Laura Jane Grace has spoken to NME about her new album ‘Hole In My Head’, reflecting on the 10th anniversary of the seminal punk album ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’ and the possibility of new Against Me! music.

The musician was speaking to NME from her new house in Chicago where she lives with her wife comedian Paris Campbell – who she married last December. Grace is best known as the frontwoman of anarcho-punk group Against Me!, and is also notable for being one of the most visible transgender women in punk rock today, coming out in 2012.

The musician will soon release ‘Hole In My Head’, her second solo album written during the pandemic. It is the follow up record to her surprise debut ‘Stay Alive’, which was released in 2020.

“With ‘Hole In My Head’ in particular, it was such a unique period of time for everybody,” she told NME. “I know that’s a cliché, but it’s the reality: we all went through this global pandemic, this mass trauma together. Everyone kind of comes out of it bewildered.

“I came out of that experience, a little bewildered without my band and made the choice to start going to St Louis, just needing some kind of change from Chicago,” she continued. “I didn’t know anyone in St Louis, and St Louis is kind of an intimidating place. So I was just really out of my comfort zone, which in a lot of ways is really healthy for you as a writer. It pushes you to work hard because you’re writing for your life.”

 

Grace has been recording at a studio in St Louis for “the past couple years”, and although the city is in “complete economic ruin”, she called it “one of the few places left in the country where it’s truly cheap to live.”

“The way St Louis feels to me is how it felt when I first started touring in 1998 – everywhere I went was this mix of danger and fun,” she said.

Being in St Louis, along with the physical restrictions of the pandemic, inspired one of Grace’s songs on ‘Hole In My Head’. ‘Punk Rock In Basements’, she told NME, was based on “the idea of thinking back to basement shows and how close everyone used to be proximity wise”.

“It would be like bodies on bodies, everyone drenched in sweat and spit flying out of mouths,” she recalled. “Specifically coming out of the pandemic, the idea of that to me was so perverse.

“I can’t imagine being that close to that many people right now, I would have an anxiety attack. But back then it was the biggest high ever, it was such a great feeling. I longed for the simplicity of those times.”

She also spoke about how she’s managed to sustain a lengthy career for over two decades, putting it down to “always coming back to a place of your ego telling you: ‘You aren’t shit. Prove yourself’.”

“It’s brutal, and maybe that’s low self-esteem mixed in there somewhere too, but that keeps you creating as opposed to resting on your laurels of, ‘I’m so great’, ‘Look at all I’ve done’,” she said. “That’s a terrible way to be, I don’t want to be like that”.

Against Me! last released music in 2016 with ‘Shape Shift With Me’, and have been on hiatus ever since. Grace attributed the lengthy hiatus in part to COVID and lockdown.

“We never broke up, but the pandemic fucked us up,” she told NME. “It killed our momentum. It made apparent that there was a point of burnout. So that’s where we’ve been – everyone stepped away.”

Grace said that each band member has also been preoccupied with their own projects or health issues, which contributed to the hiatus. Drummer Atom Willard suffered a serious motorcycle accident in 2022. Along with breaking his thumb and wrist, he also sustained a “broken collarbone, four broken ribs, pulmonary contusion, broken toe,” and “road rash”. Since recovering he has played with Alkaline Trio.

Meanwhile, bassist Andrew Seward has been working at an ampitheatre in Alabama and playing with melodic hardcore band As Friends Rust. Finally, guitarist James Bowman had his own accident via falling, along with other “health issues” he has been working through alongside working with My Chemical Romance as a guitar tech.

“People started doing other things and it got weird,” said Grace. “I’m one person in the equation, and because I’m still out here playing the songs and putting out records and doing interviews, I’m always put to task to answer for it all. All I’m ever trying to do is demonstrate that I still want to do it.

“I go out every night and I still feel attached to the music and I still love playing music. I can’t speak for the other people, I can only speak for myself.”

