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Thunderpussy almost didn’t make it.

The future looked bright for the band when they released their debut full-length Thunderpussy in 2018. They earned critical acclaim for their riff-filled brand of ’70s-inspired rock, got featured in Rolling Stone as Mike McCready’s “favorite new band,” and ended the year signing to a major label, Republic Records’s subsidiary Stardog.

In the years that followed, though, things took a turn. It wasn’t clear whether the band would ever release a second record, let alone exist. But, after years full of heartbreak, loss, and uncomfortable but necessary metamorphosis, Thunderpussy are back, they’re stronger than ever, and they’re ready to blow the lid off Benaroya Hall in May.

In the ultimate celebration of the band’s survival, Thunderpussy will (finally!) release their second full-length, West, alongside the full 54-piece Seattle Symphony in a boundary-pushing immersive show.

“We’ve had ups and downs and love and loss and transitions,” said the band’s vocalist Molly Sides. “At the end of the day, knowing that I can come home to my community in Seattle as my anchor, as my nest—I want to celebrate that as much as I do the music and the performance and the environment. Benaroya feels like such a special fucking space to do that.”

The big, hair-whipping sound of Thunderpussy—Sides’s at-times-crooning, at-times-growling vocals; the stuttering, thumping heartbeat of the drums; the thrill of the electric guitar—has always birthed big, outrageous, over-the-top performances. That’s how Sides intended it. 

“We first started Thunderpussy to create a space where people can come in and forget what’s happening out in the world, connect to each other, rock out, dance, and feel something different from before,” she said. 

Sides and guitarist Whitney Petty have dreamed of a show like this for years. 

“Molly and I have wanted to combine dance and rock in a way that is more orchestral and cinematic and a sort of rock opera,” Petty said.

That dream, complete with the orchestra and the dancers, will be coming true on May 10. But it couldn’t have happened without the years-long gauntlet they navigated both as a band and as individuals.

Thunderpussy power. Sarah Craig

The Gauntlet

Sides and Petty founded Thunderpussy about 10 years ago, right around the time when the two first started dating. Sides, from Idaho, and Petty, from Georgia, found each other in Seattle. The two’s love story became intertwined with their independent love affairs with the city. Sides was a dancer at Cornish College of the Arts. Petty had been a deckhand on boats who looked forward to every time the boat docked in Seattle because of the culture and the life in the city. At the first opportunity, she moved to Seattle. 

During the pandemic, while working on West, the two broke up. With the split and other challenges the pandemic wrought—they lost their record deal, their agents lost their jobs, and performing live, the band’s lifeblood, was temporarily banned—Thunderpussy’s future looked bleak.

“We thought Thunderpussy might disappear,” Petty said. “I definitely didn’t think we’d be able to finish the record, let alone perform together.”

“That was another question: ‘Can we continue to do this? Are we making Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours right now?’” Petty said, adding with a laugh, “[That’s] their best record, so I hope we are.” 

Then, in 2022, Alice in Chains invited Thunderpussy to open for them on their summer tour. 

“It was hard for us to be together and try to dig it out,” Petty explained. “Then, to be onstage together and sing ‘The Cloud’ together—that was our love song—how are we supposed to do it?”

But, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity. They performed and things felt normal. “It was fucking sun and rainbows and everyone was happy,” Petty said. 

Petty’s voice caught in her throat as she talked about the breakup. While things are much healthier between the two now, she still feels the pain.

“Losing the relationship between Molly and I was a huge loss,” she said. “That will be present for a long time in my life. It’s been devastating in so many ways—and beautiful in so many others that we continue to fucking love each other.”

West was born out of this loss as well as the grief both Sides and Petty experienced when their last living grandparents died. 

“Isn’t it weird that you feel all of a sudden like a grown-up when you lose your last ties to your parents’ parents?” Petty asked. Even though both she and Sides are in their mid-to-late thirties, they both felt a weird maturation that came with this grief. 

