Against Me! - Photo Credit: Unknown
Punk-rockers Against Me! are currently taking the world by storm. Fresh from a coveted support slot with Green Day in the US, we had a chat with lead singer Laura Jane Grace prior to their headline set at Slam Dunk Festival.
Kate: Hey, welcome back to Slam Dunk. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s been seven years since you last played the festival. How does it feel to be returning after all those years?
Laura: Yeah, I was trying to remember when that was and it was 2010. I’m so happy to be here, I feel like we got the best stage too, so it’s rad to be here with friends- with Frank Iero and the Patience, The Bronx and Milk Teeth.
K: Holding a headline slot on the Signature Brew stage, what can fans expect from your set? Will it be a mix of old and new, or more focused on the recent Album Shape Shift With Me?
L: We always do a mix of old and new, you know? At most festivals you only get 30/45 minutes but here we get a full hour to work with, and we’ve been non-stop this year- we’ve just been in Australia, before that we were at Green Day in the US, so we're just well oiled, well primed and ready to go.
K: As you just stated, you’ve just finished a US tour with Green Day. Evidently, they are huge idols of the band, how did it feel to tour with them?
L: It was incredible, we did three shows with them in 2005, so we already had that moment of ‘oh my god, I’m sharing a band with my heroes.. the guys who made me want to start a punk band’ and they couldn’t be nicer and more hospitable. There are few are people I get nervous around and like I’m fourteen again and Billie-Joe Armstrong is definitely one of those people.
K: You put on Twitter that he signed your ticket from your first Green Day Show? Do you have any cool stories from those shows?
L: I saved that ticket stub from when I was thirteen years old! It was so much fun! The last day was particularly epic, where in the middle of our set they starting letting off the flash-bangs, and they all came out dressed in monkey costumes dancing around us… I don't think anyone in the crowd realised it was Green Day doing it but it was, and it was really funny.
K: You recently released your memoir, which is both provocative and brutally honest in documenting your life. How has the reception been to this, and do you plan on publishing again in the future?
L: I’ve found the reception pretty overwhelming, it’s strange because it’s literally like letting someone read your diary. I don’t know if you ever let anyone read your diary but you don’t want people to read it.. so I’ve always taken the approach where if people are happy with it then thank-you… but it’s definitely a vulnerable feeling. It's nice to see people getting something from it, at first I was pretty nervous. I definitely want to write more- when I first finished it I never wanted to write again, but now I’m pretty ready for that… the trickiest part of the book was ‘how do you end it’?. I don’t die.. do I end it and keep space to go on living the story? I do very much plan on doing a lot with my life and I am only 36 and I want to keep living a story.
K: It is refreshing to see an artist vocally open about gender politics, LGBTQ+ and the role of ‘identity’ within the music industry. In 2017 the mainstream media are still somewhat limited and avoidant of their coverage on these issues. Do you think that smaller blogs and zines therefore are acting as a voice for these groups?
L: In this day and age where it is a level playing field with the internet, where smaller press can put an interview out there.. it has the chance to reach as many people as a mainstream outlet. It just depends whether or not it’s good press, or well done journalism you know? I think representation is so important especially in a music scene where there’s younger kids there, because I know myself.. I turned to punk-rock as I was looking for something where I could fit in. There was no representation for trans people, so to see more genre queer or queer artists out there and see more diversity out there is so important. I think that the word diversity means equal opportunity for everybody, it shouldn’t just be a boys club.
K: It is unmistakable that you are open and unapologetic in political statements and commentary – e.g. the hilarious spam of Trump photos that were ‘pocket posted’. In all seriousness though, living in the age of Trump and post-Brexit Britain, how has this had an impact on musicians?
L: Yeah, on a small, small level, like before this tour I decided not to bring my laptop computer as we were going to be over here a while. There’s already a laptop ban where you can’t fly into the US without a computer, so fuck I didn’t want to have to give away my computer. With travelling and seeing the way borders are now it is not a good vibe. It doesn’t seem cool. There’s the financial ramifications that always affect bands, even if it isn’t targeted at them. On a human rights level with Trump and an environmental level there are things that he is doing that are fucking crazy, watching it all unfold… I was watching it all earlier and he is plain ignorant refusing to accept it.
K: In light of Monday’s attacks in Manchester, as musicians, what are your thoughts on these attacks and the solidarity shown within the city?
L: That was something that took me a second to learn, but I eventually realised… whatever style of music a musician is playing- I may not like that band but I still respect what they are dong. From Ariana Grande to whatever, it just is terrifying, totally terrifying. When I did that Miley Cyrus thing, Ariana Grande was there and did the next shoot with her. Knowing Eagles of Death Metal played the Bataclan… I played the Bataclan it’s not something that you can just ignore… it’s not just the Middle East it’s also our problem. To target music in general, it breaks my heart and brings me to tears. I have a kid, a seven year old kid.. eventually my kid’s going to want to go to shows alone and its terrifying to me.
K: To finish, on a more optimistic note, if you were going to describe your show tonight in three words what would they be?
L: That’s a tough one, it’s hard to summarise… but jumping off the question before, it’s more important now than ever to make sure that everyone at the show leaves with a feeling of positivity, and that there’s hope in the world. That is what a show should do, it should energise you and give you a release… I know that's way more than three words. I’ll go for empowering, fun and sweaty.