Lydia Night and SWMRS: Punk Rock White Knighting

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Alex Conn

Anyone who knows me knows I love pop punk and punk rock and alternative music. Lydia Knight of The Regrettes and Joey Armstrong of SWMRS had a relationship that was illegal in the state of California. Lydia was 16 and Joey was 22. Regardless of any law, any parent in the world would find that disgusting. Throughout the relationship, Night accused Armstrong of “emotional abuse and sexual coercion.”

Let me back up a bit SWMRS and The Regrettes are both popular bands in the alternative music community. I love The Regrettes’ first album Feel Your Feelings Fool. I have yet to hear their second album, but I hear it’s great. SWMRS has released two albums thus far: Drive North and Berkeley’s on Fire. I have heard both and Drive North is incredibly inconsistent and Berkeley’s On Fire is a much better album.

One thing that unites the two bands is their commitment to feminist causes. The Regrettes are part of a style of punk rock called riot grrl(pronounced riot girl). Riot grrl is basically girls playing punk rock often with feminist themes. Their first album had songs like “I Don’t Like You,” “Seashore” and “A Living Human Girl” that were feminist in nature. Also SWMRS, specifically their frontman Cole Becker, have made it clear that they are allies to sexual assault victims.

Cole Becker in many ways flexes about his feminism and how progressive he is that sometimes it is annoying. He talks like he is so smart when he’s not. The rest of the band members act similarly.

After the allegations happened, SWMRS did not fire Joey Armstrong. The apology they gave was not even an apology, it was just a reiteration of how progressive and feminist they are.

For some background on Joey Armstrong: he  is the son of famed musician and frontman Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Billie is worshipped by fans of rock music and has a lot of money. In fact, when this came out everyone responded and defended Billie Joe. So Joey grew up with a lot of privilege and with a lot of privilege your sense of right and wrong is blurred.

The family is important to the story because according to Lydia Night, everyone in his family knew and did nothing about it. That’s just what happens when you’re a son of a rock star, I guess.

SWMRS started off as Emily’s Army and got a big head start because Billie Joe Armstrong produced their first two albums as Emily’s Army.

What is interesting to me about the story isn’t necessarily Lydia Night and Joey Armstrong, it is the idea of white knighting. White Knighting is the concept of basically flexing how progressive and feminist you are. A lot of teenagers, especially those interested in the arts, fall into this. I even did.

From when I was 15-17 I did this a ton. It was my way of looking cool. I was involved in the arts and even in other ways I spent some time at an incredibly progressive private high school so I naturally, wanting to be cool, talked a lot about my love of riot grrl including The Regrettes. Even on my Instagram bio I listed myself as a male riot grrl.

White Knighting is the progressive and or arts community is similar to like flexing your jewels in the hip hop community for instance. It’s a toxic mindset and a lot of teenage boys fall into it. The problem here is that most of the guys in SWMRS are in their mid 20s now.

Not only that but Burger Records, SWMRS former record label, lost almost all of their artists to accusations of sexual assault. It was so much that Burger Records had to close their doors.

Women in punk have always been there. Punk rock has always been a very open place for disaffected youth. People have met and found genuine community there, so it makes sense that guys like Cole Becker and Joey Armstrong would try to seem cool, so they could get fans and also make women specifically think of them as cool so they can make themselves more attractive.

I hope that this story is a spotlight on “white knighting” which is a problem for the larger feminist community throughout the punk scene and beyond.