Punk rock band Big Joanie on their album ‘Back Home’ : NPR

NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe talks to Chardine Taylor-Stone and Stephanie Phillips of punk rock band Big Joanie about their album “Back Home” and the role of joy and resistance in punk music.



(SOUND EXTRACTION OF BIG JOANIE SONG, “TAUT”)

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

There are bands that, from the first notes, let you know they mean business.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “TAUT”)

BIG JOANIE: (singing) You’re right. I’m tense in the middle. I feel high but I’m tense in the middle. You made my world less than.

RASCOE: Big Joanie is one of them, a British punk band with lyrics rich with the strength and vulnerability that defines the genre. Joining us now from London is drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone and singer-guitarist Stephanie Phillips. Welcome to the show.

STEPHANIE PHILLIPS: Hello. Hi. Thank you for receiving us.

CHARDINE TAYLOR-STONE: Hello.

RASCOE: Stephanie, I’ll start with you. I want to start where Big Joanie started almost ten years ago. Tell us about your first show.

PHILLIPS: Of course. So we started the band because I saw an advertisement for an event called First-Timers, which aimed to inspire the most marginalized people to make music. And, yes, I posted some kind of message asking if anyone would like to join a black punk band, and Chardine, whom I had met a few months before at a black feminist meeting, responded immediately and said, you know, I want to play drums. I want to play standing drums. I think we should sound like that. And, yeah, we just kept playing.

RASCOE: I want to go to Chardine now. You know, I read that you called yourself a black feminist punk band, basically because you had never heard of it before. Why did you give yourself this label? Has it helped other people understand your art better? Also, why punk music?

TAYLOR-STONE: Well, I mean, I think it’s pretty literal. So we are black feminists…

RASCOE: Yes.

TAYLOR-STONE: …And we’re in a punk band, so that made sense, really. You know, I grew up listening to Nirvana and Hole and, you know, hardcore punk bands. Anyone would make music and try to be like the bands they love, and that’s basically what we do.

RASCOE: Here is part of your song “Confident Man”. We’re going to play a little.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “CONFIDENT MAN”)

BIG JOANIE: (singing) If they like me, this could be my big day. I could count. If I try with all my might, I could win. I will count. If I’m lucky and smart, they’ll pay. I will emerge victorious. If I hustle, if I stay cool, I could also be a confident man.

RASCOE: Trust can be a trap. It can also be a tool. Like, what were you thinking with that song?

PHILLIPS: It was inspired by an essay in writer Jia Tolentino’s book “Trick Mirror.” There’s so much about the kind of crook culture that’s almost an aspiration for, like, today. For example, people kinda like the idea of ​​people agreeing on capitalist culture, but there’s no aspiration to break things up. And yeah, it was pretty much the kind of idea to aspire to be this con artist, this confident man who always feels like he knows it all but is really just a little bit there, out there in a way – like a leech on society and everyone else.

(SOUNDBITE FROM BIG JOANIE SONG, “CONFIDENT MAN”)

RASCOE: Let’s listen to part of this song. We have another lead. This is called “insecurity”.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “INSECURE”)

BIG JOANIE: (singing) I feel like I’m running out of time. I don’t know how to make up my mind, my wasted youth spent moving mountains. Is it a path that I can see?

RASCOE: Can you tell me a bit, Chardine, about those mountains? Like, what were those mountains that you feel like you wasted your youth moving for?

TAYLOR-STONE: Well, I mean, I think for us, growing up as black women, you know, we’re taught to, you know, be pretty, be quiet, and often take on a lot of housework which perhaps our siblings and male relatives do not. So there are a lot of things that we have to do in order to be able to create space.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF THE SONG, “INSECURE”)

BIG JOANIE: (singing) Sit down and think about all that I could be. Tell me, how will I succeed?

RASCOE: When you’re not making your own music, you’re both really invested in trying to make the London music scene and in particular the punk scene more accessible to people who might not have been welcome before. For example, what motivates you to do this work? What does this job look like?

TAYLOR-STONE: I guess the motivation is really just having a space where we can be fully ourselves, when there are, like, really amazing times where, like, you’re completely, like, stepping out into the pit and everything and you see all these different types of people of color doing their thing, bringing their culture into the pit, which they just can’t do anywhere else. We started this band because we wanted to be in a band where we can only be weird black girls, and now we can. You know, it’s about creating new standards for people, and we’re really proud to have created these spaces.

RASCOE: Let’s end on your song “Happier Still”, and we’ll play some of it.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “HAPPIER STILL”)

BIG JOANIE: (singing) I want to feel happier, happier, happier. Feel happier, happier, happier again. The road has been long. I do not have time anymore. The road has been difficult. I feel far from well.

RASCOE: Is happiness radical? And is happiness punk?

PHILLIPS: That’s a good question. Punk, to me, is, you know, again, as they say, being radical, revolutionary. And being a revolutionary means that you are not simply accepting the way – the life that society has entrusted to you. It’s kind of about building your own spaces, creating your own community, and creating community within you and happiness within you. So I think happiness can be punk in its own way.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF BIG JOANIE SONG, “HAPPIER STILL”)

TAYLOR-STONE: You know, the kind of idea people have of punk is that it’s nihilistic. These are, you know, people who get drunk and stoned. And I think those kind of ideas that we had in the past about what punk was really were pretty patriarchal ideas of rebellion. Our thing is to completely change that to be like, OK, so what do we want our society to look like, really, not just like some fantasy that looks good on a poster?

RASCOE: Chardine Taylor-Stone and Stephanie Phillips, two-thirds of Big Joanie – their new album is called ‘Back Home’. Thanks a lot you two.

CHARDINE TAYLOR-STONE AND STEPHANIE PHILLIPS: Thank you.

(SOUNDTRACK FROM THE SONG, “IN MY ARMS”)

BIG JOANIE: (singing) It’s been a while since I lasted…

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