Under the Radar: Sailor Poon keeps punk alive in Austin

Emily Gibson

Punk-rock enthusiasts have grieved the genre’s death since the early ’80s, but Austin-based Sailor Poon are reviving punk dreams of the ’70s.  

The band is composed of seven members — Billie Buck, Ursula Barker, UT alumna Tilde Snyder, Mariah Stevens-Ross, Sarah Cuk, Shea Selby and Anna Murray — who perform under different names on stage. The all-girl punk outfit plays at least one show a week, but, sometimes, that number reaches four or five shows. Their next performance is Friday at Swan Dive.  

“Some weeks get really crazy and are pretty much show after show,” Selby said. “Then other weeks we’re just chilling and trying to write new songs.”

The band members said they constantly find new material, describing their sound as “post-sincerity” and “garage punk.” But, because they don’t want to conform to one genre, they said they write songs with a variety of sounds.

“We have our hit country song, ‘Ol’ Bessie,’ and we have a Slayer-esque song called ‘Butt Gush,’” Snyder said. “So, a funk song will probably be our next endeavor. We want to be every genre.”

Although they grew up playing music, the members didn’t decide to form a group until a little over a year ago after they finished school. They said they wanted to shake-up the overly male Austin music scene.

“A big reason why we started [Sailor Poon] is because we were tired of seeing all dicks on stage all the time,” Buck said.

The band members said they are satirizing the occasionally self-indulgent music scene. Stevens-Ross compared their lyrics to the influential punk-artist Patti Smith. She said, similar to the way Smith fused her poetry and music to find her voice, Sailor Poon use the words to express itself.

“Most of our lyrical stuff is stuff that we want to say,” Selby said. “And all of our lyrics are kind of a joke but are also the truth at the same time.”

The band members said they feel treated differently than their male counterparts. When venues are looking to book female artists, they said being an all-girl band works in their favor. Although being a female band seems to make people more interested in them, they said they wish it wasn’t such a spectacle.

“When we’re setting up, guys will always come up to us and say, ‘Wow, an all girl band,’” Barker said. “But it shouldn’t be a surprise. We’re like, ‘Cool, but why do you give a shit that we’re women?’ We’re people; it doesn’t matter.”

Selby said the lack of female musicians in Austin inspires the members to seek out other women to collaborate with, such as the female-fronted Three Bones who helped them record their EP. They said they are excited about the number of up-and-coming Austin bands with female members.

“More women and more screaming are what we’re going for,” Selby said.

The members said being in a band has provided tthem with many positive experiences, including the opportunity to inspire other female artists and hang out with their “Squad Fam,” or other bands they have become close to.

For Snyder, being a musician has made her become more outgoing and comfortable in front of crowds.

“It’s great to be forced to not give a shit what people think about you,” she said. “Cause you’re like, ‘You might hate me; you might love me, but it doesn’t change anything at the end of the day.’”

Looking forward, the members of Sailor Poon said they hope to continue writing and recording music and spend some time on tour. They also said they want people to buy the novelty underwear they have for sale.

“I just really want to see a guy wearing Sailor Poon granny panties,” Barker said.