Big Joanie’s Steph Phillips picks her favourite three-piece bands

The London band's singer/guitarist talks through the trios who inspired her.

The land­scape of UK bands is much bet­ter for the pres­ence of Big Joanie. The Lon­don trio’s debut album, Sis­tahs, was released at the end of 2018, and it fea­tures all the ingre­di­ents of a great indie-punk record. With raw riffs, emo­tive song­writ­ing and moody vocals, Sis­tahs is an addic­tive, thought-pro­vok­ing album which excit­ing­ly sug­gests that the over­whelm­ing­ly white and male punk scene might be start­ing to change (albeit slowly). 

The band was brought togeth­er by vocal­ist and gui­tarist Steph Phillips after she shared a post on Face­book seek­ing musi­cians for a black punk band. Soon enough Steph, bassist Estel­la Adey­eri and drum­mer Char­dine Tay­lor-Stone had made their live debut at First Timers, DIY Space for London’s show­case for new bands. Six years on, and they’re stronger than ever. They’ve sup­port­ed the likes of Par­quet Courts and Down­town Boys, and on 10 – 11 June, Big Joanie will open for Biki­ni Kill at Brix­ton Acad­e­my – the Riot Grrrl pioneer’s first UK shows in 23 years.

Three is often a mag­ic num­ber in punk — what more could you need than a singer-slash-gui­tarist, bassist and drum­mer, any­way? — and Big Joanie prove that more than most. Steph spoke to The Face about some of the musi­cal trios who are close to her heart.

SLEATER-KIN­NEY

Sleater-Kin­ney real­ly influ­enced the way I thought about writ­ing emo­tion­al songs, and my approach to punk music. I saw them when they reformed in Lon­don at the Round­house and it was so emo­tion­al. I was singing along to every song with every­one else. I nev­er got to see them when I first found out about them – I think they broke up lit­er­al­ly a cou­ple of months after I first found out about them as a teenag­er – so it was like all my teenage dreams com­ing true. Being able to play and sing and do every­thing they do is def­i­nite­ly some­thing I real­ly aspire to. They are one of those bands that haven’t real­ly been topped yet. They were always doing their own thing and no one has real­ly ever been able to repli­cate it.

THE RONETTES

The Ronettes were all teenagers and they man­aged to cre­ate the sound of youth that every­one want­ed to copy. That whole 60s teenage, African-Amer­i­can, female sound has been some­thing that loads of peo­ple have tried to cap­ture. It’s always been made by black women and young black women, and that ele­ment of black joy and female pow­er is some­thing that I always find real­ly amaz­ing to lis­ten to. It always makes me feel hap­py, and always makes me believe in what we are doing. We’ve always been at the fore­front of rock n’ roll. 

HÜSKER

They’re a band that I’ve only recent­ly got into, but I’ve been lis­ten­ing to all of Hüsker Dü’s albums late­ly. I think they are, again, one of those bands that are real­ly influ­en­tial in ways that you for­get about now. They start­ed out as hard­core 80s alter­na­tive rock, and they made that become more pop­u­lar, and then they became more melod­ic. It was the build­ing ground for bands like Pix­ies and Nir­vana. I want to try to write songs like New Day Ris­ing, but it’s not hap­pened yet. It’s music you can put on to pump you up and make you feel better.

SHOP­PING

Shop­ping are a real­ly good exam­ple of what’s going on in the punk scene at the moment. It’s so cre­ative right now — we are real­ly think­ing beyond a set idea of what punk is sup­posed to be. Peo­ple think the punk scene stopped in the late-‘70s, and that it was always that straight­for­ward. But when you lis­ten to Shop­ping — their music is so pop­py, and about bring­ing life to peo­ple, and mak­ing peo­ple feel hap­py — you can see how much it has devel­oped and how much punk has become so much bet­ter. Yeah, in terms of music, but also in terms of every­thing else — bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion for peo­ple of colour, bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion for queer people.

YEAH YEAH YEAHS

Karen O was every­thing I want­ed to be when I was younger, but I was far too shy and too wor­ried about what peo­ple thought. Deep down I want­ed to be as out there and able to take up as much space as she did. I think they came out at a real­ly inter­est­ing time. The fact that she was a per­son of colour was nev­er men­tioned in any press or any­thing about them. As an East Asian woman, she would have been mar­gin­alised in a weird way if that was a part of her nar­ra­tive, so I think it shows the change in our per­cep­tions in those 20 years. If they came out now, they would prob­a­bly be tak­en a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent way than they were back then. I remem­ber when I first heard them – there was a whirl­wind of colour, a whirl­wind of joy and a bit of rebel­lion in those par­ty tunes. I remem­ber my mum think­ing it was so strange that I was into them.


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