'Don't Call Me Cupcake': T-Rextasy Will Make You Wanna Be a Punk Rocker
T–Rextasy, from left: Kahn, Nazon-Power, Faron, Fidoten, and Abraham
First off: T-Rextasy is not a T. Rex cover band. Nor are they "good for girls." What they are is a talented New York quintet. Yes, they are all women; no, they are not chicks. As vocalist Lyris Faron chirps in a faux-Southern, "Valley Girl" voice on the song "Chick’n": "I am not a piece of food/Don’t call me cupcake or honey pie/Pet names make me wanna fucking die."
On a brutally sunny Friday afternoon last week, Faron and her friends and bandmates — guitarists Lena Abraham and Vera Kahn, bassist Annie Fidoten, and drummer Ebun Nazon-Power — are lounging on West Village park benches, having just returned from a gig in Philly on their first-ever tour. College pals drove the band to and from the show, since, like all good Manhattan natives, no one in the band drives. Kahn has glitter on her face and, along with Faron, sports a neon-bright T-Rextasy shirt. They’re carrying their laundry, sleeping bags, and yoga mats. Faron needs to get to the post office before it closes, to ship off cassettes of their debut album, Jurassic Punk, that they’ve sold online.
The word novelty comes to mind when considering their music, and today’s mood, as one imagines it always is with this band, is irrepressibly enthusiastic, bordering on goofy. It’s easy to get a feel for their vibe by listening to Jurassic Punk. Along with the very specific, anti-belittlement message of "Chik’n," the record includes "Gap Yr Boiz," whose lyrics deliver a litany of over-privileged, early-twenties ex-boyfriends with a gleeful sneer; "Sorry Not Sorry," a weird song that’s just over a minute long; and the smile-inducing mission statement of "I Wanna Be a Punk Rocker," on which Faron defends her choices to imaginary displeased parents: "I know I didn't select a very lucrative art/But I gotta listen to the beating of my moshing heart." As Kahn notes, "we realize that a lot of our songs are about characters and stories, and full of alliteration, and jokey, so I think novelty is an appropriate phrase."
As tourists crowd around the fountain in Father Demo Square and Harley Davidsons roar by, the band members debate their influences and disinterests: artists from the Go-Go’s to Patti Smith, to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (not fans!), to the Breeders (fans), and then to the the riot grrrl movement. "We always get asked about it, as if it’s our only influence and it was the only time women made music," explains Faron, irked as she considers the frequent comparison.
Despite the work of their foremothers, T-Rextasy say they’ve felt that they've been "seen as kind of a gimmick or a sideshow act, rather than these talented people who just happen to identify as women." Drummer Nazon-Power, perched on top of her knapsack, continues. "I think what we do is important, especially in the New York DIY music scene, [which is] so serious sometimes. Lyris is flailing around in the front; I’m screaming and singing in the back. It’s different from what I’ve experienced, at least, in the scene."
Kahn, who attended LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts as a vocal major and has a solid grounding in music theory, concurs. "We have garnered a pretty solid reputation. We did our release at (all-ages Brooklyn venue) Shea Stadium, and our homecoming show at Silent Barn." She also says that fast-rising queer punk outfit PWR BTTM mentored T-Rextasy as they began playing around town, and that early press often mentioned T-Rextasy alongside Frankie Cosmos, "so I guess we are part of this scene."
It’s a community that skews young, and so does T-Rextasy — four of them are 20, and Kahn is 19. They get black-markered Xs on their hands when they gig at bars, which means "none of our friends can come [to those shows], and then their fakes are taken away," laughs Faron. But, she continues, "We realized recently that if we didn’t talk about sex, and took the few curse words out, we could be a kids’ band!"
As young as they are, though, they sometimes draw a much older crowd. Like many of their DIY contemporaries, T-Rextasy has been featured on NPR’s music blog, alerting the demographic of older indie fans who follow Bob Boilen’s every directive. And while they appreciate the attention, that’s not who matters most. "We were talking about this in the car: So much music now is about high school nostalgia, and our songs are [just] really fun, rather than embedded in melancholy or nostalgia," explains Faron. "We [recently] played a house show that was all sixteen-year-olds. They really connected to what we were saying in a way that maybe twenty to thirty year olds can’t. That’s really more than OK with me."
We head to Popbar on Carmine Street to get away from the heat. While the band dances to "Thriller" as it plays over the shop’s speakers, Kahn reflects on Faron’s point, recounting the time she met a middle-school band whose members said a T-Rextasy show changed their life. "If we’re inspiring these 13-year-old kids to play in bands, especially girls and non-binary people," says Kahn, "I can die happy."
T-Rextasy play Silent Barn on Friday, June 17.
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