Interview || The One With Laura and Atom Of Against Me!

While at Vainstream, we caught up with Laura Jane Grace and Adam "Atom" Willard of Against Me!, who performed their last show of a lengthy tour. “38 shows… I put everything I had into it and I left it all on stage, so I’m fucking satisfied”, Laura casually comments. I believe her; their performance on the festival was truly remarkable. We both agree that they deserved a better crowd though.

U: Today aside, how did this run go?
Laura Jane Grace: It was amazing! I was saying to Atom in the hallway of the busses, as we were packing our stuff, that I feel I sucked the marrow out of the bones of every day of the past 38 days and lived it to the fullest; even the shows that weren’t the best shows of the tour, I still came off stage thinking that I did my best.
Atom Willard: No regrets! (both laugh)

U: When I first listened to “Shape Shift With Me”, I felt it was a more “liberated” album.
L.J.G.: That’s the vibe! Honestly, most of that record was written on tour and similar moments on this tour I feel were had when writing songs on that. “333” is a song from that where we were in Bilbao and went to the Guggenheim museum and had a fantastic day and wrote a song. That’s the spirit of the record; it’s places and thoughts and living like that.
A.W.: Being liberated.

U: You guys have received a lot of negativity and criticism over the years…

U: BECAUSE it leads me to the actual question!
L.J.G.: Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate. (laughs)

U: That is true! How have you dealt with all the negative things that people say?
A.W.: It’s something that used to get to me when I was younger and not as mature but when you reach a certain age, you stop giving a fuck what other people think about you. You’re just like “Fuck it. Fuck You. I know what I’m doing”. You take everything with a little “I don’t really know you so I don’t really care”. Also when [people say] “oh my God, you’re the best thing ever!”, it’s like “Okay…”. I really appreciate that, when people say nice stuff about me but that’s not what makes me wanna be here, it’s not why we’re doing it. We’re doing it to make ourselves happy so you kinda have to look at both sides and take something in the middle. People say negative things, people say great things. At least not everyone’s saying the same thing!
L.J.G: And at least people are talking about you! (laughs)

U: Laura, you are a very articulate person, but writing a book is a difficult task, let alone a memoir. How did the idea come about?
L.J.G.: Very true! It was my own decision. It was 4 years in the making; figuring out how you get a publisher and a book deal, and then going through transcribing journals and trying to construct it into something. It was a long process but [when I decided to do it] it seemed it was the right time. I had all these journals and I wanted to do something with them.

U: If you could cast each member of the band as a super hero, who would each member be?
L.J.G.: I fuckin’ love this question! Each of us as a super hero!
A.W.: James is probably Logan, right?
L.J.G.: Like Wolverine? [with a pleading tone] I wanna be Wolverine! It’s right there!
A.W.: Inge is probably gonna be… You know in Hellboy, the C3PO kind of character?
L.J.G.: Oh you mean… Whats-his-name… [ed –Abe Sapien] I’m gonna Google a picture, we can keep going. This is who Inge would be.
A.W.: Laura, of course, is Wonder Woman. OR! What’s the name of the blue…

U: Mystique.
L.J.G.: I wanna be Mystique!
A.W.: You kind of are…
L.J.G. (to Atom): I feel you’ve got a cross going on between Batman and Spiderman!
A.W.: Spiderman! I’ll be Toby McGuire.
L.J.G.: You’ve got the cool, and now the costume’s off… Also, I don’t know if it works in the category but Han Solo, for sure! It’s the cool, it’s the humor...
A.W.: It’s the jacket.
L.J.G.: And it’s the driving, like, you have to  have a vehicle that’s associated with you.
A.W. (turning to me, in a very calm voice): We are a band of strange characters.

U: And that’s why people like you. What super power does your music have?
L.J.G.: Remember that girl from the X-Men, who had the flair of gray hair… She was the one who could take on anyone’s powers.

