January 15, 2015

EP: Big Joanie - Sistah Punk

First time was the charm for London's Big Joanie.

In November 2013, I had my first show playing guitar at “First Time’s the Charm” in Philadelphia. This event, like a handful of its kind, is dedicated to bands that met one or more of the following stipulations: That one or more members had to be new to their instrument, one or more members had never been in a band before, and one or more members identified as female, a person of color, trans, or queer. Not only was this event personally significant for me, but these kinds of events play a important role in creating spaces for people who might not be able to find them. Imagine my surprise upon finding out that at the exact same time (November of 2013), across the ocean in London, Big Joanie started at their own “First Timers” gig.

Released on Brighton label Tuff Enuff Records, Big Joanie’s debut EP Sistah Punk clocks in at a walloping 15 minutes. Aptly self-described as “The Ronettes filtered through 80s DIY”, Big Joanie sounds like a soulful The Slits. They're raw and dreamy at the same time, like an Impressionist painting with visible brushstrokes. Those brushstrokes signify both a sophomoricness as well as an attention to process. That’s what nice about Big Joanie — their newness creates opportunities where someone else might find boundaries. They make things their own way and aren’t inhibited by the deadening, “what’s supposed to be”.

Noisy riffs and surreal harmonies cut lo-fi bass lines on the opening track, “Dream Number 9”.  The song is stripped to the barest elements and makes no apologies about it. It’s only lyrics are a meditative re-current iteration of, “Despite Myself (Only Dreaming) / Despite Myself (Half here, Half full) / Despite Myself (I’m Whole Again”. Meanwhile, the third track “Damaged (When the Homewrecker Moved In)” is simultaneously the most rock n’ roll and 1960s girl-band oriented of the lot. Instrumental hooks laden the structured narrative that “Dream Number 9” rejects. On “Damaged (When the Homewrecked Moved in)”, Big Joanie applies an apocalyptic significance to a domestic tale, suggesting an unseen quotidian trauma. The track closes on a staccato uttering of the word, “damaged”, before falling apart like our protagonist.

So whether we’re dreaming, feeling the earth beneath our feet, or preparing for a fight, Sistah Punk reminds us that as the title goes, we are a part of a community. From over here in Philadelphia to Big Joanie in London, to everywhere in between, let me take this opportunity to quote Jen Twigg from The Ambulars/Attendant in her response to Allison Crutchfield’s piece "Not All Women" and say: “Ladies, I see you, and you are fly as hell”.


Listen to Big Joanie on bandcamp.

Madeline Meyer, a Los Angeles transport to Philadelphia. She writes screenplays and plays guitar and sings in Littler. Her favorite things are olives, board games, and dad jokes.