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Behind the Noise: Interview With Punk Island Festival Staff

Punk Island is on Sunday, June 18th, 2023, their Quinceañera! If you're in the area you will not want to miss it!

Punk Island Staff
Punk Island Staff

1. Anna Mengani: Hello! It is so amazing to speak with you all and learn more about Punk Island Festival NYC. Please tell me your role at Punk Island and introduce yourself!

Arlene Vivar: Hi! My name is Arlene (She/Her). I am the stage manager for the Taking Back Queens stage, the publicist, the social media coordinator, and basically the second in command at Punk Island NYC. I've been booking DIY shows since my undergrad days in 2014. Now, I run my Latinx, independently-owned music PR firm, Crystal Moon Public Relations.

Caitlin McMullen: Hey! My name is Cait (she/her). I’m one of the co-founders and organizer of The Pigeon Pack, a DIY music collective from NYC.

Antonio Rodriguez: I am the lead organized and Interdisciplinary Artist specializing in live broadcast, independent film, and live music production. Committed to bringing POC and LGBTQ+ perspectives to the fore.

Mike Dietz: I am an organizer, the Lunchbox Stage Co-Manager/Sound, and the person who orders dumpsters. I play bass and do vocals n RBNX. I put together punk, hardcore, and ska shows in the Hudson Valley with my partner Phil. We also book Boxfest (a hardcore punk festival).

Nathan Harris: I am an organizer. I am also a perceptive and bilingual leader advocating for the artistic music community in NYC. I am a problem solver, strategist, and web analyst. I produce events, tech projects, and media.

Diana Hernandez: I am the Engagement Manager at HIFI, the financial rights organization for the music industry. Before that, I worked as an IBM Business Analytics and Technical Sales Specialist. Also known as Boss Selektah, I collect and DJ early Jamaican music and Latin records. In 2020, I launched the HIFI Diversity Program, providing microgrants to BIPOC artists, managers, and producers with access to office hours to ensure financial efficiency across their careers. In 2019, I co-founded Urbano St. station, a 501(c)3 nonprofit capturing multicultural and alternative artists’ expressions in the streets. I volunteer as the Executive Director and serve as the U Street Music Fest producer.

Rachel Francis: Howdy! I'm 28 and a Punk Island organizer. I'm from NYC born and raised. A lover of all things punk rock and hardcore.


2. Anna Mengani: How long have you been working with Punk Island?

Arlene Vivar: I got involved with Punk Island in 2016. I officially took over as stage manager for the TBQ stage in 2017.

Caitlin McMullen: Two years as an organizer, Three years as a volunteer before that, and then a few years as an attendee!

Antonio Rodriguez: I started working with Punk Island in 2014.

Mike Dietz: 2016 on Governors Island was the first year I played punk island. I played the following year with different bands and volunteered my time by handing out maps and giving directions on Randall’s island. 2018 was the first year I organized and managed the "Lunchbox” stage.

Nathan Harris: This will be my first year!

Diana Hernandez: Two years.

Rachel Francis: I've been volunteering since 2018.


3. Anna Mengani: What has been your favorite experience so far working at the festival and/or organizing the festival?

Arlene Vivar: I love all the new music I get to listen to and seeing the diverse talent we attract as a festival.

Caitlin McMullen: Getting to work with other music collectives has been fantastic. We love being able to see the NY punk scene work together on creating something big. We also love getting to know bands we haven’t heard before.

Antonio Rodriguez: My favorite experience with Punk Island has been sticking around long enough to see a new generation or artists and organizers grow up into the scene.

Mike Dietz: The first year we had a Narcan training at our stage and had hundreds of people line up to get Narcan kits and info. The reason we do Boxfest and run the lunchbox stage at PI is to raise awareness of drug addiction and mental health in our community. It was great to see such a large amount of showgoers interested in our cause.

Nathan Harris: Seeing the youth attaining and experiencing the best in the New York Punk scene.

Diana Hernandez: I've enjoyed working with like-minded individuals. It's the most organized group of punks I've ever worked with. I admire each of the organizations and people involved. It feels great to contribute to such a platform for the independent and alternative music scene.

Rachel Francis: Meeting all of the talented musicians that play some of the coolest sets of my life. The energy of the crowd is like no other!


4. Anna Mengani: What is one thing our readers should know about Punk Island?

Arlene Vivar: Punk Island is 100% volunteer ran. It can be pretty stressful but everyone involved really puts this event together out of love.

Caitlin McMullen: Punk Island is a great way to hang out, keep in touch, and get to know people in the scene! It's a real community-based event so come through and be a part of it.

Antonio Rodriguez: Punk Island is an all-ages event for anyone interested in live music.

Mike Dietz: Punk Island is a highly inclusive event bringing people from all ages and walks of life together for punk and hardcore!

Nathan Harris: It’s an amazing safe space for all!

Diana Hernandez: Punk Island is an experience like no other.

Rachel Francis: One of the most inclusive spaces I've ever been in designated for punks.


5. Anna Mengani: Outside of Punk Island, what else do you do for work?

Arlene Vivar: I run my very own Public Relations firm, Crystal Moon PR. I specialize in rock subgenres and DIY bands.

Caitlin McMullen: We’ve got a healthy mix in our group. We have a couple of 9-5ers, a couple of audio engineers, a bartender, a hair stylist, a college professor, and a vet tech. We’ve got it all! All together we run a recording and rehearsal studio in Rockaway Beach.

Antonio Rodriguez: I work as a Live Broadcast Director for Trinity Wall Street and as a Stage Manager for SXSW. I recently graduated from Columbia University.

