaty kind of thing.’
‘When I play I barely even see what’s going on around me. It’s like I’m hypnotizing myself or something like that with the volume, and I’m just breathing in really deep and I just fill myself up with the volume. I have my eyes shut half the night and I basically see obstacles if I’m lucky, like “don’t hit your head on this” and like “don’t step in this hole in the stage” or whatever. I know where things are, but usually I just “go away”. It’s up there with like really good sex, you know.’
She giggles. ‘Hopefully it will remain like that. So leave your hairspray at home, this is a night to get dirty.’