REINVENTING AGAINST ME!
WITH HER NEXT SET OF JAMS STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE, AUSTRALIAN GUITAR DIVES INTO THE EVER-EVOLVING MIND OF PUNK GODDESS LAURA JANE GRACE. BY MATT DORIA
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, andit’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 Iwas 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