Mike Dietz: I’m an organizer of Boxfest. It’s something that Phil and I have done as a tribute to our best friend James "Lunchbox” Giunta who died of an overdose in 2016. In his name, we put together /“a festival, raise awareness, and hand out Narcan kits and info for help. We also put on hardcore, punk, and ska shows in the Hudson Valley throughout the year.

Nathan Harris: I work in Customer Service.

Diana Hernandez: Engagement Manager of HIFI, Executive Producer of Urbano Street/U Street Music Fest, and Member of WMN Collective/Yo Perreo Sola Party.

Rachel Francis: Spend my days slinging drinks, and my weekends managing a rehearsal studio.


6. Anna Mengani: How has Punk Island changed over the years?

Arlene Vivar: We have definitely become more organized over the years. We've had different organizers and their respective collectives come and go as part of Punk Island as well. We are constantly getting new ideas and perspectives from younger organizers that want to be involved.

Caitlin McMullen: Since the pandemic, there has been a few changes. The festival itself got a little smaller, and we were added to the organization team. Excited to see how this year goes.

Antonio Rodriguez: Every year the crew gets more and more diverse and brings in a wider array of NYC's punk family.

Mike Dietz: Punk Island is a constantly evolving collective that reflects with each year's show.

The last few years were a lot smaller, but also a building year post-pandemic where we brought new people in to learn the ropes of how we work as a collective.

Nathan Harris: Seeing new faces attend the fest.

Diana Hernandez: Punk Island like many other festivals, and art/culture initiatives has a new generation of leaders and fans. Post-pandemic it became more diverse in its leadership and curation. Punk Island also used to be a bit more political. Not such much anymore.

Rachel Francis: Its diversity is definitely something that has developed over time. I've also found it became more of a staple in the city.


7. Anna Mengani: Who are some of your favorite bands/artists that have performed?

Arlene Vivar: I always love it when For Lack of a Term plays. In 2018, we had seppuku pistols! They were 15+ members of punk taiko drummers.

Caitlin McMullen: Ratas en Zelo, Pancho Villas Skull, Cop/Out, Que Sick, Winter Wolf, Depression Tropical, lmao this is ridiculous we’ve loved practically every band!!

Antonio Rodriguez: The Muslims from North Carolina were totally amazing. We booked Soul Glo for a benefit show in 2019 that was amazing. We also booked Amygdala and PINKO from Texas at benefit shows over the years. There have been tons of local acts worth mentioning, Rebelmatic, Maafa, Material Support, In Circles, Massa Nera, and Sunrot.

Mike Dietz: Rats in the Wall, Neighborhood Shit, Dead Blow Hammer, and RVIVR.

Nathan Harris: Rebelmatic, Ratas En Zelos, Kartel, The Muslims, and Non-Residents.

Diana Hernandez: Ratas en Zelo, The Ladrones, Far East, and Nard-Nips.

Rachel Francis: Enziguri, MAAFA, Nonresidents, and World Inferno Friendship Society.


8. Anna Mengani: How would you describe the Punk Island community?

Arlene Vivar: The Punk Island community is beyond diverse. We have POC, LGBTQ, Latinx, and more. Everyone is super welcoming and friendly.

Caitlin McMullen: Amazing. It's so cool to walk around the festival and see musicians performing, artists selling their crafts, zines being traded and sold, and workshops happening with people sharing skills.

Antonio Rodriguez: Joyous and life-affirming.

Mike Dietz: We are a diverse mix of amazing people with the love of punk in our hearts.

Nathan Harris: A group of music lovers coming together and creating an environment for bands from the tri-state area and beyond to perform and spread the message of solidarity.

Diana Hernandez: Punks, of all ages, organized, collaborative, rad!

Rachel Francis: What can I say? We definitely all have a passion for the music. But there is also a certain sense of community and we as members value them strongly.


9. Anna Mengani: In what ways does Punk Island show inclusivity and diversity?

Arlene Vivar: When it comes to vendors or anyone that wants to represent their specific organization, we take a lot of time to look into them. We just want to make sure there is no racism and non-inclusive values involved.

Caitlin McMullen: QUEER BIPOC TO THE FRONT. The organizational team is led by folks who are queer & poc. With each organization putting together their own stages, a lot of communities in the NYC punk scene get represented.

Mike Dietz: Punk Island is an all-ages inclusive event put together by people of many different backgrounds and orientations united by our punk community. Because of this all of the stages are unique, and they’re an audible representation of who we are.

Nathan Harris: By giving a platform for Queer/POC bands and workers to help make Punk Island as amazing as it is.

Diana Hernandez: Through its curation.

Rachel Francis: Almost every organizer is either a POC or falls on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Not only that, but we vary in age and ability and I think that is something to cheer about also.


10. Anna Mengani: What are you excited for this year?

Arlene Vivar: I'm super excited that we dubbed this year as our Quinceañera! This is also our second year and we are able to have more stages. Last year, was our first year back because of the pandemic, we decided to all collab on only 2 stages. Now, we're growing closer to what we once were in 2019.

Caitlin McMullen: This is the first year we are going to have our own stage! We learned a lot from helping out the Hoosatron stage years ago, and really excited to take on this bigger role.

Mike Dietz: There’s a handful of people who have been involved for a long time that are booking their own stages. I can’t wait to see what the new organizer's stages are like!

Nathan Harris: To see new and old faces attend the festival!

Diana Hernandez: Going big again with 5 stages!

Rachel Francis: HELL YEAH BROTHER!


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