NORTH HAVEN—Whoever said punk is dead hasn’t been to North Haven in awhile. Not exactly considered the gritty underground mecca for the post-punk scene, this lobstering community with only 400 year-round residents, holds its own when it comes to three riot grrrls who live and play music there.
Fiona Robins is the owner of Island Apothecary and her job entails gardening and making organic skincare products on North Haven, which have been featured in Mother Magazine and Buzzfeed. Her other day job is to garden for a company called Islandscape, which recently shut the greenhouse down for the winter months.
Right out of college, Robins moved to North Haven in 2015 to try out island life.
“I did the summer-winter switch around, ended up living in Portland for a time, and ended up coming back to North Haven full time in 2018, when I first started working at Island Apothecary,” she said. “It was a match made in heaven.”
Robins took over the apothecary after working with original owner Laura Serino who decided to sell the business after a few years.
But that’s only one side of her passion.
While living in Portland, Robins, a feminist punk guitarist, looked in vain to find the right band to play with.
“I moved there to become a musician and pursue that life, which is funny because I was searching so hard for people to play with in Portland, but it’s when I moved back to North Haven, I ended up finding my band,” she said. “And now we are making incredible music together.”
Bait Bag is the name of the three-musician group featuring Robins on guitar and vocals, Claire Donnelly on bass and Courtney Naliboff on drums.
Of the band’s title, Robins explained: “Alliteration is always fun; there’s of course, the island reference, but when it comes to those two words, ‘bait’ as in jail bait, or women used as bait and ‘bag,’ as in calling a woman an old bag, we thought we’d reclaim these two negative words for our own.”
One of their big hits, “Eat Him Alive” is about women who need men to validate themselves or give women their worth.
“The chorus is ‘Eat him alive, so I can survive’—it’s a little vampiric’,” said Robins.
Everyone in the band still has to have a day job.
“Courtney is the music teacher on the island,” said Robins. “And her husband is the music teacher on Vinalhaven. So they kind of have cornered the market on that. And Claire is working remotely for Island Institute.”
It’s hard to imagine, especially with the COVID-19 virus curtailing event venues, where Bait Bag would find an audience on the island, but apparently, they are doing just fine.
“We just played two shows through the Community Center and live-streamed them for SPACE Gallery in Portland for Halloween,” said Robins. “Last year, we had two working punk bands on the island and had a punk basement show. There are so many fun, young people out here who just want to have fun and thrash around—it’s a pretty good group of people.”
Life goes on; Robins continues to develop her best-selling serums, cleansers, and toners and the band keeps practicing and honing their songs. There will be a day when they can play live again.
“It’s really great to live here, and make stuff, make music that reaches other people outside the island,” she said. “Just connecting with other women in Maine and making music that people want to listen to is all I need.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org