When Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender 8 years ago this May, the future of her band was uncertain. Sire Records had dropped them in late 2010, and by May 2013 two members had quit for other musical pastures. But the quartet regrouped with fresh blood, went indie, and came roaring back with two strong, acclaimed albums. (Bassist Andy Seward returned in 2018.) Grace even released her eclectic solo effort, "Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers," and toured to support it.
In the midst of the current Against Me! tour, which hits the Paramount on Sunday, March 15, new music is in the works.
When we speak, she has just retweeted a five-year-old photo of her jamming with Miley Cyrus in the latter’s backyard at the behest of that pop superstar. “That was one of the absolute most surreal, strangest experiences of my life, but also the coolest,” says Grace.
Beyond her life in music, Grace loves being a parent to a 10-year-old daughter. “It's really rewarding,” says Grace. “I never would have guessed in a million years that one of the most satisfying things in life is to make pancakes on a Saturday morning for your daughter and their sleepover friend while they watch cartoons in the other room. It's such a simple thing, but it's so full of joy.”
It’s been a productive time for Against Me! Grace reveals that the band cut 17 new demos in January, recently recorded more, and are approaching 25 songs in total. Some are going to be road-tested throughout the year. When asked about the lyrical direction of the new material, given how much of the last two albums were about her gender transition, Grace remarks that she works best subconsciously, just letting the ideas flow and seeing what comes out.
“That being said we've already entered a way new, stranger time than the period of time when the last Against Me! record was being written,” acknowledges Grace. “The last Against Me! record was written under Obama, so the changes that happened between then and now are astronomical. That can't help but affect you on a subconscious level. I already wrote my first political song under the Trump administration. But every Against Me! record is really representative of where I'm at in that period of time in my life. This is where I'm at now.”
While Grace (born Thomas James Gabel) has received a lot of love and support from fans, there are people beyond them who do not accept trans individuals. She says her very identity is at odds with society, and she travels through the world recognizing that “I am not welcome as a transgender person in most communal spaces where other people are, whether that's public restrooms or not being allowed to be in the military or whatever. Existing as a visible transgender person in the world in itself is a revolutionary act. I can't separate those things in my head.”
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She adds that one of the unrealized benefits of coming out is “accepting yourself and accepting that you're an outsider, and that's why you've always felt this way.”
Perhaps the real rebellion these days is being ourselves when many people are conforming or putting on an act? “One hundred percent,” concurs Grace, who published her memoir "Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout" in 2016. “Individuality. Be yourself. That's a revolutionary thing.”
The singer/guitarist has also learned that judging people by appearances cuts both ways. She remembers playing a show in Texas when someone jumped onstage looking like a college frat boy clad in a Texas A&M hat, Nike shorts, and a jersey.
“Then they ripped off their shirt and you could see the scars on their chest from top surgery,” recalls Grace. “And then I realized, they're transgender, they transitioned. And I just clocked them as some tough guy douchebag. But they have a life experience that I never would have imagined from first glance. You have to realize that and take that into account with people.”
WHEN|WHERE Sunday at 8 p.m.,The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington