Is Punk Still Male-Dominated?: T-Rextasy on 'Jurassic Punk,' Gender, and the Industry

By Kenneth Miller

It was past midnight, and that meant quiet hours. There was a noise complaint filed against the students who occupied the room across from mine, and as a newly-hired, wannabe staunch Resident Assistant, I jumped to my feet to reprimand the inconsiderate rulebreakers. 

As soon as I opened my door, reverbs of truly irresistible, tongue-in-cheek punk tunes flooded the hallway. Repetitious shoutings of “I do, I do, I do, I do love you” vibrated the walls, and along with these exaltations were stringy, garage-punk chords reminiscent of those popularized in the riot grrrl movement. At the time, I was obsessed with the musical epoch, even taking a media class that critiqued the problematic “riot grrrl,” studying texts including Sara Marcus’ chronicle “Girls to the Front.” These individuals were pluckily subverting casual misogyny, and I was loving every second of it. 

When the resident answered the door, the ska-punk grooves got louder and the lyrics more alarmingly humourous. The resident explained he was helping out an all-girl band from Brooklyn with their upcoming EP release; he recorded the 3-track dynamite in his basement earlier that year and it was set to be released in March of 2015. He informed me the group was called T-Rextasy. And they were definitely a band to watch out for.

Instead of writing up an incident report that night, I checked out the band’s first single, “Ms. Dolores,” a nuanced love letter filled with dubious fear and endless admiration for a missing lunch lady. The praising, dancey tune has since been produced and placed on the group’s 2016 debut album, Jurassic Punk, off of Miscreant Records and Father/Daughter Records. 

“We all first started playing music together in 2013 during the fall of our senior year of high school,” lead singer Lyris Faron tells Hooligan. “By then, Ebun [Nazon-Power] and Lena [Abraham] had been playing in bands together for a few years. I started playing guitar my freshman year of high school and have been seriously writing music since then.”

Aside from Faron’s swooning vocals, Nazon-Power is on drums, Abraham and Vera Kahn wield guitars, and Annie Fidoten slays the bass. Even after parting their NYC roots and beginning their collegiate careers, the group has stayed intact, releasing an album that possesses equally loud sounds and emotions. 

Charged with mysterious amounts of power, T-Rextasy’s 8-track album is stuffed with audaciously quick tunes, like teeny nuggets of gold unearthed to ease your tested nerves during your morning commute on the J train. And with reminders of the hilarity of your NYC surroundings (“I Wanna Be a Punk Rocker” rings of crazed therapist ventures and trips to the Hamptons), we should all be grateful for the punching laughs we’re continually handed over the course of the album.

Jurassic Punk holds true to the riot grrrl message the band originally bonded over back in high school. The group continues to discredit and poke fun at those who hold women, and trans and non-binary folk to a lower socio-political standard. With the album's’ opener, “Chik’N,” Faron exalts, “I am NOT a piece of food,” while employing the clapping of T-Rextasy’s band members to keep the tempo. The lyrics suggest the sometimes not-so-obvious message that women are not meat for men’s subordinating and chomping pleasures. The song, and overall theme of the album, feels like a soft revelation that the world can be a fearless place to live in when surrounded by your closest friends. 

“Usually someone brings in a pretty fleshed out idea for a song, like most of the lyrics, and everyone else will compose their melodies, riffs, beats, et cetera off of that initial concept,” Faron says of T-Rextasy’s creative process. Fidoten adds, “Our experiences as women have influenced our music and was important in the conception of our band.”

There’s something about the way society tends to label a female-fronted band, like T-Rextasy, as an "all-girl band." The sentiment in these statements are usually meant positively, in revelatory ways that are good-intentioned and meant to showcase a furthered breakdown of the patriarchal setting within the music industry. Specifically in punk, a feminine-presenting individual’s performance has always been viewed as something revolutionary--a type of spectacle that needs to be observed, speculated, and gawked at loomingly.

But there's something damaging about the fact that we still find these observations as revelatory in 2016, over 40 years after the initial feminist breakthrough into punk with groups like BeBe K’Roche and The Blowdriers. And T-Rextasy thinks this rhetoric is even harmful and demeaning to projects like their own.

“We all continue to struggle to be recognized and respected as much as the mountains of dumb cis-dude bands all over the place,” Fidoten reiterates for Hooligan. “But, I think that the continued [insistence] that the scene is “male dominated” continues to pigeonhole all the other musicians [in] the scene as “other,” when really we are all making up a huge part of the scene.” 

T-Rextasy notes that many bands with dizzying heights of success in NYC’s DIY punk scene consist of women, and trans and non-binary individuals, like Aye Nako, PWR BTTM, and Told Slant. With the face of the genre no longer singularly a cis-white guy, can we, without falsehoods, say that the scene is male-dominated?

“It’s obviously not a bad thing to flaunt “femininity” in a performance or to write songs about our experiences as women,” Abraham remarks on the industry. “But, it’s really important to think about how our society genders sound in general.” 

This is an exciting new direction for the scene, and a very exciting future for the bands, like T-Rextasy, that are making it happen. This sense of scene survival, even resurgence, energizes and innervates the songs of Jurassic Punk. With the album’s aftermath, there’s nothing but tactful feels and a world to look forward to. 

T-Rextasy is on tour this June, making stops all along the U.S. If you’re unable to pick up a cassette of Jurassic Punk at one of the shows, make sure to download the album here

Images via. NPR and Facebook