Andrew Piccone

T-Rextasy Just Wanna Be Punk Rockers

The New York punks on defying labels and defining the future for themselves

“I am not a piece of food,” T-Rextasy announce on “Chik’N,” the first track from their cleverly named debut LP, Jurassic Punk. It’s a declaration of independence from a band young enough to fearlessly defy expectations, and brave enough to truly subvert them.

“Some people, especially adults, have brought up ‘Chik’N’ in a way that implies that somehow the subject of ‘women as meat’ isn’t relevant anymore," bassist Annie Fidoten tells MTV News. “Sort of like, ‘Oh, don’t we all know that women aren’t meat? Isn’t that obvious?’ But to me, especially at the age of 17, it felt completely relevant and powerful to make sure people knew that I was NOT a piece of food.”

Fidoten, singer Lyris Faron, drummer Ebun Nazon-Power, and guitarists Lena Abraham and Vera Kahn formed T-Rextasy when they were New York City high school kids who bonded over their love of classic riot grrrl. Now, as college students, they’ve graduated to blending biting sarcasm with irresistible grooves, crushing all traditional notions of institution and gender in their wake.

On “I Wanna Be a Punk Rocker,” they break the news to “daddy dearest” that the future is theirs to define: “I’m aware I am defying your expectations / But I wanna feel every earsplitting vibration.” Below, the self-proclaimed “girl gang” map out what it means to be a Jurassic Punk on their own terms.

I read that T-Rextasy was originally intended to be a ska band. Is that a real thing? If so, tell me everything.

Vera Kahn: It’s been my dream to play in a ska band. One of the first songs we learned as a band was “Sunday Morning” by No Doubt, so there is definitely ska in our roots. Our most ska song is one that I came up with the idea for: “Yellow Jacket Boy." My goal in music is to get people to dance, and ska has that groove that gets people moving.

Your lyrics are very clever in the way that they play around with labels. Can you discuss how you are co-opting labels through your songs? It's such a power move!

Annie Fidoten: We definitely are trying to co-opt labels!

In high school, everything felt very immediate. I remember performing “I Wanna Be a Punk Rocker” in high school and feeling completely powerful, because even though the song is sarcastic in many ways, there was something about standing in front of rooms of high school boys in a group of all women and singing “I wanna be a punk rocker” over and over again. Later, I listened to Sleater-Kinney’s “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone," and felt a similar sense of power from that song.

You offer glimpses at your New York backgrounds on songs like “I Wanna Be a Punk Rocker” — houses in the Hamptons, therapists, etc. As natives to the city, what’s your definition of what makes a New York band?

Lyris Faron: Before high school, I went to a school on the Upper East Side and was surrounded by a certain culture that I aimed to satirize in that song. We try to have a sense of humor while discussing bigger issues in our songs. I think that might connect to us being a “New York band” — we are witty, fast, sharp. You have to be if you live in New York.

New York City's DIY scene has influenced and helped us a lot, despite its occasional drawbacks. The venues are down to take a chance on a baby band. The first time we played Shea Stadium was with Frankie Cosmos when we only had three songs recorded on Voice Memos and probably around 70 likes. I don’t think we would have been afforded the same opportunities had we lived elsewhere.

Fidoten: I think that since we all came from different parts of Manhattan, we all had these different perspectives on what growing up here meant. Lyris wrote “I Wanna Be a Punk Rocker," but that song always resonated with me because it reminded me of my 8th grade Gossip Girl–fueled jealousy of girls who lived on the Upper East Side and went to private school and got to wear kilts every day. “Ms. Dolores” reminds me so much of all of the public school cafeterias I spent time in during my 12 years of education, and those terrible fumes of weird saucy meat and the excitement when those fumes were replaced with mozzarella sticks.

Kahn: New York made it impossible for me not to be doing music. I was in an awesome choir for 10 years called the Young People’s Chorus. I’m also gonna give a quick shout-out to the NYC Department of Education, because I know that my musical expertise is largely in part to my education as a vocal major at LaGuardia High School.

