Self-described (in their bio) as a “London-based Black feminist punk band,” Big Joanie was formed by Stephanie Phillips and Chardine Taylor-Stone (along with original bassist Kiera Coward-Deyell, who was later replaced by Estella Adeyeri) as an answer to the mostly male, mostly white punk-rock landscape.
“It wasn’t an explicit political act,” Taylor-Stone told the Guardian in a recent interview. “But making music with other Black women felt cool. To no longer be the only Black musicians in a group meant there was no need to code-switch whatsoever – we could be our full selves.”
And being their “full selves” meant embracing the punk and indie-rock music they’d grown up loving – bands like Sleater-Kinney, the Buzzcocks, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Throwing Muses.
Big Joanie’s first album, Sistahs, came out in 2018 on Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s Daydream Library Series label. And last month, Big Joanie released their second album, Back Home, again on Daydream Library Series in the U.K. but this time also (in the U.S.) on iconic punk label Kill Rock Stars.
While the call themselves punk and do take some inspiration from the ’90s riot grrrl movement, the Big Joanie sound on Back Home has more of a post-punk vibe, showing their willingness to explore new sounds (synths are right up there with the guitars) and rhythms. After a few listens, that Throwing Muses reference starts to make a lot of sense.
Take, for instance, “In My Arms,” the single from Back Home that we’re currently spinning. It isn’t a rager by any stretch of the imagination – it’s built around a cool, even-keeled groove and some slightly jagged guitar lines, with Phillips’ voice the driving force on top. The emotional energy, though, is still high – it’s a song don’t just hear, you feel.
“People call us a lot of things, but we’re still punk,” Phillips says, “Because, for me, ‘punk’ means freedom. It’s open, and constantly growing.”
“I don’t always have a specific audience in mind when I’m writing songs,” she adds, “but I hope that everything we do is always relevant for the Black community and, specifically, Black women – that they feel seen and heard in our songs and what we do.”
Big Joanie plays March 19 with Motherf**ker Theresa at the Larimer Lounge in Denver, Colo.
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