SXSW 2023 Interview: Teenage Joans

SXSW 2023 Interview: Teenage Joans

March 31, 2023 in Features

by Mary Dougherty- DJ Dad Shoes

Over SXSW 2023, I got the opportunity to sit down with some of the coolest, most eye-opening young women in music I have ever spoken to. Teenage Joans is a female, indie-rock band all the way from down under in Adelaide, Australia made up of Cahli Blakers, 21, and Tahlia Borg, 20. Despite their busy schedule, we chatted for a bit before their debut SXSW performance at Lucille, followed by two other official showcases over the next few days. We discussed their first SXSW, their musical inspirations, 5 Seconds of Summer, and the future plans for Teenage Joans (spoiler alert, there’s A LOT). Borg and Blakers did not go to the same school, but they grew up in the same city and met through a music workshop and decided to try out making music together at the developmental ages of 15 and 17. The first thing they bonded over was 5 Seconds of Summer, which was very refreshing to hear that “bands made up of boys” are creating bonds all across the world. They started playing music together and later won The triple j “2020 Unearthed High competition”, which they actually surprised Borg with while at school. This award gave them the push, platform, and opportunity to continue creating music for Teenage Joans to see what it’ll grow into.

Despite being young (Blakers not even being old enough to get into the venues they are performing at) they are not letting that stop them from taking over SXSW 2023. With performances throughout the week, many people were going to get the opportunity to see the unique duo that is Teenage Joans, and I believe everyone should. I asked them about their overall emotions and if they were nervous. There were so many factors that came into play, across the world, young, playing at a huge festival, yet they seem very calm and collected. Blakers did state that they were nervous though, especially worried that no one would come, “nerves mean you care” she stated. When we talked, they hadn’t performed a SXSW showcase yet so they didn’t know 100% of what to expect. Considering they were some of the youngest performers at SXSW, there were big stages to take over with even bigger crowds. After chatting with them though, I have learned that they are some of the coolest people I have ever met, and definitely killed every single SXSW performance.

Being a woman in general can come with its challenges, from being disrespected in everyday life to laws being made to control your body, it can be hard as a woman in this day in age to be heard, let alone supported. Teenage Joans are part of a genre that is extremely male-dominated, specifically controlled by older men who will grip onto punk rock until they are 6 feet underground. I needed to know how it felt to be such strong performers (and people) in an industry that can look down on young women. “We don't wanna put ourselves in a box with “women in a band” even though we are”. They believe their identity plays a role in the music they create, but they don’t want to simply be known as women in punk, especially since “most men don’t get called ‘men in music’”. I believe they are playing a foundational role in the change in music for women, and their outgoing personalities and amazing music will help them steamroll the ignorant people who get in their way. I am extremely excited to see how much they change throughout their careers.

It is never a linear experience when creating music for them, while they always write songs together, some are started with a guitar riff while others simply with lyrics. There’s also never a time limit when creating as well, they explained to me how some songs can be completed in one round, while others, specifically “Terrible” was written THREE times before they felt it was completed. Many influences come into play when working on their projects though. Although they both play punk music, their influences are very different from each other, which I believe helps the music they are creating grow to its full potential. Blakers grew up on Lana Del Rey and was a big fan of Ed Sheeran. On the other hand, Borg enjoys listening to a wide range of pop-punk bands and artists from Australia to America. I genuinely believe this difference in taste is very beneficial for their music and it gives them the opportunity to push boundaries, which they have been doing. They did seem to bond over an iconic band “Camp Cope” which is an all-women's rock-trio band from Australia. They spoke about how inspiring they are as women in rock and as people in general, and definitely are influenced by them when songwriting.

There are big plans and very bright futures for these strong women. They are currently on tour with the British band “Pale Waves” and are working to release their debut album by the end of this year. While you wait for the album, they are set to release a new single this month (April 2023). If you haven’t listened to them I recommend you do. They truly are a one-of-a-kind pair of young women who have a lot of charisma and passion for the music they are making. Saying I am extremely excited to see what is to come for them is an understatement because I know it’ll be grand. I am not sure if it’s the similar taste in music or the fact that we were similar in age, but I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with them (and I wanna be their friend so badly). Teenage Joans, thank you so much for speaking with me (and letting me ask questions about Australia’s slang and culture lol) have safe travels back home and I hope we get to talk again soon! Go follow them on their social media platforms, @teenagejoans, and keep an eye out for this talented duo.

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