Wussy formed spontaneously in 2001 when Cincinnati, Ohio stonemason Chuck Cleaver (Ass Ponys) and Lisa Walker (The Magic Words) began playing together as a result of a dare and a shot or two of Jaegermeister. Cleaver had been recently inspired after a run of Ass Ponys U.S. tour dates with The Handsome Family, which renewed his long-held love of iconic rock and folk duos. Walker and Cleaver’s first performance, though totally unplanned, went without incident. And so.. Mark Messerly was recruited on bass, with Dawn Burman learning drums to join the band shortly thereafter. Veteran drummer Joe Klug came onboard after Burman’s departure in 2009, and Chuck’s former Ass Ponys bandmate John Erhardt joined on pedal steel in 2012. The band have become cult favorites of fans and critics alike, both for their songwriting and varied sonic palette, often drawing comparisons to admitted heroes Television, John Prine, The Velvet Underground, Crazy Horse and Yo La Tengo. Co-bandleaders Walker and Cleaver share songwriting and guitar duties, swapping lead vocals and arguing in harmony, with each side of the story sung either in tandem or as traded verses. Former Homestead Records boss Ken Katkin once said of their collaboration: “in Lisa Walker, Chuck had joined forces with the next generation’s contender for poet laureate of middle-America’s working class.”
On their 2018 album, What Heaven Is Like (2018 Shake It/Damnably), Wussy continue their longstanding tradition of combining supernatural tales and workaday anthems, with inspirations that range from the monsters of urban legends to late-night public television viewing. Heaven builds on the momentum of their prior two releases Attica! and Forever Sounds, with sonic and melodic nods to Springsteen, Mercury Rev, Unrest, Neu! and The Replacements’ Pleased to Meet Me, with songs at once devastating and hopeful. Highlights include a ballad for Fargo’s Gloria Burgle, a pair of Kath Bloom and Twinkeyz covers, and a three-song suite inspired by Charles Burns’ brilliant and ever-timely graphic novel Black Hole.
In all of this, Wussy continue their evolution as forerunners of Midwestern Psychedelia, described by critic Robert Christgau as “an articulated drone” and noted by AllMusic Guide as “one of the most celebrated independent bands in the American Midwest”.
Wussy have previously been featured in live sessions on CBS This Morning, KEXP and BBC 6 Radio, and have performed at festivals including SXSW, Nelsonville and CMJ. They have supported several tours for Ohioans Afghan Whigs and Heartless Bastards, as well as proudly sharing the stage with fellow travelers Yo La Tengo, Mark Kozelek, The Breeders, Schwervon!, Mudhoney, Shonen Knife, The Mekons, COME, Jeffrey Lewis, Amy Rigby and Wreckless Eric. Beyond the new LP, the band’s 2018 schedule includes U.S., U.K. and European tour dates, a BBC 6Music session, a split single, a new EP, a solo release or two, and a special Wussy Duo appearance at The Oxford American’s “50 Years of True Grit” festival along with such luminaries as Eddie Pepitone, Iris DeMent and The Paranoid Style.
Chuck Cleaver – vocals / guitar / etc
Lisa Walker – vocals / guitar / etc
Mark Messerly – bass / keys / etc
Joe Klug – drums / keys / etc
John Erhardt – pedal steel / guitar / etc
Dawn Burman – drums
In the Press
Rolling Stone (Four Stars): Imagine a Yo La Tengo too tight to get cute or far out, dispensing a Velvet Underground derivative, fluent enough to warm the erectile tissue of anyone with a thing for guitar drones.
