Language note: Possum uses they/them pronouns.
How many pop punk stars do you know who fly to Wellington specially to see the Muppets in concert with the NZ Symphony Orchestra? I was lucky enough to catch up with one a few weeks ago on the morning before they flew out to join Miss Piggy, Kermy et al. in the capital.
Muppets fan and all round inspirational human Possum Plows has just released a new single and video with their band Openside. The song, No Going Back is about the breakup of a relationship. That breakup has inspired a slew of new music for the Auckland-based outfit, a collection of songs that may end up as an EP, and LP or something else entirely later on in the piece.
“When the breakup first happened it was so fresh that I wasn’t really ready to process everything. This is the first song that I wrote about that breakup and the song was written 6 months after it happened, after I had a conversation with the person I broke up with.” Possum says. “I went into the studio the next day with Dave and Josh, and we always just talk about what we’re going through to figure out what we want to write about. I think that everyone can kind of relate to the idea of a breakup. So we wrote the song real quick, in like, six hours.”
Sharing personal information isn’t a new experience for Possum. Openly non-binary and pansexual, they have become something of a role model for young people in the rainbow community – a role that they take seriously. The video for No Going Back features a female love interest, and they recently joined the cast of Villainesse series ‘The REAL Sex Talk’, an experience that they say was “really exciting”.
“It actually blew my mind a little bit because a lot of the content [in the series] was stuff that I spent the past ten years slowly gathering online as a young person trying to navigate sex and gender,” they say.
“All of the topics that were covered were never things that I was taught about in school or in any kind of layered methodical way that was easily digestible. It was always hard to know where the good information was coming from, you talked to your friends and it was all very confusing, so to have it laid out in such a way, I could just see how beneficial that would be to young people, and how it would’ve been [beneficial] to me ten years ago. It was like breathing out and just being relieved to be able to talk about it.”
Possum’s advocacy for young people in the rainbow community comes from experience, and their advice for young people is to, “be supportive of each other, listen to each other and be gentle and kind with yourself in your exploration of your gender and sexuality.”
“I think we should be encouraging people from a very young age to have an openness about these things so that they can really find where they fit over the years.” They say. “It’s a journey and a lot of people don’t even come to these realisations until they’re a lot older anyway.”
“If you have friends that you trust that you can talk to, that’s the best way to figure out who you are because when it’s all just going on in your own head, it can seem way more daunting and complicated and scary and serious. It just diffuses all that tension once you start talking about it, so I really like the idea of just creating a community of open-minded young people who can support and talk to each other.”
Possum isn’t afraid to confront difficult issues head on. While the #MeToo movement has been sweeping the globe, they haven’t noticed much of an impact in the music industry.
“I think that there’s still a huge boys’ club. Overall, maybe [#MeToo] forces the men in the industry to examine themselves a little bit more, but I haven’t really felt any difference,” they say. “I still feel like I’m playing their game and I’m always in the room with a bunch of dudes and you’ve got to be wary that you’re not the person that’s just the killjoy, that’s like, ‘you shouldn’t say that, because that’s offensive’. Then you get looked at as the person who’s not fun to have around. You’ve got to perform your role so carefully.”
“People think that it’s okay as long as you’re not actively discriminating against women being in your spaces and you’re not actively saying, ‘I’m not going to have them there because they’re women’. That’s the bare minimum. Really, if you’re in a position of privilege it’s your responsibility to actively seek out people who are different than you and give them opportunities,” Possum says.
“A lot of young male artists have these groups of friends where it’s like 20 young white dudes and they’re helping each other and they’re all mates and they’re all progressive people who want the world to be a more equal place, but not enough to actually actively go out and try to include women or people who are gender diverse into their art. For male artists particularly – there are so many steps to making music, with production and music videos and whatever – make sure you have a woman who’s in a position that’s not just like make up artist.”
And when they’re not releasing music and being a kickass role model for young people in the LGBTQIA community? Possum listens to musicals. One of their musical dreams for the future is to write a musical. “I love musicals. Most of the time when people are like ‘what are you listening to?’ I’m like, musicals.”
Watch Openside’s new video above.Support Villainesse