An Interview With AGAINST ME!’s Front-Woman LAURA JANE GRACE About The Band’s Next Album, Her Book And More!
Posted On 24 Aug 2016
September 16th release of its highly anticipated forthcoming full-length album titled
Shape Shift With Me. Being released on the band’s label Total Treble (in partnership
with INgrooves) and serving as the follow up to the band’s critically acclaimed studio
album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Shape Shift With Me is now available for pre-
order on Amazon (LP, CD) and iTunes where an instant download of the album’s lead
single, “333,” is now being offered for those who purchase the album. Stream “333” via
YouTube or on Spotify.
The band recently announced its upcoming North American fall tour dates that
will both include headline appearances and dates with Bad Religion and Dave Hause.
A full listing of dates can be found on Against Me!’s
official website, http://www.againstme.net.
Front-woman Laura Jane Grace recently announced the release of her upcoming
memoir titled TRANNY: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist
Sellout. Set for release on November 15th, through Hachette Books, TRANNY is
a searing account of Grace’s search for identity and true self. The highly anticipated
book also reveals the struggles and victories that the artist experienced in her quest for
gender transition. Written with Noisey editor Dan Ozzi and illuminated by Grace’s
never-before- published journal entries reaching back to childhood, TRANNY is an
intensely personal and revelatory look inside her struggles with identity and addiction.
Grappling with everything from sex, drugs, failed marriages, music, and soul of a punk
rock star, this memoir paints a vivid portrait of one of the most revolutionary transgender
icons of our time.
Recorded, mixed and engineered by Marc Jacob Hudson (Taking Back Sunday,
Saves The Day) at Rancho Recordo, Shape Shift With Me, Against Me!’s seventh full
length album, has the distinction of the first album front-woman Laura Jane Grace has
written truly from the heart, with no metaphorical cloaks cast over the lyrics. It’s an
album about love, that deceptively complex emotion we all struggle with yet has
somehow eluded most of Grace’s songwriting for the past 20 years.
In a career already full of classic punk records, Shape Shift With Me feels like the
definitive Against Me! album—it’s poppy and catchy (“Rebecca,” “Suicide Bomber”),
aggressive and in-your- face (“ProVision L-3,” “Dead Rats”), sentimental and longing
[Crash,” “All This (And More”)]. Moreover, it’s the culmination of four years of existence
as Laura Jane Grace—there’s no going back now, so she might as well embrace it.
Follow Against Me! here online:
Learn more about Against Me! in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! Now that we are more than half-way through 2016, what are some words you would use to describe it? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for the band?
2016 has been of stark contrast too 2015 for me. I think I’ve spent a lot more time in doors this year finishing up work on projects, writing a book, recording an album. Where as 2015 I was finishing up touring on the road. I’ve still played a good amount of shows but it’s been slow to start. The end of the year, this fall we’re going to be on the road pretty constant until the end of the year. So this year has felt like this long slow build to take off and last year I was still landing the previous plane flight. 2015 was huge with highlights too, my web series, ‘True Trans’ was nominated for an Emmy, performed with Miley Cyrus and Joan Jett for the Happy Hippie Foundation, produced a kick ass record for the band band ‘Worriers’ from Brooklyn, went to Mexico City for the first time, toured the US, Europe, Australia, Japan, fell in and out of love about a dozen times… I mean you really can’t even have a more highlight filled year than I had last year. This year I recorded an album and finished writing a book, yawn. HA!
Growing up, did you all always want to be musicians? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? And specifically, how did Against Me! come to be? How did you come up with your band name?
The earliest music I heard was the country western my Dad listened too… “All my Ex’s live in Texas”…. “I want to go home with the armadillo….” lots of Willie Nelson who I still love to this day. But then I discovered Madonna and my mind was blown.
I always knew I wanted to be in a band, never had any doubt. Saved up money mowing lawns when I was 8 to buy my first guitar. Used to make up imaginary band names then started my first real band at 12, dropped out of high school when I was 16, never looked back. No regrets.
I’m sure the band name “Against Me!” was coming from a very teen angsty place, I was 17 when I named it. I felt like the whole world was AGAINST ME!!!!!!!
In September, you will be releasing your highly anticipated album, “Shape Shift With Me.” How do you think your sound has grown on this record? How has it stayed the same?