Village Voice: The band sound is more Velvets than Burritos, yet country still. It’s as if they’ve reduced all of white Ohio to an articulated drone, unlocked a silo or warehouse of hummable tunes, and worked out the harmonies. – Robert Christgau (read more)
Pitchfork: 7.8 (of 10) Compact packages with maximum singability and staying power squeezed into minimal space.. (read more)
AllMusic Guide: 4/5 Wussy’s tales of the messy facts of real lives are moving, brave, and thoroughly believable, and the music possesses a rough beauty that’s coolly revelatory; this is a first-rate band doing first-rate work, and if you honestly care about American rock at its best, this is music you should get to know. (read more)
Robert Christgau: A+ In which the best band in America remains the best song band in America while passing the Sonic Youth consortium on the outside to become the best distorto-guitar band in America, and although the competition in both categories has thinned out, how many ever dared combine it? Television? Nirvana? The Thompson Couple? That is the territory here… (read more)
David Schmader, The Stranger: Cincinnati’s Wussy is a rock band that’ll remind you on the deepest level why you love rock bands. Fronted by former Ass Pony Chuck Cleaver and the previously unaffiliated Lisa Walker, Wussy’s central conceit is to submerge pristine, literate songwriting in the rumble and roar of a full band. (read more)
Ann Powers, Slate Music Club Best of 2014: The ragged, majestic rock of the Cincinnati band Wussy.. has been crashing toward sublimity for nearly 15 years (and whose co-leader, Chuck Cleaver, led the amazing Ass Ponys for 12 years before that), and whose 2014 album Attica! proved that guitar rock about ordinary people can still be profound, even in our bold new age of soft technology. (read more)
Charles Taylor, LA Review of Books :Because they are fans, because this music has long been their chosen vehicle for expression, they test it to see if it can still provide a kind of transcendence, or at least a way of speaking that will make sense of the life around them.(read more)
Uncut : Recalling a roll call of adventurous boy/girl-styled indie bands – Yo La Tengo, Handsome Family, X – Wussy draws on plenty of yin/yang sexual and existential tension, a charmingly shambling, rough-hewn sound, and an army of alternately droning and jangling guitars on their sharpest outing yet. 4 stars
BBC :An unmistakable identity…this collection proves that Wussy are certainly a band with an incredibly rich past and, undoubtedly, an equally rich future.
NPR Song of the Day :Few bands since the Velvet-steeped heyday of the Feelies, Yo La Tengo and R.E.M. have abandoned themselves so completely to the ebbing, flowing currents of keening, droning guitars.
SPIN: Wussy is a weird and wonderful band with a capital B. Strawberry distills down the best parts of all the parties involved to make their first truly classic record, one that will be talked about at length this year and for many more to come.
New York Times: Mindful drone-rockers from Ohio are alternately terse and liquiform in all the right places.
PopMatters: A truly classic record, one that will be talked about at length this year and for many more to come.
CBS This Morning – Critically Acclaimed Band Wussy Going Strong by Anthony Mason
Los Angeles Review of Books – Support Your Local Wussy by Charles Taylor
Cincinnati Magazine – Battle Cries and Butterflies by Robert Christgau
New York Observer – Little Known Band with Big Sound by Vicki Wheeler
- 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 Apology” – Wussy / The Fervor (Karate Body)
- 2011 – Funeral Dress II (Shake It)
- 2011 – Strawberry (Shake It)
- 2012 – Buckeye (Damnably)
- 2012 – “Got Down Last Saturday Night” / “Breakfast in Bed” – Heartless Bastards / Wussy (Shake It)
- 2013 – ..Popular Favorites (Download EP)
- 2013 – Wussy Duo (EP)
- 2014 – Attica! (Shake It / Damnably)
- 2015 – Public Domain, Vol. 1 (Shake It)
- 2016 – “Dropping Houses” / “Folk Night at Fucky’s” (Shake It)
- 2016 – Forever Sounds (Shake It / Damnably)
- 2016 – “Ceremony” / “Days and Hours” (Damnably)
- 2018 – Getting Better EP (Damnably)
- 2018 – What Heaven Is Like (Shake It / Damnably)
- 2018 – “New American Standard” / “Absolute Cadavers” – Wussy / Paranoid Style (Bar/None)