EP: Stef Fi – ‘Girlhood’

A poignant reflection on grief, growth, and grappling with the repercussions of a racist world; Stef Fi has shared her debut EP, Girlhood, via Sistah Punk Records. Best known as the vocalist & guitarist of black feminist punk band Big Joanie, Stef Fi (aka Stephanie Phillips) has shared four alt-punk tracks that provide “sketches of a girl” resisting hate, and trying to find hope in the harshest of realities.

Mellow opener ‘What Remains’ broods with quiet intensity, setting the pensive, yet resistant tone of the EP. “Open wide and swallow divine” Stef directs, over steady beats and ominous guitar riffs. Her punk attitude breaks through on following track ‘Nowhere’. The quiet, uncertain lyrics of the verses contrast well with the distorted riffs and defiant words in the chorus.

“This town will be the death of me”, muses Stef on the eponymous ‘Girlhood’. The song was inspired by the footage of police attacking a young black girl at a Texas pool party in 2015. Extrapolating on what the victim may have felt, Stef delivers the line “I had spoken then I saw, I knew it was my time to fall” with calm resignation and maturity, powerfully contrasting with the violence the young girl experienced. It’s a jarring listen, but one that’s delivered with care and gentility.

‘The Garden’ closes the EP, with its rolling riffs, rumbling percussion, and more of Stef’s yearning vocals. Despite being rooted in inequality, Stef Fi’s Girlhood is a considerate, tender offering that showcases her talent as a songwriter, and as a woman who is dedicated to spotlighting the struggles of others.

Order your copy of Stef Fi’s debut EP on bandcamp. Follow her on Twitter for more updates.

Photo Credit: Nick Paulsen

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Big Joanie – ‘Sistahs’

DIY punks Big Joanie release their debut album Sistahs today, and it’s a mix of the personal and political; coupled with riotous rhythms and a sistah-hood ethos. Recorded at Hermitage Works Studio with producer Margo Broom, and released via Thurston Moore and 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 lame act of liberalism. Following track ‘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 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 – and that’s something the world needs plenty more of in our opinion.

Order your copy of Sistahs here. Follow Big Joanie on Facebook for more updates.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: Nova Twins – ‘Hit Girl’

Nova Twins were already on our ‘Hitlist’ after we reviewed their knockout EP Mood Swings last year, but with the release of new single ‘Hit Girl’ they’ve rocketed right back to the top of it.

Accompanied by a sleek monochrome video, ‘Hit Girl’ seethes with Nova Twins’ trademark lethal attitude and deviously distorted bass lines. “I’m just a girl / I’m feeling hostile” snarls guitarist & vocalist Amy, a line that resonates as deeply as Georgia’s thundering bass lines. The pair want to show the world that women – particularly women of colour – are not going to be overlooked in music anymore.

When speaking to AFROPUNK, the girls explained: “We wanted to kill people’s perception of what a rock act – and women in music – should look like/sound like! Women of colour still get pigeon-holed into genre specifics, like R&B or Hip Hop, and although we are amazing at performing these genres, we also pioneered a lot of other things too.”

With their defiant new single and existing dedication to challenging industry norms, Nova Twins have us riled and ready for more ferocious new music in 2018. Watch the video for ‘Hit Girl’ below and get your tickets for their headline gig at The Victoria on 24th May here (tickets are also available on DICE)

Follow Nova Twins on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: by Sana Abstrakt

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

ALBUM: Divide & Dissolve – ‘Abomination’

A sonic force to be reckoned with, Melbourne-based duo Divide & Dissolve‘s second album Abomination, released via Dero Arcade is a collection of heavy-instrumentals designed to “decolonize, dismantle white supremacy and empower people of colour & Indigenous people.”

Together, Takiaya Reed (saxophone, guitar, live effects) and Sylvie Nehill (drums, live effects) seek to undermine the forces that oppress them. The duo have been receiving praise and support since the release of their debut Basic in March 2017, which earned them the accolade of ‘Best Heavy Album’ at The Age Music Victoria Awards. This year they’ve been granted a support slot with Poliça on their forthcoming US tour, and after listening to Abomination, it’s easy to see why Divide & Dissolve are currently in demand.

Opening the album is the eponymous ‘Abomination’. It’s five minutes and fifty seconds of unnerving riffs and ceaseless cymbals, crashing together to form a desolate but powerful soundscape. It paves the way for eerie second track ‘Assimilation’, poised between chaos and calm from the moment it starts. There’s an intense power in the lack of lyrical content on these songs, which feels reflective of the repressed minorities the pair seek to support with their music. ‘Cultural Extermination’ is another shining example of this.

The spoken word from Minori Sanchiz-Fung on ‘Reversal’ is incredibly poignant. “By using English, I have let out many violent spirits. Words that I trust would in English, fling themselves against the wall,” speaks Minori from her “Immigrant Mind” in a composed, but visceral manner. Subtle, reverb-heavy guitar scores her incredible poetry, making this collaboration an intriguing and important listen. ‘Resistance’ follows with its manic sax sounds that ring out like defiant sirens in the face of adversity, resisting all notions of conformity.

The brief but bold ‘Re-appropriation’ demands immediate attention with more of the Divide & Dissolve’s crashing cymbals and abrasive riffs, before the penultimate ‘Reparations’ seeks to musically right the wrongs that white supremacy and patriarchy have inflicted on indigenous communities. Its slow-building, atmospheric nature seethes and soothes in equal measure, before ‘Indigenous Sovereignty’ closes this exploration of the unheard.

The eight tracks on Abomination are a platform on which Divide & Dissolve “transform the experience of space and time” and draw on the experiences of their ancestors and surroundings to create their unique and extraordinary sounds. It’s instrumentalist activism that seeks to disrupt the norm – and we love it.

Abomination is available to stream  & download now. Follow Divide & Dissolve on Facebook for more updates.

Photo Credit: @annasnowsill

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut