Photo by Scott Preston
Wussy is a five-piece rock and roll band comprised of ex-Ass Ponys frontman Chuck Cleaver (guitar, vocals), Lisa Walker (guitar, vocals), Mark Messerly (bass, keys), Joe Klug (drums, keys) and John Erhardt (pedal steel). They formed in Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 2000’s with original drummer Dawn Burman.
Cleaver and Walker began playing together in 2001 as a result of Cleaver’s stage fright when asked to perform a brief run of solo shows. The duo’s first performance was largely unplanned and yet went without incident… so they agreed to continue and expand. Mark Messerly joined in 2002 as bassist and utility man, and Dawn Burman joined on drums shortly thereafter. The four-piece released three full-length albums and one EP on their native Cincinnati’s Shake It label. Klug joined the band shortly after Burman’s departure in early 2009. The new lineup recorded some demos, a single, and an acoustic re-imagining of their debut album Funeral Dress (for Record Store Day 2011) before finally completing their fourth original full length Strawberry. It was recorded (as were their other releases) at Cincinnati’s Ultrasuede Studios under the direction of the Afghan Whigs’ John Curley.
The band is known for its use of “an army of alternately droning and jangling guitars” (Uncut 6/09) to offset the traditional three-minute pop format. Lyrics are typically split evenly between Cleaver and Walker. Their work has met with consistent critical praise from such sources as Rolling Stone, SPIN, NPR, Christgau’s Consumer Guide, New York Times, Village Voice, Washington Post, Pop Matters and Uncut. Rolling Stone gave the band’s last three albums four stars each, and critic Robert Christgau placed the band’s first two albums (Funeral Dress and Left for Dead) on his Best of the Decade list, while all four Wussy full lengths ranked in his end-of-year Dean’s Lists.
Shortly before SXSW 2012, Wussy added Cleaver’s former Ass Ponys bandmate John Erhardt on pedal steel. The band will undertake their first full US tour throughout summer of 2012, followed by a stripped down UK tour in September to support their newest release, Buckeye, on London-based Damnably Records.
In March 2012, Robert Christgau wrote a lengthy piece on the band saying the following:
“Wussy have been the best band in America since they released the first of their five superb albums in 2005, only nobody knows it except me and my friends. Nevertheless, they remain dishearteningly obscure… I like or love just about every one of the 46 songs on those five albums. We’re talking Beatles-Stones consistency here.”
2005 – Funeral Dress (Shake It)
2007 – Left for Dead (Shake It)
2008 – Rigor Mortis EP (Shake It)
2009 – Wussy (Shake It)
2009 – “Fly Fly Fly”/”No Apologoy” – Wussy / The Fervor (Karate Body)
2011 – Funeral Dress II (Shake It)
2011 – Strawberry (Shake It)
2012 – Buckeye (Damnably)
2012 – Dangerous Highway 45″ – Heartless Bastards / Wussy (Shake It)
Chuck Cleaver – guitar, vocals
Lisa Walker – guitar, vocals
Mark Messerly – bass, keys, vocals
Joe Klug – drums, percussion, keys, vocals
John Erhardt – pedal steel, guitar