It started raining the moment Donald Trump was inaugurated. Our orange commander-in-chief presumably glided down a red and blue staircase, up to his lectern to address the American people, when the sky opened up. Even for those who ignore prophecy and poetry, it felt ominous. The heavy, wet sky spread around the Northeast and in Philadelphia; the fall was just beginning. “I feel like this is always the weather on Inauguration Day,” says Marisa Dabice, the Mannequin Pussy frontwoman, as she stares out the window. “Gray, shitty rain. If we weren’t doing this, I would’ve spent most of my day in a weird way.”

Dabice lives in South Philly in a bright blue house that brightens in the rain, emitting a certain cartoonish appearance checked only by the building’s historic architecture. Inside, her sister is unpacking. Dabice’s shows me to her room — its bed faces two large windows, a sill full of plants beneath it. There’s little visible ledge. She picks one up: “I’m not done yet.”

The image lies in direct opposition to the sonic aggression of Mannequin Pussy. This room is carefully decorated, delicate, a place of solace far removed from her punk profession. “I get obsessed with my home feeling a certain way when I get home from tour,” she explains. “You get to be the controller.”

Her band is often on the road. Their last stint directly overlapped with the election, and with it, Dabice felt a shift. “You have someone who is traveling around, seeing all these different places, and [audience members] want to let you know how their days look, especially right now. There’s usually a standard set of questions you get asked. That was the first tour where people weren’t like, ‘Where are you playing tomorrow?’ but, ‘What are the people like where you played last night? Were they Trump supporters? Did they seem progressive?’ These really thoughtful questions.” She pauses. “I finally figured out why people cry when they lose great artists. An artist becomes part of their own identity. It shapes them in a different way that maybe they didn’t feel before. We say very, very little onstage about anything. Sometimes we do. This last tour, sometimes there were nights it felt necessary to say something.”

She moves over to her computer, looks something up, and decides we should go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her partner, Pat Conaboy of Philly band the Spirit of the Beehive, offers to give us a lift. On the road, drivers feel especially agitated. “It’s nice to know it’s not just me,” Dabice jokes. The sky remains heavy and gray.

Before Mannequin Pussy became the band it is today — Dabice, guitarist Thanasi Paul, bassist Colins "Bear" Regisford and drummer Kaleen Reading — it was a duo between childhood friends Dabice and Paul. The pair has known each other since they were five years old, growing up in Connecticut. “He was in a band called Air Van in eighth grade, who were probably the first band I ever downloaded on Napster,” Dabice recalls. For her, musicianship came later. She picked up the instrument at 16, abandoned it to continue her ballet passion, and then picked it up again when she was 23. A year before that, she booked indie pop musician Colleen Green at her house in Boulder, Colo., where the two became fast friends, eventually inspiring Green to invite Dabice on tour with her to play bass. “Colleen was the most incredible person I could’ve met at that point," Dabice enthuses. "I was really just becoming aware that women could play music. I know that sounds fucked up, but I didn’t really get the luxury of growing up having access to everything that’s ever been made on the internet. I was only ever really exposed to things on MTV, and all the bands that had females in them were frontwomen. They mostly weren’t playing guitar. I’m disappointed in myself sometimes, that I never saw people playing music and didn’t associate the fact that I could do that, too, until I saw a woman doing it.”

Now Dabice’s guitar playing is easily recognizable — on Romantic, the band’s sophomore LP, her musicianship is unlike what the title would suggest: abrasive, scrappy, no-nonsense. It mimics her scream-singing in that fashion. You can’t make out the details, but you’re attracted to the whole. The distortion begins and ends there; the rest is clear imagery. “I definitely think visually, about the arts," she says. "I think about the whole representation of the product. For our album, I had the ideas of what I wanted everything to look like. That’s where I’m at with the visual things. I can imagine what I’d like to see, but I know I don’t possess the skill to take that idea out. You just know who to work with. You look out for people you know you can collaborate with.”

She continues: “The [LP] insert is based on a painting from the Romantic era. My friend Dan Angel painted it. It’s supposed to be the story of 'The Bard,' which is this famous painting from the Romantic era. It’s about a king who expelled all the artists because he was a fascist totalitarian who completely took over his society and banished those who opposed him. The Romantic era was this backlash against the Industrial age. People generally caring more about commerce and money and capitalism and ignoring the environment for industry. It became this idea of, maybe how we live is important. Maybe nature is important. 'The Bard' was this one last artist’s stand, playing his lyre or his harp, right on the edge of a mountain. He’s trying to make his art, but he’s in darkness. It’s obscured, and there’s this one shred of light coming in to the painting, too. He’s going to make it. It’s such an incredibly beautiful painting, and I wanted Dan to recreate it. And he did.”

