Against Me! recently released a new album called "Transgender Dysphoria Blues", the band's first album since Laura Jane Grace came out as a transgender. It turned out to be a very honest and open album and a return to older Against Me! releases. They're right in the middle of a US tour now and will be over in Europe next month. Here's an email interview we did with Laura Jane.
PRT: Your new album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” comes with some very direct lyrics. Did you find it necessary to tell your audience more about the subject, or was it mainly important for yourself to get it all out there?
Laura Jane: I was writing without filter or though about what an audience might think when listening. I was writing to save my life. It was my outlet to work out was going on in my head and then playing the songs with the band was my release to deal with stress and fear.
PRT: If you go back and listen to your older albums now, there are times where you already made references to your gender dysphoria. Was that you hoping someone would already pick up on it?
Laura Jane: Literally every single Against Me! album has songs on it that are me dealing with gender dysphoria. Some are less direct, some are more. “Turn Those Clapping Hands Into Angry Balled Fists” with a line like “I’m not going to tell anyone what I’m really thinking about. Keep those conversations on the surface. Just keep on smiling. Just keep on thinking, everything’s going to alright” or the entire “Disco Before The Breakdown” EP or even more directly with songs like “Searching For A Former Clairty” and the line “Confessing childhood secrets of dressing up in women’s clothes. Compulsions I’ve never known the reason to” and then “The Ocean” with the line “If I could have chosen I would have been born a woman.” You really can’t be more direct than that but no one ever asked me anything about it.
PRT: I’m assuming that after the Rolling Stone article came out in 2012, it had an impact on pretty much every single aspect of your life. Looking back on those two years, what have been some of the highlights?
Laura Jane: Being out here right now on tour with James, Inge, and Atom and the rest of the crew we have on the road with us has been for sure a highlight. To like actually have the album be here and out playing shows in support of it.
Writing a song with Joan Jett on a song for her new album “Unvarnished” was a big highlight.
All the different Gender Queer and Trans people I’ve met across the world while traveling since I came out. Hearing their stories and making friendships with people whom I feel like get me and I get them.
There’s no way I could name all of the highlights.
PRT: Have you reached the point yet where you're tired of answering questions about your personal life? Because it seems as if you’ve pretty much become the unofficial spokesperson for the trans community
Laura Jane: I’m by no means trying to be a spokes person for the community. I can only testify as to what my experiences have been and by no means do I have all of the answers.
But I’m happy to be representative of my community. Historically Trans people have always been unrepresented or just made into a joke in the media and in pop culture art.
If I can help to educate that Transphobia is not okay then I’m happy to do that. I’m happy to answer any questions if someone has them.
PRT: I’m guessing now that everything is out in the open, you must feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of your shoulders. But at the same time, your life and you as a person are still in transition. Is that equally scary?
Laura Jane: Life is constant transition for everyone. That’s living.
PRT: As far as the band goes, things have been equally hectic with members leaving, having to find replacements, not even being sure at some point if the band still had a future and recording an album on top of everything that was happening in your private life... How did you cope with the turbulent times?
Laura Jane: I’ve turned to music, to playing shows and surrounding myself with people I love.
PRT: The new album also came out on your own label, Total Treble in the United States (the album is released on Xtra Mile Recordings in Europe). How liberating was that to have total control over things and then see the album go all the way up to #23 on the Billboard top 200?
Laura Jane: We definitely have a team of people working with us who helped make that happen, they deserve the credit. I don’t want a chart position to ever justify the success or validity of art.
PRT: You didn't work with Butch Vig for "Transgender Dysphoria Blues". And it shows. The record feels more like a return to the earlier Against Me!. A conscious choice?
Laura Jane: For me the record was really a chance to pay homage to all that I learned from working with Butch. I looked at him like a college professor, this is like my thesis statement.
PRT: What did you learn from working with Butch on the previous records that you took with you when it came to recording this album and to becoming a producer yourself?
Laura Jane: I learned how to really craft a song from Butch. How to create dynamics, how to expand on an idea and be less precious. Most importantly I learned ultimate persistence.
PRT: You did an awesome job producing Cheap Girls' "Giant Orange" by the way. Is that something you’d like to do more from now on? Any albums you’re working on in the near future?
Laura Jane: I’d love the opportunity. I’m just kind of waiting to see what comes my way and actively pursuing but I definitely hope for it.