More than twelve months on from the death of Motörhead’s legendary frontman Lemmy Kilmister, his life and legacy continues to be celebrated and cherished by his family and friends. “He has been a part of every incarnation of Nashville Pussy and was like a proud papa throughout,” guitarist Ruyter Suys smiles. “He was a mentor and a friend, and we feel like we’re carrying on the torch through our music – and we will carry it to the end.”
Founded by husband and wife duo Blaine Cartwright and Rutyer Suys in Atlanta, Georgia, psychobilly rockers Nashville Pussy spent more than a decade (on and off) touring with Motörhead, and both Cartwright and Suys say they hit it off with the much-loved musician almost immediately. “Oh gosh! We were on the road with him a lot,” Suys reminisces, “which was just unbelievable. The first time was unbelievable, the second time was unbelievable, and the third time was unbelievable. We had Lemmy’s blessing on every single one of our bass players, which is just unfathomable. We thought ‘Oh god, he loved the first one, he’s going to hate the second one’, but then he loved the second one, so ‘oh no! he’s going to hate the third one’ – but no, he loved the third one, so we were like ‘yay!’.”
Suys and Cartwright formed Nashville Pussy in 1996 and have been the only two constant band members. Californian bassist Bonnie Buitrago joined them in 2011, while their newest addition, drummer Ben Thomas, hit the road with them just last year. “Ben has already done two tours with us so far. Right now we’re on his third one across the US, so when we come to Australia next month it will be his fourth,” Suys explains, “but it will be his and Bonnie’s first time in Australia and New Zealand – so the rhythm section is incredibly excited.
“We all want to do the traditional ‘hold the koala’ for a five seconds’ experience!” she laughs. “Bonnie has been sending me pictures of every last creature in Australia for weeks now. She says she wants to buy a baby Tasmanian devil, but I want to keep a koala and feed a wallaby. Every day I get a new video from her of some little critter we have to visit.”
Suys admits it has been a while since Nashville Pussy’s last Aussie shows, but she is keen to make up for lost time. “From Hell to Texas  must have been out, because that was made with our last bass player Karen – but whatever it is, this tour is definitely overdue and we officially apologise on behalf of rock ’n’ roll!”
Ruyter Suys is a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the stage. She is known for her mesmerising guitar solos and exuberant performance style. She cites Nancy Wilson and Wendy O. Williams as her two biggest influences, and was included in Elle magazine’s ‘12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists’ in 2009. “I’ve been playing guitar since I was about eight. I kind of got driven to it because of my hatred for the piano at the time,” she jokes.
“My parents plonked me in front of a piano when I was three, and by the time I was seven-and-a- half, I was so sick of it that I locked myself in the bathroom and refused to come out when my music teacher came – so that marked my very last piano lesson.
“My parents were like, ‘What are we going to do with you now?’ and I said ‘I think I want a bass’, so they rented me a bass for a short period of time but I didn’t like that,” Suys adds. “Then I just picked up my father’s guitar one day. I’d seen him play and listened to his repertoire my whole life, to the point where I thought he had written most of The Beatles’ or Simon & Garfunkel’s songs – I didn’t realise they were actually written by other people. I’d hear a song on the radio and I’d say, ‘Dad, they’re playing your song!’ and he’d say, ‘Actually that’s The Allman Brothers dear’,” she smiles, doing her best fatherly impression.
“So I basically learnt all of my dad’s stuff and then jumped into my Zeppelin records right after that. Now in the last couple of years, I’ve actually got back to piano a little bit – I enjoy it again, but it took a while.”
These days Suys showcases all her musical talents on their albums. “There are a couple of unique instruments on Up the Dosage . We actually included an organ intro and there are piano and mandolin on ‘Hooray for Cocaine, Hooray for Tennessee’. Any keyboards, mandolin or piano – that’s always me.”
However Suys admits guitar was her first love and she is revered for her skills by critics and fellow musicians, and she is often compared to our own home-grown guitar god. “I’m totally fine which anyone comparing me to Angus Young, any day of the week! I’m still incredibly jealous of the fact that he’s what? Like sixty now? And he’s still running around in a pair of velvet shorts making the world pay $180 to watch his show – it’s fucking hilarious! He’s my hero.”
Nashville Pussy are headlining the Negative Waves Festival in Geelong next month alongside the likes of Brant Bjork (USA), The Peep Tempel, Dwarves, Batpiss, Dr. Collosus, The Living Eyes, Holy Serpent, Killer Birds and many more.
When & Where: Negative Waves Festival @ The Barwon Club, Geelong – May 6.
Written by Natalie Rogers