The album is about maturing, Petty explained, both personally and as artists. She said she started writing one of the songs, “Misty Morning,” almost 10 years ago, but she wasn’t a talented-enough writer or guitarist to finish it back then. 

“This record has absolutely been an exercise in patience,” Petty said. 

For Sides, West is “fueled by a color wheel of emotions. It’s a labor of love and grief and sadness and every emotion in between. COVID shattered everything apart. Now we get to put the pieces back together again to make everything glow. To bring light into the darkness we’ve been in.”

Rock out with your Thunderpussy out. Sarah Craig

Blowing Minds and Melting Faces

Around 40% of the shows the Seattle Symphony presents are “pop culture” shows rather than classical music, according to Carissa Castaldo, popular programming administrator at the Seattle Symphony and Benaroya Hall. But “it is not every day that an orchestra gets to drop a pop album to the public,” Castaldo wrote in an email. 

A symphony collaboration like this album debut allows a completely different experience from a regular show, Castaldo explained. 

“More and more, we are finding pop artists who want to collaborate with a symphony because they are craving a more robust musical presentation—something that cannot be done in a big arena and that makes the audience focused on the music versus the production,” she said. 

The collaboration only happened because Sides made it happen. Working with Andrew Joslyn, a Seattle-area composer and producer who arranged the strings for West, the two went to the Symphony with the idea for the show. Sides made a PowerPoint presentation. She hopped on a litany of conference calls. 

“I feel so incredibly grateful that they’re taking a chance on us, that they’re open to saying ‘Thunderpussy’ in the campaign and the marketing,” Sides said. 

The Thunderpussy name has been polarizing since the band’s inception—it took five years and two US Supreme Court Cases before they could legally trademark the name for the first time in 2020. Now, the symphony is fully embracing it, though admittedly, “it took a minute for some staff to get used to hearing ‘Thunderpussy’ in meetings,” Castaldo said. 

“I feel like this has been such a new can of worms that has opened for everybody and we’re all ready to get into the can together and shake it up,” Sides said. 

One of the most gratifying parts of this experience for Sides has been communicating with the symphony about her vision. 

When describing how she envisioned the orchestral arrangement of the song “Misty Morning,” Sides didn’t speak in “music terms.” Instead, she explained it as a feeling: “Like walking through a thick fog to the center of the witch’s brew.” And the symphony understood. “They’re like ‘That’s what we’re going for!’ I feel very David Lynch in that way.” 

She hopes that witchy feeling, and all the other feelings embedded in this production, come across to the audience. She’s been working nonstop on the show to ensure the result is far more than just a concert.

“My hope is we are creating an environment—it is not a show, it is not a performance—it is an all-encompassing, all-embracing, supportive environment,” she said. 

That means dance performances before the show, during the show, and after the show from local dancers and choreographers Alice Gosti and Amy J. Lambert. 

Sides wouldn’t say much more about the performances except that “Thunderpussy is taking over Benaroya Hall. The whole hall.”

In the meantime, the band, which also includes bassist Leah Julius and drummer Michelle Nuño, is rehearsing like crazy so they can “blow minds and melt faces,” Petty said. They’ll only rehearse twice with the full symphony before showtime, so that independent work is crucial. 

Petty said that Thunderpussy had gotten to a point where they knew each other so well that they could just show up to a show without rehearsing and nail it. This show won’t be like that, she said. 

“We are going to rehearse our butts off for this like it’s our first-ever show,” Petty said. “This is probably the most important thing I’ve done in my life.”

Whatever happens on May 10, you can bet your ass it will be one of a kind. 

“We try to thread the line between classy and trashy, swanky and janky,” Sides said. “This feels more classy, and yet still a little unhinged.”


Thunderpussy play Benaroya Hall Friday, May 10, with the Seattle Symphony. Tickets are available at seattlesymphony.org.