Australian Guitar - - Feature -

Fri­day, May 5th 2017. It’s abysmally frigid out­side, but in the sweaty con­fines of the un­der­ground club Against Me! are tear­ing to shreds, state of the art heat­ing sys­tems (com­monly re­ferred to as ‘cir­cle pits’) keep us all nice and toasty. Be­tween chant­calling cho­ruses and blood­ied yells, front­woman Laura Jane Grace rips on a sweat­stained Rick­en­backer 360, ev­ery bat­tered semi­hol­low strum rip­pling through the hall like a tsunami fight­ing an earth­quake.

“It’s cool that you picked up on it be­ing a 360 specif­i­cally,” Grace nod­ded a few hours ear­lier, “Be­cause it has the 330 body style and the 330 in­lays, and the only thing that makes it a 360 is that it has the Ric­O­Sound in­put jack.” In a re­cent video run­through with US pub­li­ca­tion

UberProAu­dio, she likened such to “putting a CD player in a Civic and calling it an Ac­cord.”

“But it’s a 360 Noir and it’s one of 25 made, and–it’s sof***in­g­beau­ti­ful,” she gushes to us. “The all­black Rick­en­back­ers are just, like, the tough­est gui­tars ever made; they look like the gui­tar Darth Vader would play!”

Grace’s love for the (very un­)hum­ble Rick­en­backer flour­ished early in her youth; “I was al­ways just fas­ci­nated by their look and their sound,” she says, her tone akin to old ro­man­tics think­ing back on school­yard crushes. “The first CD I ever owned was Tom Petty’s Full

MoonFever, so I was al­ways drawn to­wards the chimier high­end sound of Te­les and Ricks. The price range sort of kept them out of reach when I–was younger; I ended up trad­ing an­other gui­tar to get my first Rick­en­backer, and since then I’ve just never looked back.”

It’s a habit of col­lec­tion now: she has three of those ultra­rare 360s – “No, wait! Four; I have four now” – two 330s (one of which in an adorable ‘bum­ble­bee’ yel­low), a 650C Colorado, a 370, and, “I for­get the model num­ber, but it’s the John Len­non­style gui­tar they put out.”

In the gory, sear­ing bends on new cuts like “Haunt­ing, Haunted, Haunts” and “Del­i­cate…”, it’s easy to see why Grace froths the 360: it han­dles melody like a dream, but its tones are numb­ing and coarse and in­stantly spur pits to ex­plode like fire­works. It’s hard to be­lieve she ini­tially wrote those jams on del­i­cate acous­tic gui­tars.

“I live in an apart­ment now, so I have to keep things a lit­tle more low­vol­ume,” she ex­plains. “I have a Gib­son J­40 and a J­45, and they’re kind of my go­to gui­tars for writ­ing. I bring the J­45 on tour with me – as far as string noise goes, it’s just amaz­ingly silent. With most acous­tic gui­tars, when you’re slid­ing your hand up and down the fin­ger­board you get that ‘fssht­fssht’ sound, but with the J­45, there’s noth­ing. It’s like a ghost gui­tar for chang­ing chords, so that’s my jam.”

Grace tells us that her writ­ing process is a mix of care­fully determined per­fec­tion­ism and manic bursts of spon­tane­ity; much of her prose is penned on the road, and though Against Me! are far from soon to set­tle tour­ing in sup­port of their sev­enth al­bum – last year’s ca­reer­defin­ing ShapeShiftWith

Me – new songs are slowly brew­ing away. “I have!” Grace keenly de­clares when we ask if she’s been writ­ing much of late. She’s quick, though, to clar­ify that a new re­lease won’t come as promptly as

ShapeShift did after 2014’s Trans­gen­derDyspho­ria Blues (hence­forth TDB). “I think the rea­son there even was an Against Me! record so soon after [ TDB] had to do with the fact I was also work­ing on a book [ Tranny:Con­fes­sion­sOf PunkRock’sMostIn­fa­mousA­nar­chistSell­out],” she says, “And for the first time ever, the pres­sure was off song­writ­ing. That dic­tated the way a lot of th­ese songs feel: writ­ing the book in­volved a lot of look­ing back and think­ing about the past – be­ing re­ally far up your own ass in that way – and so writ­ing for the record be­came a dis­trac­tion from that. The record

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