The first time I heard Lemon Boy, the scorching pop-punk brainchild of Nicole Giusti and Yaz Ahsani, I was wearing glitter wings in an audience of prosthetic-eared goblins and maidens with floral crowns. This was last month, at Springtime in the Shire, a whimsical and unpretentious “fantasy crossover costume party” at the Capitol Hill DIY venue Mosswood Loft. Lemon Boy opened the party with a biting set, setting the tone for the rest of the bill: Faerie Born, Salt Lick, and Sux.

Perhaps it was the beastly company, or maybe the wings, but Lemon Boy’s set took me somewhere else that night. I went back to the days of Bikini Kill, Van Halen, and Blink-182, and back to Seattle in the late 2010s, when bands like Tacocat, Mommy Long Legs, and Chastity Belt reigned supreme. But I also got a glimpse of the future, a time when being femme and non-white in the Seattle DIY scene will no longer be notable, but normal.

Lemon Boy will celebrate the release of their bratty, brow-raising debut Eat. Skate. Die. on Friday, May 31, at Southgate Roller Rink. With rebel politics, a dark sense of humor, and the counterbalance of an upbeat pop sensibility, the band is a natural fit in the lineage of local womxn-led punk bands. Yet, Giusti and Ahsani are both transplants to the area: Giusti, who used to be a software engineer, moved here from California in 2016, and Ahsani, a visual artist, arrived by way of North Carolina in 2019. (In fact, the two are combining their professional skill sets and developing an indie video game about being in a punk band as you read this.)

Growing up, Giusti and Ahsani participated in school band and played guitar. Giusti had the good fortune of stumbling upon an all-ages show at Vera Project during a family vacation to Seattle as a teenager. Ahsani, a Florida native, was exposed to riot grrrl in high school through her classmate, Mia Berrin, who went on to start the band Pom Pom Squad.

“She was like, ‘I'm going to start an all-girl punk band,’ so we were jamming in high school,” said Ahsani during a recent phone call. “She was like, ‘You should look at these zines.’ And I was like, ‘What are zines?’ Honestly, I would attribute Mia to introducing me [to riot grrrl].”

Skate or die: Lemon Boy BFFs at Southgate Roller Rink. BRITTNE LUNNISS

Guisti and Ahsani met when a mutual friend, knowing they were both looking for other female musicians to play music with, organized a night at Southgate Roller Rink to introduce them. Quickly, the two bonded over “riot grrrl, music in the modern era of the movement, and general crusty punk bands.” They also discovered a mutual passion for skating and started shredding parking garages together.

“Nicole is an extremely talented roller-skater—she drops into bowls, does crazy tricks—and I’ve been skateboarding since I was a kid,” said Ahsani. “We spent the summers of the pandemic skating for hours, and that really strengthened our relationship and made us realize we had a lot in common with the playlists we’d put together.”

They skated to bands like FIDLAR, Prince Daddy & the Hyena, Tacocat, Mommy Long Legs, and Mom Jeans, and once pandemic restrictions loosened, Giusti and Ahsani started jamming. From there, interactions with other musicians on the scene kept them going.

“I got a few tattoos from Lolli [Morlock] and talked about her experience in Mommy Long Legs,” said Giusti. “Lolli was so encouraging and sweet when I mentioned wanting to play music and start a band, too. It meant a lot. The first time Yaz and I ever jammed together, we covered a Mommy Long Legs song.”

Around that same time, Giusti and Ahsani discovered that Bree Mckenna (Tacocat and Childbirth) and Robin Edwards (Lisa Prank) were teaching a songwriting class at Hugo House. Ahsani had to work, but Giusti attended and their class helped her build confidence in her voice as a songwriter and in her collaboration with Ahsani.

“The first time we heard Nicole’s songs we knew she was a star! Her songs are amazing,” said Edwards, in an email. “Then we came to a Lemon Boy show a little while after the workshop ended and were so stoked about the band.”

Lemon Boy officially formed in 2021 after looping in drummer Ethan Geller. Their debut record Eat. Skate. Die. is named after the band’s mantra, a cheeky riff on “Eat. Pray. Love.” 

The nine-track record explores a variety of themes familiar to riot grrrl. “Body Horror,” driven by Ahsani’s distorted guitar riff and emphatic lyrics like, “I’m the master of this body!” races along like a demented locomotive, dissecting body agency, sexist beauty standards, dysmorphia, and existentialism. “Guitar Center,” inspired by a condescending male Guitar Center employee who “quizzed” Giusti on her knowledge of amplifiers, attacks sexism in the music industry head-on. Ahsani crushes through the stereotypical riffs guitar store dudebros always play too loud, adding humor to their call-out.

Eat. Skate. Die. also contends with religious trauma, racism, and points of view unique to Giusti and Ahsani’s experiences as women of color and the children of immigrants. In Iran, it’s illegal for women to play music, and a disapproving attitude pervades Ahsani’s dynamic with her extended family. Giusti, too, contended with strict gender roles and other challenges as she was raised in the Filipino religion of Iglesia ni Cristo.  

“We know what it’s like to feel like you don’t quite belong both in your family’s world and your current cultural environment, in this case, the United States,” said Ahsani.

Their backgrounds also make Lemon Boy sonically distinctive. Ahsani is inspired by rhythmic language of Persian music, which is based on intricate, syncopated patterns. Likewise, Giusti is influenced by Filipino music, like the Manila-based band Hotdog, and karaoke.

“I’m better at karaoke than I am at Lemon Boy,” Giusti jokes.

With ferocity, fun, and a genuine connection to Seattle’s femme-punk past and present, Eat. Skate. Die. rewrites toxic narratives from Giusti and Ahsani’s upbringings and society at large. Lemon Boy is also unabashed about scrutinizing Seattle’s culture, and, along with other local bands featuring people of color making waves—like Black Ends, a favorite of Lemon Boys'—they're giving rise to a more inclusive era in Seattle DIY music.

“Riot grrrl, its PNW origins, and the Seattle DIY scene have historically been extremely white, and as women of color we want to break the mold and prove that anyone can be ‘punk,’” said Giusti. “Now that there’s this new wave of more diverse and intersectional riot grrrl, we just hope we’re doing it justice with our own contribution.”

Lemon Boy play Southgate Roller Rink Friday, May 31 with Queen Chimera and Cottage Corpse, 9 pm, $18 for the show/$5 to skate, 21+.