Tahlia Borg and Cahli Blakers from Teenage Joans invite CityMag into their poster-covered world to discuss how high school informed their sound and why they're happy to have found their ilk.
How growing pains made two punk teens supreme
Although they’ve only known each other for a year, Tahlia Borg and Cahli Blakers of Teenage Joans appear life-long friends.
The grunge girls are so close you’d expect them to be wearing one half of the same heart-shaped necklace, but instead they represent a slice of Adelaide’s ever-evolving sound.
Tahlia and Cahli are always posting about one another on Instagram – calling each other “doofus” or “chief” – and when this CityMag reporter meets them to discuss how the long-haired yahoos have created such a buzz in the live music scene so quickly, they’re falling into each other’s sentences.
“The first time me and Cahli met was at my house and I was feeling really nervous,” says Tahlia, the drummer who is five-foot-nothing, covered in badges and about to start her last year of high school.
“You were like, ‘Oh, how are you gonna get here?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just take the bus,’ and you said ‘Don’t take the bus!’,” interjects singer and guitarist Cahli, who wears a Heaps Good Friends band t-shirt, is a recent high school graduate and no less energetic.
“We spent most of the day talking instead of actually jamming, and I was there for 11 hours or something like that,” adds Cahli. “We talked about everything.”
“I was in school and you were finishing school, and we were just talking about school and not being the cool kids,” says Tahlia.
“We were just talking about that and music and I don’t know, we did a huge get-to-know-you session.”
We caught Tahlia and Cahli right before playing the final leg of a national tour supporting indie-rock heavyweights Hey Harriet.
Outside the Crown and Anchor Teenage Joans revel in stories of how they brought their angsty two-piece across Australia, playing to crowds of varying sizes – some band rooms were full of 50 or 15 people – and even having time to celebrate Tahlia’s 17th birthday.
“My mum came with us too and brought a cake on stage,” laughs Tahlia.
“And on the tour she was great – she made food.”
It might be hard to fathom how two young teenagers have already managed a national tour, but it makes sense if you’ve seen a Teenage Joans live performance.
Cahli coasts through vocals with a steely attitude and kicks her tartan pants into power moves, and Tahlia hammers away on her kit and drops in the occasional smirk or harmony.
Teenage Joans started with Cahli being scouted as a solo musician to open for local rock music fixtures The Hard Aches. Realising she wanted a band for backing, she found Tahlia through a friend just over a year ago.
“I was planning to get a bassist and maybe another guitarist, but after the first like gig I was like ‘This is fine, this works and there’s ways to get around not having a bassist nowadays,” says Cahli.
They describe their sound as being on the punk side but more modern than bands that they love, like Blink 182 or Thirty Seconds To Mars.
So far, Teenage Joans have opened for musicians like Bec Stevens and Ruby Fields, and despite the haters, were selected to play live at Laneway Adelaide earlier this year as part of the Girls Rock! initiative which aims to drive female participation in music.
Tahlia says this was a big win for her as she isn’t liked by some of her classmates.
“Me and my friends are kind of like not outcasts but… outcasts,” explains Tahlia.
“Girls don’t really like me at school so I don’t really like them either. When we played Laneway one of them came and saw us and couldn’t handle it so she turned around and looked away.”
Tahlia says this feeling of not fitting in has inspired some of the other songs, and lyrically some tracks lean into “typical teenage delinquent vibes.”
Teenage Joans will release their first recorded single, ‘By The Way’, at the Crown and Anchor on Sunday, 24 November. After that they will perform at rock-and-roll mini-festival Stonecutters 2019 at the Lions Arts Factory on Friday, 14 December with surf-rock headliners SKEGSS and other national fire-starters.
Although the pair has experienced growing pains, they said they’re happy to be where they are now. They constantly hear a rallying cry from other musicians within the community, and are happy to have found each other.
“There’s so many people who have embraced us and been so lovely to us,” says Cahli. “It’s weird but it’s wonderful.”