For the last two years or so — or, as Dabice thinks of it, during the primaries — she’s found herself looking to the Romantic period for guidance. “There was something about Bernie Sanders that was romantic," she says. "The idea of a truly progressive person entering the political stage. It really felt the way that people were talking about it and — for lack of a better word — waking up, it felt like this time in history [when] artists began thinking about what’s really important. What do we want to fight for and defend? How do we want to be? A lot of that is making really beautiful things.” She stops and enters an exhibit full of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. It feels far removed from 2017, a sliver of Versailles. “When I walk into a room like this, I think, ‘Wow, people of the past lived so ornately, so ridiculously.’ Donald Trump would walk into this room and think, ‘Looks like my living room.’ He’s a modern aristocrat.”

While it would feel inaccurate to call Mannequin Pussy a political punk band, there is certainly a resonance of activism in everything they do. Dabice studied political science in college and sees herself in the field later in life, but it’s an easy place to feel disillusioned. “I really exhaust myself thinking and talking about politics so much," she admits. "I feel consumed by that. Art really is an escape. In college, I started having these panic attacks because I started learning all these terrible things about the world.”

It wasn’t and is still not apathy towards the topic — it’s impossible to walk through a museum full of portraits of the rich who write history and commission art, and not think of Trump making his inaugural speech just hours prior. Indifference has never been part of the DNA of Mannequin Pussy, or Dabice, because she’s battled it once before, never to return. “I started getting disinterested in a lot of stuff in high school because I started dealing with some really heavy shit," she reveals. "I had to quit ballet. I didn’t play guitar anymore. Here is life: I don’t really know what to make of anything. There’s a certain point when every kid realizes life is bigger than just themselves and that bad things happen. Parents can’t protect you,” She lowers her voice. “I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 15. Everything happened so quickly after that. I don’t remember two years of my life. I went through it, and had PTSD issues with it for a while. I was really frozen. I didn’t know how to act anymore. I started smoking cigarettes, being really self-destructive in a way that only a 16-year-old would do. [Laughs] It turned me into a little jackass for a while. It wasn’t until college that I really woke up from it. I stopped feeling sorry for myself because what the fuck was I feeling sorry for myself for? That I survived? That I lived? That I was okay? Why was I focusing on the fact that this thing happened? It took me a long time to just accept it.”

She walks to a modern wing of the museum, pausing in front of a giant buzzing neon sign from American artist Bruce Nauman. In a bright pink swirl, blue lettering reads, “The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths.” The color combination combined with the medium gives the powerful message a gaudy, vintage motel sign vibe, or perhaps that of a well-kept diner. It’s a distinctly American work, though the sentiment feels universal. “I like to think artists have the responsibility to make the world a more honest and beautiful place," Dabice says, "but also to be the ones who are critical of the world in which we inhabit. Not that many people are critical enough."

As we leave the museum, Dabice reveals that she’s working on a memoir-ish screenplay detailing the life of a teenager battling cancer. “A lot of the narratives I’ve seen around young girls who have had a life-threatening illness is, ‘Girl gets illness. Girl meets boy. Boy reminds her that life is beautiful and worth living. Girl dies.’ I want to write a story about a young girl in high school who gets cancer and there isn’t some male figure,” she says. “It’s more about her friends being the one to pull her out of this, with an element of music, too, of being able to save someone from themselves.”

We walk to the nearby, newly opened Whole Foods. A crowd of high school kids loiter in front of its two giant exits. “I was a teenager during the Bush administration," Dabice notes. "Growing up then really informed the radical tendencies that I have, my ideas towards the government. Remembering what it felt like to be 13 on 9/11. Everything that happened after that, all the wars, I became very disillusioned and very angry at a young age with the direction I saw my country taking, and that’s one of the reasons I studied political science.” She takes half a breath. “I wanted to understand more about what made me so angry. The only way to feel like you can change anything is if you start to understand why it is the way it is. The young people now, they’re going to be the ones who can explain to me why things are this way. What happened? Some things seemed to be making a little bit of sense, and now nothing does. I’m starting to feel lost again.”

In a few days, Mannequin Pussy will embark on a U.S. tour alongside Joyce Manor. “I’m excited to play for an audience of what I heard is a lot of young girls,” she says, smiling idyllically. “There will probably be a lot of brilliant young girls in that audience who might not realize — maybe they’ll stop swooning over boys that play instruments and consider doing it themselves.” In a time of complete uncertainty, it’s a powerful place to find hope.