Big Joanie: 'All those early 90s feminist punk bands taught us a lot about how to bring politics into art'
- David Pollock
- 14 February 2019
London-based trio bring their feminist punk-pop to Glasgow
'My mum is called Joan,' says Stephanie Phillips, guitarist, vocalist and founder of London-based feminist punk-pop trio Big Joanie. 'I like the name, and I chose to use Big Joanie because in Caribbean culture, we talk about kids acting "big", as though they're trying to be grown-up. My mum has always been a really positive representation of a strong, confident woman to me.'
Is it her nickname for her mother? 'Oh no, she didn't get it at all,' says Phillips. 'She thought I meant like, physically big! No, I wouldn't call her that.' The trio – Phillips, bassist Estella Adeyeri and drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone – have been making music since 2013 (although Adeyeri is a later addition), but it was last year's album Sistahs on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label which really broke them.
'I heard X-Ray Spex when I was about 14,' says Phillips, a freelance journalist who is currently writing a book about Solange Knowles. 'I didn't understand all of the lyrics, but it was so aggressive and intense that I realised it was something I shouldn't let my parents hear. I was also influenced by Riot Grrrl … Bikinikill, Bratmobile, all those early 90s feminist punk bands. They taught me a lot about how to bring politics into art, and bands like Sleater-Kinney and the Breeders showed me a lot about songwriting.
'The punk scene as I've known it was always very feminist and female-centred, but it was very white,' she continues. 'There was no way of spreading that consciousness, no thought about other marginalised bodies or people. That's why I felt like I needed to create something, because I needed somewhere I could be my full self, which isn't something black women really have in this society. That's the idea of the band – what can you create in a space free of things like misogyny and white supremacy?'
Hug & Pint, Glasgow, Fri 22 Feb.