The singer revealed that the band had “reconnected” recently around the time she got married, and that “there’s been dialogue” about writing new music together – remaining optimistic for the coming months.

“I don’t want to jinx anything. We’ll just have to see,” she said. “But we didn’t break up, it just got weird. “We’ll play again, I have faith in that. I just don’t know when that’ll be. I’m really hopeful for this year that we’ll start playing music again.”

The Against Me! frontwoman said she had spoken to guitarist Bowman in particular about making new music. “We tried to meet up in person and it didn’t work out – I had parenting stuff,” she said. “I was like, ‘Can we talk on the phone?’ Then we talked about how there were experiences that he had been having over the past couple years that I wasn’t aware of.”

 

 

Grace also spoke to NME about the recent 10th anniversary of landmark record ‘Transgender Dysphoria Blues’. She began writing the record in 2011 and released the record with Against Me! in 2014. It is the first album to explicitly reckon with Grace’s coming out, transition, and gender dysphoria.

“It’s wild, thinking that it’s been a full decade,” she said, looking back on the album. “It all feels very immediate, like it was yesterday. I’m very grateful for everything that happened around that record, I’m very proud of that record.

“I look at where I was then and I’m like, ‘Was that even me?’ Like, ‘Was that reality?’ ‘Did I live that life because it couldn’t have been more different than this?”

She continued: “At the time when I was writing the record, I was, for the majority of it, closeted. I hadn’t even come out yet. The amount of changes that happened even within a year after coming out were so fucking mind-bending and so huge. Then to think of everything that happened over the course of ten years is wild. I can’t even wrap my head around it.”

Grace went on to say that whilst the album was “me confronting myself in a major, huge, monumental way,” it did not necessarily make the singer stop questioning herself.

“I feel like people have always tried to put this ‘Happily ever after’ ending onto my life that never has really suited or fit me, or been accurate or realistic,” she said. “It’s this expectation that’s almost impossible to live up to because I’m human, you know? Life is what it is for me as what it is for you, what it is for everyone.”

Finally, having existed as an openly transgender musician for over a decade now, Grace had some sage words of advice for younger generations of transgender artists.

“I would give the same advice to trans musicians as I would to any musician, which is: tuning is actually really important! Be in tune while you’re playing and while you’re recording,” she joked. “There would be a little bit of extra advice to trans musicians: protect your heart. Take your time and don’t feel obligated to be anybody for any reason but your own. You don’t always have to know the answer.

“Assuming we’re talking about people who are in transition, who have not totally gotten to wherever they’re going per se, that should be more your priority than amplifying yourself on a platform or building a social media following. Your health is ultimately most important beyond anything else.”

Laura Jane Grace releases ‘Hole In My Head’ on Friday February 16. Her upcoming tour dates are below, with tickets available here.

MARCH 2024
2 — Indianapolis, IN — The Vogue ^
3 — Columbus, OH — A&R Music Bar ^
5 — Pittsburgh, PA — Spirit Hall ^
6 — Philadelphia, PA — Underground Arts ^
8 — Hamden, CT — Space Ballroom ^
9 — New York, NY — Racket ^
10 — Somerville, MA — Crystal Ballroom at Somerville Theatre ^
12 — Washington, DC — Howard Theatre ^
13 — Virginia Beach, VA —Elevation 27 ^
15 — Durham, NC — Motorco Music Hall ^
16 — Knoxville, TN — Bijou Theatre ^
17 — Nashville, TN — City Winery ^
19 — New Orleans, LA — Tipitina’s ^
20 — Birmingham, AL — Saturn ^
22 — San Antonio, TX — Paper Tiger ^
23 — Houston, TX — Warehouse Live Midtown ^
24 — Fort Worth, TX — Tulips +

# — supporting Lucero
* — Mya Byrne supporting
^ — Thelma and the Sleaze & Dikembe supporting
+ — Dikembe supporting





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