U: Rogue.
L.J.G.: Right! So, if she kissed someone, she sucked all life out of them and left them a fucking pile. It took them a little while to recover from that. That’s the super power of the music; it fucking s…
A.W.: Sucks. (Laughs)

U: What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
L.J.G.: Another good question. I don’t like lying, I really don’t. I can’t live with the guilt of lying, it tears me up inside.
A.W.: It’s not healthy. I used to have a fake ID so I would get into bars and buy alcohol.
L.J.G.: That’s different, it’s not lying. Lying to the cops or the authorities doesn’t count. That’s not morally wrong.
A.W.: What about lying to your parents?
L.J.G.: That I feel depends on the issue (laughs) No, context is everything with that.
A.W.: I cheated on a girl once, that was really gnarly.
L.J.G.: See? That’s the thing; it probably ate away, right? ‘Cause I had similar discretions I’m gonna have to admit to.
A.W.: That’s a treacherous act.

U: What is it about punk rock that keeps people young?
A.W.: I think, if you’re actually in it for the right reason and you’re still angry or standing for something and, as long as you have a purpose to talk, to yell or to sing along, you still have that life, that energy. That’s a young characteristic.
L.J.G.: I think any psychiatrist or medical doctor would tell you that having a release like that is a good thing. So many people exist in the world where they are pent up and they have no outlet, like being in the audience and crowdsurfing or moshing around or being up on stage and playing in the band. That is a positive thing and when you embrace positive things in life and you live freely, that’s being young and keeping a part of yourself forever young.
A.W.: We’re just into good things!
L.J.G.: As long as you stay hydrated, have a good time and respect everybody, the it’s all good! [ed –Yes, Mom!]

U: What’s the worst trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
L.J.G.: Definitely legal troubles. Getting arrested and being charged with battery on an officer and resisting arrest with violence while you have a weed charge pending against you, is a heavy weight to carry. Fourteen years old and I’m like “I’m gonna go to juvenile”; that’s heavy weight to carry. Our band went through a three-year-long lawsuit; that was fucking heavy weight to carry. The consequence is in going to jail with a lawsuit but the consequence of being financially ruined, that sucks.
A.W.: I got a jaywalking ticket. [pointing at Laura] I can’t top that!
L.J.G.: Do you know The World/Inferno Friendship Society? The singer is call Jack Terricloth and he’s one of my favorite characters and people. There’s this one song, which starts off going: “This Is The Most Trouble That I’ve Ever Been In” and it’s about how, when he was a teenager, he threatened to kill Raegan and the Secret Service came and they arrested him (laughs)

U: What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever done?
A.W.: Oh there’s so many, but the weirdest one? The weirdest one was this week.
L.J.G.: We played with a band recently in Prague and one person from that band, assuming they were a fan, they were stoked to be on the show, and as we’re getting off stage, right there waiting for Atom is him with his pants pulled down, turned around, his ass full moon.
A.W.: We have signed every possible thing that you can imagine. Their phone, their licence…

U: Have you ever signed a dick?
LJG: No! (laughs) I feel weird signing [body parts]. I don’t wanna do this and I don’t want it to be a weird thing; signing arms is weird enough. If they wanna [get it tattooed] it’s cool, I’ve got tattoos. No judgement, I get that. Just signing them is weird. You got your arm signed and it’s gonna wash off.
A.W.: They will never shower again. But yeah, people have climbed on top of the bus –but those were strangers, they weren’t fans. Someone left a shitty diaper on our van window one time (laughs)

U: What do you want the band’s legacy to be?
L.J.G.: That’s a good question too. Fuck! I read not that long ago the story of The Ramones, “On The Road With The Ramones”. It takes place in the late ‘70s or the ‘80s but I found it relatable to our band. They’re not that different; they’re staying at the same hotels, they have the same managers, getting into money troubles or whatever, it was all there. And knowing they were a band for x amount of years that lasted the trends, and that they went on until they weren’t that popular, but they went out on a way of being celebrated by other bands paying respects and having inspired other bands like Pearl Jam. I love The Ramones and I would love a similar legacy for our band. That it wasn’t about a trend, that it wasn’t only a thing, like only acoustic punk or only anarchist punk. That it was a respectable band.

(All pictures by Dearohwell Photography)
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