United Kingdom-based band Big Joanie is grabbing the attention of fans and music writers on both sides of the pond with debut LP “Sistahs.”
The indie punk trio, all women of color, is comprised of singer-guitarist Stephanie Phillips, bassist Estella Adeyeri and drummer Chardine Taylor-Stone. They’re getting critical praise for their sound, which is classic girl-group pop like The Ronettes fused with riot grrrl punk rock like The Breeders.
If their sound isn’t captivating enough, their activism is sure to win over fans. All three members of the band are deeply involved in causes. Taylor-Stone started a campaign to fight racist performances at LGBTQ venues in the U.K. and is also the education officer for U.K. Black Pride.
She said their activist pursuits as individuals aren’t always tied to band activities, but the two sometimes share a symbiotic relationship.
“We play on a very queen feminist punk scene anyway, so it kind of developed through that,” Taylor-Stone said. “It’s hard to think about when things happened. We were involved in feminist activism anyway. Being known as an LGBTQ activist came through my work with the Stop Rainbow Racism Campaign that I started. That started because there were some blackface acts on the scene in quite a prominent venue. I can’t say if it was the band that influenced me to do that, or if it was the other way around. I just think having a platform and talking to people and being comfortable in that place is part of the job of being an activist. Being in a band helps with that. There are layers to me sometimes. There’s the music world, and there’s my LGBT activist world. Sometime they cross over and sometimes they don’t.”
Taylor-Stone said the U.S.A.’s socio-political situation has both positive and negative effects that reverberate in the U.K.
“Politically, as activists, we are definitely influenced by what queer activists are doing in the U.S.,” she said. “For example, recently, Manchester Pride adopted [Philadelphia’s] new rainbow flag that has brown and black stripes on them. In terms of the discrimination we face here, with Brexit as well, we see homophobia on the rise.
“In terms of activists, we definitely follow what’s happening in the U.S. It’s just a different political face here in the U.K. It’s difficult to talk about it in extremes. I always think about the States as having extremes. You have amazing radical progressive things happening there, which here I can’t even dream of happening in regard of access to things. “But then you have the other end, with the Trumps and people losing healthcare and all that kind of stuff. We don’t have those two extremes as much. A lot of the issues we’re trying to deal with here now are things within the community about racism and waiting lists for trans healthcare and the removing of our rights.”
Big Joanie may get an up-close look at the United States soon, as its debut album “Sistahs” has earned critical acclaim and spots at some of the hottest festival showcases.
“We’ve been invited to South By Southwest so we should be in Austin, Texas, in March,” Taylor-Stone said. “We’re playing in New York as well, at the Colossus Festival. I think we’re going to try and fit some shows in between. I don’t know how we’re going to do that, but I do hope that after South By Southwest, we’ll be able to get a U.S. booking agent and then we’ll be able to tour the U.S. properly.”
Big Joanie’s “Sistahs” is out now. For more information, visit https://bigjoanie.bandcamp.com.