Brash, bold and hilarious: Sailor Poon creates their own punk style


A Sailor Poon show is not a genteel affair. The all-female, five-piece garage band bills itself as “always crude, never prude.” Their crowd-favorite, singalong hit is the 2016 track “Leather Daddy,” a defiant 2 1/2-minute audio assault with mostly unprintable lyrics that demand sexual favors and new shoes before politely admonishing the track’s protagonist: “Now please leave.”

They are loud, raucous and a bit unhinged.

“We try to just do fun or funny or interesting things,” says Sarah Cuk, the group’s keyboard player.

They once placed a man on stage in a baby crib. Saxophonist and vocalist Billie Buck took a weed whacker on stage at a gig and at another she fashioned herself a pork chop bikini that she tossed into the crowd at the end of the set.

The pork chops were pan-fried and finished in the oven, but still, Buck says, “I sincerely hope no one actually tried (them).”

In true punk rock fashion, their antics are often shoddily executed. “We don’t really plan them out very well,” says Mariah Stevens-Ross, the group’s bassist.

Baby dude rocked out too hard and broke his crib, toppling a monitor off-stage, where it hit a woman in the crowd. She was fine, but the band’s guitarist stormed off the stage and refused to play the rest of the show. (She’s no longer with the band.) Another time they recreated the iconic scene in Stephen King’s “Carrie,” dumping a bucket of blood-colored paint on a band member. The venue staff was not amused.

“Most recently we asked our friend if he would be our dog onstage,” Buck says. “He’s our weird freak friend so he’s like, ‘Yeah, I’m down for whatever.’”

The pup-to-be showed up to the club on the tail end of a three-day bender, “three sheets to the wind,” Buck says. “So when the time comes I’m like, ‘You filthy pooch! Where is that pooch?’ looking around. And then he bungles himself onto the stage, knocks everything over including myself, so then we’re just rolling in a pit of beer and electrical wires. It was great.”

The band started three years ago when Buck, Cuk and Stevens-Ross were all in college and living together in a rented duplex. They modeled their sound after ’60s proto-punk outfit the Sonics, but they also borrowed liberally from other sources. When they practiced, their landlord, who lived next door, would bang on the wall. He told them it sounded like elephants were stampeding through his house. They considered that a compliment.

They were brash, bold and hilarious.

“(Audiences see) all these girls onstage and they expect it to be terrible, so let’s just give them that and be really tongue-in-cheek about it,” Stevens-Ross says.

But they had chemistry. They were slyly subversive. They caught on fast and soon moved from playing campus-area house parties into the clubs. They were booked onto the first (and only) Sound on Sound Festival, and this year they will play Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 7.

RELATED: The toughest conflicts in this year’s ACL Fest schedule 

The weekend before, they play the indie-punk Gonerfest in Memphis.

“The person who booked us said, ‘I think you guys are the first and only band ever to play ACL Fest and Gonerfest,’” Stevens-Ross says.

Sailor Poon’s music is gleefully explicit and raw. They are not at all shy about putting the female parts up front. Their catalog includes songs like “Butts,” “On the Rag” and Boobies.”

“We’re definitely all feminists, but we kind of take it in a way where it’s more in your face about the bodily aspects of being a woman and taking up space as an actual human,” Buck says.

“I’ve heard people (at shows) who are, like, confused,” guitarist and vocalist Madison Whitaker says. “They’re like, ‘They’re really sexy, but they seem really mad, like we’re not supposed to look at them, and I’m just really confused.’”

In Austin, their fanbase skews male and over 40.

“It’s kind of weird. We always say, ‘Oh, our target market’s here.’ They’re all, like, sitting down,” Buck says.

“White Male Meltdown,” a standout track on their 2017 release “B-Sides and Rarities,” addresses the day-to-day condescension they experience from “the male species” of musicians.

“Hashtag yes, all men,” Whitaker says with a laugh.

During a soundcheck at a South by Southwest gig this year, she had barely turned on her guitar amp when the sound man shut her down.

“He gets on stage and he starts tampering with all the knobs on the amp and my stuff, and literally one of the lyrics in one of our songs is like, (in a mocking voice) ‘Oh, how’s our guitar tone? Can you help me out with this?’” she says.

Sonically, the band has evolved over the years. “We kind of started off very punk because we didn’t know how to play, most of us … then we got to be kind of poppy and lighthearted,” Buck says.

“We at least try to touch on a lot of different genres, but the main purpose of that is to make fun of it. It’s kind of a nice outlet to get back at people. Making fun of their music by playing it, by stealing their riffs,” Cuk says.

“Shockingly, we don’t really offend that many people, it seems like, which is kind of upsetting,” Stevens-Ross says.

“We’re always trying to see how we can push people’s buttons,” Buck says.

She’s an illustrator and graphic designer, and she “Richard Avedon-ified” the band to create a knockoff of the famous psychedelic Beatles posters for a run of “Better Than the Beatles” T-shirts she created for their tour of the same name.

“We sold a whole bunch at our Hot Summer Nights show,” she says. “They went surprisingly well. We didn’t have any white male meltdowns about them, which was the intention. So it was kind of like, ‘Come on, not even a little bit of resentment?’”

They remain optimistic that the tees will provoke plenty of ire when they sell them at ACL Fest next month.

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