A mix of the personal and political underscored by riotous rhythms and a sistah-hood ethos, DIY punks Big Joanie have released their highly anticipated debut album Sistahs today. Recorded at Hermitage Works Studio with producer Margo Broom and released via Thurston Moore & Eva Prinz’s new label The Daydream Library Series, Sistahs is a strong debut from a band who have been actively working on and off-stage within London’s DIY scene for years.
Together, Steph, Estella & Chardine have been busy running the Decolonise Fest for punks of colour, volunteering at Girls Rock Camp and leading the Stop Rainbow Racism campaign, which works to stop racist performances in LGBTQ venues. Their combined pro-active efforts have resulted in the creation of 11 songs that tackle issues of self-motivation, race, equality, and letting go of unhealthy relationships.
The pensive and highly relatable opening track ‘New Year’ brims with a quiet yearning to kick start something, to stop waiting. It’s followed by ‘Fall Asleep’ with its infectious bass lines and wicked guitar riffs. The introduction of electronics 1:44 minutes in is ultra cool, and was inspired by the likes of Joy Division and New Order (which is why Producer Margo added a wall of synths and drum beats.)
‘Used To Be Friends’ is an anthem everyone can sing with confidence with a sarcastic smile and no real sense of aggro – just the care-free attitude of someone who’s shed the skin of an unhealthy acquaintance. ‘Eyes’ is a cacophony of guitars, percussion and recorder. It’s one of the first songs guitarist Steph wrote aged nineteen, inspired by her disdain for “working a part-time job handing out over-priced artisan bread at Waitrose”.
‘Way Out’ is a wonderful, reverb-soaked, 90s-esque tune, whilst the brief ‘Down Down’ spirals along with its driving percussion for just shy of two minutes, before the surf-pop-style ‘Tell A Lie’ lifts listeners up again. Much like ‘Used To Be Friends’, ‘Token’ laments an unhealthy friendship, although this time it’s about the feeling of ‘tokenism’ experienced by people of colour when middle class white people decide to befriend them as a poor act of liberalism.
‘It’s You’ was born from a bad situation. After the lead singer from Steph’s first band (My Therapist Says Hot Damn) left just three days before their next gig – ‘It’s You’ was one of the many songs she had to write from scratch to play at the show. The penultimate ‘How Could You Love Me’ will have you swaying from side-to-side as it rings out in 60s girl group style, whilst closing track ‘Cut Your Hair’ is a vulnerable but optimistic ode to predicting a relationship is over before you or your partner are willing to admit it.
Despite their breezy, confident nature, the contexts of Big Joanie’s songs on Sistahs are powerful because the relay the struggles of everyday. Whether that’s having your mind turned to mush by a boring job, falling out with yourself, or others around you, they’re three women of colour talking about their life experiences to the backdrop of marching beats and punk-inspired riffs. That’s something the world needs plenty more of in our opinion.