Ebun Nazon-Power: My first real exposure to “punk” music was when I was about 12 or 13 years old, when I attended this amazing camp in Brooklyn called Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, which is where I learned how to play the drums. Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill came to the camp to conduct a workshop on punk rock and feminism, and after that I became obsessed with the whole riot grrrl punk feminist scene. Attending that camp really allowed me to be around an extremely supportive community of girls, women, and trans and non-binary people who played music and were unapologetic about it. Being in that kind of an environment at a young age really influenced the way I see myself in relation to music and my own abilities, and also how I see the New York DIY music scene and learn how to be open and supportive of other female musicians.

Lena Abraham: The high school Ebun and I went to had this really great after-school music program where you would form bands and perform at places like Arlene’s Grocery. It was really cool to have those experiences at that stage in my life because I ceased being nervous before every performance, and was able to feel comfortable on a stage or in front of a crowd playing music. I formed one band with my friends at school, another band with friends from school and another friend from a different school, and then T-Rextasy. In that sense, the New York City public school system really shaped my networking and band-forming abilities. … Having those bands in high school allowed me to play shows at DIY venues in Brooklyn at a young age, places like Death By Audio and Silent Barn.

You guys are still in school, but does post-grad anxiety ever influence your music? I get the vibe of worrying about the future on tracks like "Punk Rocker" and “Ms. Dolores” — kind of the question of, “where will my life end up?”

Fidoten: Actually, “Ms. Dolores” has always been associated with a deep nostalgia for the past and an anxiety about the future for me. I remember performing it all the time during the summer before college, and thinking about the lunch lady at Lyris’s and my high school that it was about and worrying about missing school (even though I couldn’t wait to leave).

Faron: It’s funny because we wrote it before college! We all have 2 to 3 years left in school, so I haven’t yet thought deeply about the future. I try to live in Le Now.

Nazon-Power: This is something that is literally always on my mind even though I just finished my freshman year of college.

As a band, the future expectations thing is something that we honestly have not really delved into yet. It is especially challenging since we all go to separate schools and some of us are in other bands and have other plans for after college. It’s scary but exciting and ultimately I think that things will work out the way that they need to.

Kahn: When we started, we were in high school, so we had the whole world ahead of us. It felt like a big deal because we were this precocious band of young'uns. Obviously, we are still very young, but it feels a little different now playing these songs at 20 as opposed to 18.

College is also a funny thing. Residential colleges are these weird non-places, so it’s easy to forget that real life is happening right now. My only life expectation as of right now is to keep playing music with my friends at school and away from school.

Abraham: I think the future for us is very open, and at this point I feel like we can steer it in any direction we choose.

We probably all know that the New York punk scene can often be a really shitty place for girls. But what’s something truly positive and/or inspiring that’s happened to you while playing music in New York?

Nazon-Power: It’s not just the punk scene, but most music scenes that have disregarded women and treated them like shit. What I have seen in the past couple of years in the New York DIY music scene is an increase in musicians of color, which is extremely important. I think that, being a part of the New York DIY music scene, it’s really easy for white people to believe that they are creating safe spaces for people of color, trans people, etc., when really, they are creating safe spaces for themselves. It really sucks. But I think with bands like Aye Nako and Vagabon — who are not predominantly white, cis, and hetero — taking the stage in Brooklyn, we're beginning to change the dialogue on what it means to be a “DIY New York band.”

Abraham: Meeting and networking with other bands that are not white cis men is always a positive experience! Organizations like Willie Mae and magazines like Tom Tom are really important. Building connections through shows and volunteering is my favorite part.

Kahn: The most uplifting thing that I’ve learned from playing in bands is that you have to rely on the compassion of strangers. Strangers who want to come to your shows, strangers that will put you up for the night, strangers who want to book your bands. It’s an incredible way to feel about the future, knowing that there are people all over who we have yet to meet that will be there to lend a hand and support us.

Faron: I think it’s amazing that our music has reached beyond New York, and that people all over the world are listening. Although I have always been confident about us, it’s still difficult for me to comprehend that what we made while practicing in a spare room at Lena’s parents' house is now being heard on an international scale.

Jurassic Punk is out now via Father/Daughter Records and Miscreant Records.