On June 12 at the Grand Victory in Brooklyn, NYS Music caught up with Jigsaw Youth, an all-girl punk-garage band from New York City. Offstage they are three unassuming teenagers, but onstage they let it all out as hardcore punk musicians. Hailing from Staten Island and Washington Heights, NY, Jigsaw Youth is made up of Maria Alvarez on bass, Isabella Occhipinti on drums and Nastacha Beck on guitar.
Beck and Occhipinti have known each other since the sixth grade, and upon reconnecting in high school, they decided to start playing music together. Last year, Beck met Alvarez via Tumblr, as she was intrigued by Maria’s blog quote, “If I play the bass in your face, would you jack off?” Sight unseen, Beck bravely reached out to Alvarez who was serious about starting a band; and immediately, Beck, along with the group’s former drummer, Julia Mannarino, began writing songs. A few months later, Jigsaw Youth performed their first shows in NYC, and drummer Occhipinti joined in December 2015. In less than a year, this “grunge body with a punk soul” group has made a name for itself across the United States and abroad.
So, what led this three-piece to form a Nineties-esque punk band? It’s simple — the recurring challenges still relevant today from feminism to the government to social change and teenage angst. But, this is balanced of course with a healthy zest for life and redefining the riot-grrrl movement for today’s generation, as ambitious female musicians like Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill), Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and Courtney Love (Hole) inspired them. Beck actually met Hanna — her idol — at a House of Bands show in Brooklyn, and shared with Hanna that her band’s moniker was an homage to the Bikini Kill song, “Jigsaw Youth” (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, 1993). Hanna then got up onstage and dedicated her next song to the blossoming band in front of the nearly 800-member audience. Alvarez has also crossed paths with her hero, Anthony Kiedis (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Occhipinti is still vying for the opportunity to meet her icon, Alanis Morissette.
Rocking smartphones, and surprisingly, one flip phone, the ladies of Jigsaw Youth independently market their music on social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Tumblr; currently, they are working on getting their sounds on iTunes. (They’ve even received acknowledgements from Hanna and Love via Facebook.) Beck, Alvarez and Occhipinti shared that growing up in an era where the use of technology is required can be overwhelming at times, but all three agree that it’s about having intention when it comes to online posting. As a result of their smart online networking, they have connected with Joey Armstrong’s band Swimmers (SWMRS), who asked to record them for their song, “They Don’t Know,” and have also achieved an international presence. The Swedish webzine, Grrrl Collection, reached out to Jigsaw Youth, and then flew to New York to interview them for an upcoming web series.
When it comes to playing gigs, Alvarez is very proactive at reaching out to local festival creators and online music news outlets; she is not the least bit afraid to send mass emails to venues, radio shows, magazines and record labels. And sometimes organizers reach out to them like the most recent Northside Music Festival, where they shared the Grand Victory bill with Cutters, Luke Halloween: Teenage Halloween Solo and the One Handed Bandits. The band hopes to venture out into more live-music venues, but the challenge of being underage teenagers trying to book shows in Manhattan is often a struggle. They use their creativity to overcome this obstacle by playing house parties on Staten Island where they, “rage in basements.” In the interim, Jigsaw Youth recorded the song “Aunt Jenny’s Got My Back,” and has had four songs recorded by Princeton College Radio, with plans to professionally produce their first album in the near future — after their funds are replenished from senior prom.
With unique personal mottos ranging from “everything is going to be OK” (Beck) to “treat yourself” (Alvarez) and “no risk, no reward” (Occhipinti), their collective advice to other girls wanting to make an impact with their music can only come from shared experience: Have passion, take action, set your mind to it and follow the beat of your own drum, and focus on you and what you’d like to accomplish and success is bound to follow. Jigsaw Youth began their journey in the midst of taking the SAT and applying to colleges, making it possible to juggle school, jobs and music to achieve their goals. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about spreading the message that girls can start bands — and scream, too — without fitting into a cookie-cutter box. Catch Jigsaw Youth live in Staten Island at Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn on July 6 (the annual Rock Out Against Smoking concert) and at the Liberty Tavern on July 21.