Genre-Blending Punk Lady Apple Is One of St. Louis' Most Exciting New Bands

With its mix of R&B, punk, rock & roll and more, the group has quickly made a name for itself

Dec 9, 2022 at 6:48 am
click to enlarge Punk Lady Apple is off to an impressive start. - VIA THE BAND
Punk Lady Apple is off to an impressive start.

As a new band, Punk Lady Apple proved itself early on.

The five-piece group played nonstop shows this past summer, quickly making a name for itself in St. Louis' punk and rock scenes and establishing a clear voice, with tough yet sincere vocals on queer love and an invigorating rush of punk, alternative rock and R&B.

"It was super sweet from the very beginning," lead songwriter Jarris Williams says of the St. Louis music community. "The band was received so warmly from the start. Everyone just held us up from the first show on, which inspired us to go on the summer run that we did."

Led by Williams on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Punk Lady Apple is a dream team of talented instrumentalists. There's Madison Cannon on bass and Native Sound Recordings owner David Beeman on drums. Lead guitarist Jesse Edmister has been in other local bands over the years, including current project Lucky Shells. Elexus Adams, on keytar, keys and backing vocals, is also a professional jazz pianist.

Although "punk" comes with the name, Punk Lady Apple has an open mind about genre.

"We started as a punk band when I was writing more punk-y songs at the start of the project in 2021," Williams explains. "I was very protective of that label and wanted to retain being a punk band, but to be honest, we're more of a rock band in general."

The band's members attribute its sound to a combination of eclectic influences: Sade, Oasis, Mariah Carey, Frank Ocean and Dead Kennedys. Its ever-shifting composition styles all have an energetic passion in common, as does a punk song and an R&B song.

In the past, Williams had done some solo work as a rapper and producer. She and Cannon had been scheming to make music together for quite some time but never got around to it. The opportunity to collaborate finally came in 2021 at the local scene's annual Halloween cover show. Williams, Cannon and Adams won over the audience with their covers of '90s girl-group TLC.

Williams used that momentum to bring her friends together to form Punk Lady Apple, promptly playing their first gig at a house show in November 2021. The band has been playing frequently ever since, feeling right at home at local venues such as the Sinkhole, Heavy Anchor, Off Broadway and various DIY spaces.

Punk Lady Apple's songs came from Williams' decision to focus on guitar again since learning the instrument as a child. She began writing guitar-based songs and lyrics in mid-2020 and brought structural ideas and demos to Punk Lady Apple's band practices in 2021. In quick succession, those songs grew into recordings. Punk Lady Apple released its debut self-titled EP this past October, recorded at Beeman's well-established local studio, Native Sound Recordings, in south city.

The four tracks on the EP each highlight the different strengths and styles of the band, complementing each other and standing alone. "Paramour" is a grooving song with tropical keys and echoey, brooding guitar, as Williams' hypnotic vocals serenade: "I've got no girls today / just you and your weight." A distorted, throbbing guitar solo turns up the psychedelia a notch, edging out of the chorus and ending the song dreamily.

The listener will wake up when track two, "Steppin," comes on, jolting into a tough and hard mood: "I'm stepping on names / I'm stepping on facts." This is a confident punk-rock song, unafraid of negative space to emphasize slamming noise, with lyrics about being a freaky bitch, a "rainbow with the rats." The spitting verses and instruments step back and forth like boots on pavement, then free-fall into a wonderfully dizzying shoegazey segment of keys and sound.

"Home Dear" offers the most dazzling melody of the EP, drawn up and down by Williams' guitar and Adams' sparkling keys. The lyrics about apartment drama switch back and forth from tension to the verse's carefree, smooth energy, then Williams' screaming clashes out on the last refrain: "I just ripped the carpet off the fucking floor."

Punk Lady Apple's genre shifts continue until the final track, a tribute to old-school R&B and soul, with a cover of Otis Redding's "These Arms of Mine." Williams' heartfelt voice yearns in bursts against guest instrumentalist Sam Golden's rising violin, ending the EP with an earnest call for letting love in. This emotional tenderness is what the band is all about, according to Williams.

"This music is about being soft and vulnerable," she explains. "Even when we're playing a rager, we're probably mad or dissatisfied because we were hurt or let down in some way. Staying connected with vulnerability and poetry is sort of the point of the music we're doing here."

Punk Lady Apple is about to celebrate its one-year birthday at Sorority House on Saturday, December 17, after taking a well-deserved gig hiatus. The band has been working on new songs, hoping to record again in the near future. As it transitions from the "new band" label to a more established St. Louis act, it will be exciting to follow Punk Lady Apple's fruitfulness.

"I think our sound is still getting sharpened," Williams says. "Always with a punk spirit, though."

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