The sound of the band has definitely changed a lot over the years. This is the 7th Against Me! album. That’s not counting live albums or EPs. Again I was 17 when I started the band, I’m 35 now. I hadn’t even finished going through puberty when we did our first recordings. I need to feel like the band is constantly changing musically to survive, maybe that plays into the album title “Shape Shift With Me” a little bit, right? But I don’t ever like feeling like I’m going through the motions with anything. I cringe at the thought of getting up onstage and doing an imitation of my younger self.
How has the band’s record-making process changed over the years?
Well, we’ve had a lot of great opportunities and we’ve been lucky to work with a lot of labels that invested in our band financially to give us budgets that gave us time to actually learn how to create in a studio. Our first record we made in a day, recorded and mixed. We didn’t know what we were doing in there, what knob did what, how to get the sound you hear in your head translated to a recording. If whatever was captured was any good back then it was just luck. Maybe that’s why so many bands first album are the best thing they’ve ever done, it’s just luck, after that you learn you’ve got to work for it, you’ve got to earn the right to keep stepping up to a microphone and hitting record and then have people actually listen to you.
You’ve gotta keep giving a shit you know?
It sounds like this record is incredibly personal. What was that like for you? Can you talk about putting this collection together?What was the inspiration for your first single, “333”? How exactly did the song come to be? What other songs on “Shape Shift With Me” are you particularly proud of?
That song in particular, 333, I wrote in May of last year when we were on tour in Europe. Woke up on the bus in Bilboa, Spain with time to kill before load in and soundcheck so we all went to the Guggenheim and the enormity of it all just blew me away. I don’t think I’d ever actually been affected by a museum experience before that day. The Niki de Saint Phalle exhibit in particular was just beyond words. But there was this one waiting there in particular called “The Renowned Orders Of The Night” by Anselm Kiefer that just crushed my soul. That painting is about trying to find reason in searching for heaven, that’s what the song is about too.
Laura, I’d love to know more about your upcoming memoir, “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.” Why did you decide to write this now? What was it like writing it with Noisey editor Dan Ozzi?
I’ve been an avid journal keeper my whole life, since the 2nd grade when I was told to keep one as a school assignment, I just never stopped. My book is based on the journals I’ve kept all my life. Most writers don’t have enough material and my problem was I had too much, 30 some odd years of living written short hand in notebooks. So 4 years ago I decided it was time to reconcile everything, I was just carrying too much weight, both the existential weight of living, coming out as trans, trying to make sense of a former life, and then also the physical weight of that many boxes of notebooks, I decided I had to do something with it all and turn it into a book. Dan really helped me with narrowing down where the story was in all of that living, there just wasn’t room to keep everything, some stories had to be left and I didn’t know how to end it. Because I’m not dead. So where does it end?
Are you excited to go out on tour this Fall with Bad Religion and Dave Hause? What venues are you looking forward to playing at the most? What do you think makes for a perfect show experience for you?
I am looking forward to it very much so yes. Although, I’ll tell you. When I was 14 years old I ate some magical mushrooms one night with my friend and we listened to a Bad Religion record on repeat for like 12 hours straight and it was a bad trip so every time I hear Bad Religion it kind of triggers me back to that trip, so we’ll see what happens after I hear them every night for a month straight. I’ll either be cured or permanently think I’m a glass of orange juice? Do you remember that urban myth from high school? That was a myth right? About the kid who took too much acid and then forever thought he was a glass of OJ? Or was that real?
Who are some of your favorite artists and what bands continue to inspire Against Me!? Who would you love to work with in the future?
I’ve always wanted to have an experience with Mick Jones, Paul Simonon or Topper Headon from the Clash. It would have been a dream to play a show with them when they were a band, but that was before my time. Or the Ramones too, I’ve been on a big Ramones kick lately. I guess most of the bands or artists that inspire me are unfortunately dead or broken up or the ones that are living that inspire me I’d never want to meet because I wouldn’t want it to be ruined if they were jerks and we didn’t get along. Or, best case scenario they’re already my friend because I’ve been lucky enough to already have an experience playing a show or working on a record with and just the fact that they’re still out there existing making music inspires me to keep working and making music and loving it. I’m really luck to do what I do and my peers inspire me.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
I hope listeners feel an emotional connection to the music and that they turn it up loudly when driving. I hope that the music is there for listeners when they’re low and picks them up. That it’s a friend and keeps them company when everyone else is a jerk. That it has their back if they need to stand up for something. I also hope that people enjoy fucking and jogging to the music, that it can make them sweat. That’s what music does for me. How about you?
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I’m scorpio and my favorite color is black.