Against Me! has come a long way since its inception as a one-piece anarcho-punk band in Gainesville, Florida back in the ‘90s. Six studio albums and a few lineup changes later, they’re still going strong and coming to St. Andrew’s Hall with supporting acts Tony Molina and Big Eyes, on May 11 in support of their latest album “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.”
The road to getting “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” out was a bumpy one. Released in January, it was in the works for quite some time. Written by frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, before coming out as transgender, it was described as a concept album about a transgender prostitute, but later turning out to be a bit more autobiographical than that. During the beginning stages of the album, longtime Against Me! bass player Andrew Seward left the band, and so did their drummer, Jay Weinberg, causing them to leave their spot on tour with Bad Religion.
The band kept on keeping on, though. The album was recorded with Grace on vocals, guitar, and bass, and James Bowman on guitar and backup vocals, with NOFX’s Fat Mike filling in on bass, and Angels and Airwaves alum Atom Willard on drums, and released on Total Treble Records, the band’s own label, despite a tree falling on the roof of their studio.
Prior to the release of “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” the band offered a free digital download of the “True Trans EP” on their website last July, which included acoustic versions of “FUCKMYLIFE666” and “True Trans Soul Rebel.”
“This is definitely a true band-only from start to finish operation. And the fact that Laura produced it also had a lot to do with the way that it sounds, and the songs that are picked, and all that kind of stuff,” says Willard. “So it’s very much representative of what the band is, how the band sounds, and how the band wants to present itself.”
Against Me! has reached some stability in their lineup with Willard officially having joined the band this past July, and former (International) Noise Conspiracy bassist Inge Johansson in August.
“I don’t take joining a band lightly. It’s something that I only do under heavy scrutiny,” says Willard. “After a while it just seemed like a really good fit. Not just for me and my life right now, but also for me, musically and wanting to work with people who are easy to work with and likeminded on so many levels.”
Willard has been an Against Me! fan for a long time. He had hung out with them on the Van’s Warped Tour years ago, and joined them on their Australian tour after Weinberg left.
“After I went to Australia with them and played some shows and got to do some touring and got to be around Laura and James for an extended amount of time, it had gone so well that it was just a natural progression,” says Willard.
Touring has been pretty nonstop since the release of “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” so a whole lot of preparation hasn’t been needed for this tour. Willard just ordered a lot of drum sticks and drum heads and is ready to continue on the road, establishing a new era of Against Me!.
“Having new members of the band is one obvious change, but there have been member changes throughout the history of the band as well. So in a way it’s business as usual, I think, for them,” says Willard. “It’s definitely my favorite era of the band, because I’m in it. Can it not be my favorite? Are you not supposed to say your thing is your favorite thing?”
With Against Me! being around for over 15 years, they have a pretty extensive catalog of music. From their first studio album, “Against Me! is Reinventing Axl Rose,” chock-full of sing along anthems, to their first major label record, “New Wave,” and everywhere in between, they seem to be picking up fans. The loyalty of their fan base may have something to do with the fact that they try to hit on every time period of the band at their live shows. Songs like “We Laugh at Danger and Break All the Rules” and “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” tend to get a big reaction from the crowds, but the band likes to play the songs that pump them up as well.
“Of course we’re all excited about the new record, so there does tend to be more songs from that record, because that’s what we’re all fired up about,” says Willard. “But we play just about an even number of songs from all the records.”
So, when it comes to talk of Against Me!’s albums, what’s the word on any upcoming records? There was almost four years between the release of 2010’s “White Crosses” and “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” but Willard assures us that we won’t be waiting until 2018 for a new record. “New material is kind of popping up, sooner than later. Things are moving at a pretty good pace in terms of that,” says Willard. “It’s definitely going to happen, I can tell by the way the ideas are coming and the way that we work together, this is going to happen pretty quickly.”
Willard has been active in the music scene for quite some time. Before joining Against Me!, he was a founding member of Angels and Airwaves, and has played with The Offspring, Social Distortion, Rocket from the Crypt, and Danko Jones, amongst more. He has to have a secret to longtime success, right?
“There’s really no formula for being able to play music and do it for a long time,” says Willard. “Don’t lose sight of why you were here at the beginning. What brought you to music and what makes you passionate about the music that you’re making? And if you do lose sight of that, take a step back and reacquaint yourself.”
If Against Me! has shown us anything, it’s that they weren’t lying, they laugh at danger and break all the rules, and it’s working.