Up The Dosage is NASHVILLE PUSSY’s brand new album, and their sixth overall. Hard to believe it’s been five years since the band’s last studio effort, From Hell To Texas; time just flies. “Yes it does,” agrees guitarist Ruyter Suys.
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and Up The Dosage is the first Nashville Pussy album not to feature a photograph or caricature of the band on the cover. “Yes, crazy huh… I guess we’ve already done it. People know we are who we are, so we don’t have to do that anymore. It took us awhile to establish ourselves as a fun, party band. It’s not like we’ve become more serious with this album… but it’s the distilled essence of Nashville Pussy. Before, it was more like a cocktail, now it’s a full shot. It’s neat – no ice. We’re more direct and straightforward on this album, and the cover translates that.”
The lightning bolt is a familiar symbol as it’s synonymous with ‘Taking Care Of Business’, in addition to being associated with AC/DC. Given those reference points, there’s an undeniable classic feel to the image. “Yeah,” says Ruyter. “The lightning bolt is one of my favourite symbols – DAVID BOWIE and ACE FREHLEY – there’s something extra electric about this album. There was an energy in the studio when we were recording it.”
Recorded in Lexington, Kentucky at Nitrosonic Studios, Up The Dosage was done with a limited budget. Yet you’d never know financial constraints were a concern, as obtaining a better sound would be damn near impossible. Both the production and mix are pretty near perfect. “I don’t know why Blaine (Cartwright – vocalist/guitarist) ever said that in the first place. But yeah, we blew our recording budget on touring with ZZ TOP,” confirms Ruyter. “We wanted to tour with ZZ Top in style! So we got a really nice tour bus; we could go to sleep and wake up next to ZZ Top every day. We did not want to do it on the cheap. We’ve recorded a bunch of shit at Nitrosonic – we did NINE POUND HAMMER, KENTUCKY BRIDGEBURNERS, the song for Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It’s kind of our home away from home. We keep all of our gear that we don’t take on the road at that studio. I have an old Rhodes piano there, a Wurlitzer, a big Yamaha speaker given to me by someone in Montreal. It’s a huge piece of furniture – it’s five feet tall. So we knew we could record on a ‘limited budget’. We’ve done so much stuff there; we’ll be back another dozen times. It wasn’t exactly limited; we just knew we could do it in a certain amount of time.”
Nashville Pussy sound engineer Brian Pulito produced Up The Dosage, along with the band. Then SHINEDOWN’s producer, Rick Beato, remixed the album. Why was a remix necessary? “Um… I don’t know? He just made it sound heavier somehow. Rick is a friend of Blaine’s and he’d seen us play in Rochester, New York – 17 years ago or something like that. I think he always wanted to do something like this. He always wanted to work with us, and now he had the opportunity. He remixed one song and we all listened to it – hands down, this guy should do the whole album. The mix we had on it already was excellent, but Rick just added to it. He made everybody happy, and that’s really hard to do. I talked to him on the phone and he said, ‘What do you want from this album?’ Well, I’m a guitar player, what do you think? ‘You’re going to tell me to turn the guitars up.’ Yes! So we don’t really need to talk anymore do we. Done and done.”
This is the first Nashville Pussy album to feature Bonnie Buitrago on bass; if you’re counting she’s bassist number five for the band. “Yeah, Bonnie kicked ass! It was her virgin recording. I’m really proud of her.” Previous bassist Karen Cuda officially quit in March 2013, but Bonnie had been with Ruyter and co. before that. “Yeah, Bonnie was basically the permanent replacement, depending on whether or not Karen was going to be able to work anymore. We didn’t know if she would be able to perform; she had neck surgery, from head-banging I guess. She’s got cadaver bones and metal in her neck now."
"Having Bonnie come in was super fucking cool! She tried out for us when she was like, 21. It was when we had Katie-Lynn Campbell join the band. We had Katie and Bonnie both audition; we went with Katie ‘cause she was older and she had more experience. Bonnie hadn’t toured ever; she was a great bass player, but she was too young. We felt guilty about taking her on the road. Then when Karen couldn’t do it, we phoned up Bonnie and asked her if she’d be interested. She’s like, ‘fuck yeah!’ We’d always kept in touch with her every time we came through L.A. Since she had tried out for us, she had started her own band, started a fucking studio, toured around the world, amassed all this really groovy gear; she had tons of experience! It’s one of those horrible things – how do I get experience if you won’t give it to me? Bonnie still has the cat tattooed on her. She’s only got one tattoo on her whole body – the cat from the first album is on her wrist. She got it done when she was 19 or something like that. I snuk her into one of our very first shows in L.A.; she was too young to go to the actual gig. So I snuk her in as my sister and she sat on the stage, behind the amp, while we played. She’s been a huge fan of the band for years, so she was really excited to get that call. It’s so cool having her!”
Ruyter steps behind the mic and sings lead vocal on ‘Taking It Easy’, as well as the high harmony on ‘Hooray For Cocaine’. “As you can tell, I’m quite diverse. I can do both girly vocals and that shit – whatever that is?” At a mere 47 seconds in length, ‘Taking It Easy’ sounds unfinished. “That’s all you need,” chuckles Ruyter. “Keep it short and sweet, you know.” Ruyter also came up with ‘Rub It To Death’. “I wrote that riff and Blaine did the lyrics. That was originally a keyboard riff; I first wrote it on an organ and it sounded like a DEEP PURPLE song. I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do with it? Then years later I tried it on a guitar, and shit, this thing fucking smokes! So we turned that one into a song.” And she’s responsible for ‘White And Loud’, “just something I wrote at soundcheck,” as well as half of ‘Meat Falls Off The Bone’.
Speaking of organs, a Hammond B3 can be heard at the beginning of album opener ‘Everybody’s Fault But Mine’. Given Nashville Pussy’s back catalogue, this comes as a surprise, but works incredibly well. “Yeah, I had a lot of crazy ideas for this record. ‘Pussy’s Not A Dirty Word’ has bagpipes at the end of it.” Very reminiscent of ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N’ Roll)’ by AC/DC. “Oh fuck yeah, totally. I was marching around that room, oh my god. I had so much fucking fun doing that! There’s three tracks of quote unquote bagpipes on that thing. It was just me and the producer left alone – if everyone hates it, no problem we’ll take it off. But right now we’re going to layer bagpipes on top of bagpipes on top of bagpipes on top of keyboards on top of six tracks of guitar; it’s going to be the Ruyter show. Thank god it sounded so good; I was really happy with it! Jeremy (Thompson, drummer) had already done his tracking and was driving back to Atlanta. I called him and told him what he was missing out on. He said, ‘should l turn around and come back?’ Fuck no.”
Behold the secret behind the bagpipes… “I’m playing it, but I’m not playing actual bagpipes. I’m playing bagpipes on keyboards, and I downloaded a fucking bagpipe app for my fucking iPhone and I literally held my phone and played it,” reveals Ruyter. “It looks like the part you blow into on the phone, and you could actually blow into the phone; it’s really, really weird. I played a $1.99 app into a $20,000 microphone. So there’s an app track, and on top of that two synthesized bagpipe tracks. I wish I had the fucking nerve to go out and rent bagpipes, learn how to play it; maybe I will. But we didn’t have enough time for that, so I just did it on keyboards and the app.”
Blaine comes up with all the NP song titles, and once again he’s outdone himself with ‘The South’s Too Fat To Rise Again’. “Oh my god yes, that’s the song title heard ‘round the world right now.” Much more than just a novelty, it’s a kick-ass song. “Yet another one of our redneck anthems.” Never one to shy away from drugs as a lyrical topic, Blaine raises the bar immensely throughout the 13 tracks that comprise Up The Dosage. “I know! I don’t even know where the hell that came from, ‘cause we’re not like that in real life. I don’t know where he gets this shit from? I guess it comes straight out of other people. My Mom was saying, ‘you’re singing so beautifully on this song, why does it have to be about cocaine?’ I don’t know Mom.”
When Blaine spoke to BraveWords.com about ‘Ain’t Your Business’, which appears on the previous album From Hell To Texas, he shared a series of events that happened in Tennessee, ultimately serving as lyrical inspiration. Is ‘Hooray For Cocaine, Hooray For Tennessee’ based on the same experience? “I don’t think so… I don’t know? Maybe, cause he got busted that time in Tennessee. ‘Ain’t Your Business’ - I wrote that riff going to see him for the first time after he had been thrown in jail. That was so bad; every single time we drive through that area now we clench up, we get nervous. As much as we love Tennessee, there’s a little section that has a bad vibe for us; drive extra careful there.”
Returning to the writing credits on Up The Dosage, Eddie Spaghetti of THE SUPERSUCKERS played an integral part. “Eddie did pre-production with us for ten days; we wrote all the songs with Eddie; but ‘Spent’ is his own I think. Eddie was definitely instrumental in helping us get this thing together. He was like a professional babysitter. We hired him – flew him in and put him up, and paid him; so he had a job to do. He made sure we met at this time, and would work until that time. If it was left to just me, Blaine, and Jeremy, we’d probably just go get a beer. It was nice to have a professional in the room for a change,” laughs Ruyter.
Two bonus tracks can be found on the digipack edition of Up The Dosage: ‘Begging For A Taste’ and an alternate version of ‘Before The Drugs Wear Off’. “‘Begging For A Taste’ is a fucking great song! I don’t know why it’s a bonus song? It should be on the album. The other one is the original mix of ‘Before The Drugs Wear Off’; they pulled a lot of instruments out, it’s a little more spacious. It’s pretty cool; it’s very STONES-y. It’s got a real Exile… thing going on, which is kind of a goal.”
Fully expectant to spend the majority of 2014 on tour, Nashville Pussy are currently playing three songs from Up The Dosage live. “We’re doing ‘Rub It To Death’, ‘Everybody’s Fault But Mine’ – I love that song – and ‘Up The Dosage’. I think we’re going to probably add another two for the next run. I don’t know which two, we haven’t argued about it yet.”
View Nashville Pussy’s complete live itinerary at their official website