LAURA JANE GRACE

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

The iconic Against Me! front­woman strikes out with her de­but solo al­bum – a face-melt­ing roller­coaster ride through punk, pop and folk with no holds barred.

THOUGH PROMISES OF AN EIGHTH AGAINST ME! RECORD DIDN’T MA­TE­RI­ALISE IN 2018, FRONT­WOMAN LAURA JANE GRACE HAS BEEN ANY­THING BUT QUIET. MATT DO­RIA HITS HER UP ON SKYPE TO VIBE ON HER NEW, AUS­TRALIA-FLAVOURED SOLO AL­BUM.

The first lines ut­tered on BoughtToRot set a strik­ing tone for the rest of the al­bum. “Learn to trust your­self,” Laura Jane Grace snarls at her­self on “China Black”, the open­ing track on her de­but solo LP (re­leased un­der the moniker of Laura Jane Grace & The De­vour­ing Moth­ers, along­side Against Me! band­mate Atom Wil­lard on drums and long­time col­lab­o­ra­tor Marc Hud­son on bass). “No one else mat­ters! Re­spect the source, and al­ways wel­come fail­ure.”

Their name in­spired by the tit­u­lar book by French fem­i­nist artist Niki de Saint Phalle, The De­vour­ing Moth­ers were born from the rub­ble of Against Me!’s eight stu­dio al­bum, which was ini­tially set to be re­leased some­time this year. Grace, Wil­lard and Hud­son would con­vene on a reg­u­lar ba­sis in Grace’s adopted home­town of Chicago, with the in­ten­tion of writ­ing for gui­tarist James Bow­man and bassist Inge Jo­hans­son to buff out the finer de­tails and re­lease Bought To Rot as the fol­low-up to 2016’s Shape Shift With Me. But when Jo­hans­son stepped aside from the band, paving way for for­mer bassist An­drew Seward to re­claim his ti­tle, Grace’s mind­set changed.

“As the al­bum fully de­vel­oped,” she tells us, “The songs be­came so sig­nif­i­cantly us. It felt dis­hon­est to just plug An­drew in and be like, ‘These are Against Me! songs now,’ even though it was me, Atom and Marc who had writ­ten all of them to­gether.” It’s easy to see why the trio feel so strongly con­nected to the disc. The writ­ing process for BoughtToRot was un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally buoy­ant( as de­tailed in her book

Tranny, Grace’s al­bum-mak­ing stints are com­monly no­to­ri­ous for be­ing clus­terf***s), marked by spurs of in­spi­ra­tion unique from that of which she’d typ­i­cally ap­proach an Against Me! record with.

“It was so easy and laid­back and ef­fi­cient,” she beams of the trio’s work ethic. “[Atom and Marc] would come to Chicago ev­ery other week, and we would just work all week long. I’d take my daugh­ter Eve­lyn to school at seven o’clock in the morn­ing, drop her off, go to the stu­dio space I have right by there and meet with those guys. We’d work for eight hours straight, I’d go pick Eve­lyn up from school, we’d do our thing in the af­ter­noon, and then we’d do it all over again the next day. We did that ev­ery other week from the start of 2018, and by April, I was like, ‘Hold on, we have a record here!’”

Though it’s her sharp and au­thor­i­ta­tive, yet some­how sooth­ing vo­cals that grab lis­ten­ers at first lis­ten, Grace is, first and fore­most, a gui­tarist. An off-hand men­tion of her jet black Rick­en­backer 370 (which we show­cased in de­tail in Aus­tralianGuitar #122 – hit the web­site for that story) has her buzzing like a teenage ro­man­tic.

“I love that gui­tar more than ev­ery­thing,” she gushes. “The black-on-black is so sweet look­ing, and there’s just some­thing spe­cial about it, tonally. It’s al­ways a lit­tle more bit­ing and a lit­tle more crunchy than any other Rick­en­backer I’ve ever played.”

Grace is quick to shoot down our hopes of a sig­na­ture Rick­en­backer pop­ping up (if any­one de­serves one, it’s her – she has more Ricks in her col­lec­tion than most hol­low­body en­thu­si­asts could dream of), cit­ing that they’re just a lit­tle too stub­born of a com­pany to make such a call.

“They’re the most un­friendly gui­tar com­pany ever,” Grace chuck­les, “But I re­spect that about them. I don’t know what it is from my up­bring­ing that made me like this, but purely be­cause they’re such ass­holes, I’m like, ‘Al­right, hats off,’ and it makes me want to play their gui­tars even more. It’s the same with the cof­fee place that I usu­ally go to around here – I like go­ing there be­cause they’re kind of mean to me. They’re never ex­cited to see me. I tip ‘em a f***ing dol­lar ev­ery time I see them, but they’re just like, ‘…Meh.’ There’s no free cof­fees, even though I’ve been go­ing there loy­ally ev­ery day for three or four years. But y’know what? I like that. It’s cool.”

With how syn­ony­mous the Rick­en­backer 370 (and the 360 it’s based upon) is to Grace’s image, it comes a shock that there isn’t a strum of one to be heard on

BoughtToRot. In­stead, Grace tapped into a de­cid­edly Aus­tralian in­spi­ra­tion: Row­land S. Howard (of The Birth­day Party, and about 900 other iconic Aussie out­fits). Grace notes that Howard’s sonic in­flu­ence on the record out­weighs any other, and to prop­erly pay

her homage to the late axe an­ni­hi­la­tor, she looked to repli­cate his sig­na­ture gui­tar setup: a ’64 Fen­der Jaguar hooked up to a Reuss RSH-02 pedal, played through a Fen­der Twin Re­verb cranked to 11.

Mid­way through our Skype call, Grace hops up, runs off­screen, and re­turns hold­ing the Jaguar she tracked the record with. She’s vis­i­bly giddy, show­ing off the piece as one of her most prized posses­sions (when she heads on tour, she’ll have a sep­a­rate Jaguar with her; this one is too spe­cial to risk weath­er­ing). We’re not sure what makes us smile more – the Jaguar’s kalei­do­scopic sun­burst fin­ish, so glossy the light of Grace’s we­b­cam flick­ers off it, or the way Grace swoons so fever­ishly over the gui­tar.

“Isn’t it just so f***ing pretty? God­damn, I f***ing love this gui­tar,” she sighs. “I bought it off Stan Lynch, who played drums in Tom Petty & The Heart­break­ers, when I was still liv­ing in Gainesville. And when Tom Petty passed away in 2017, it gave me a mo­ment of pause. “One of the first CDs I ever got was Ful­lMoon

Fever, and Tom Petty was 37 when he wrote that record, so I was like, ‘ I’m 37. I want to do this. I have this urge.’ I was play­ing along to some Tom Petty songs with the gui­tar one day, and I was like, ‘Huh, this gui­tar sounds like it could’ve been on one of the records… Oh yeah, it was owned by f***ing Stan Lynch, it very well could be on one of the records!’ At the very least, it was in the stu­dio, y’know? “When I got the gui­tar, it was pris­tine. Even though it was made in the ‘60s, it looked like it had never been played and had just been sit­ting in a case – and y’know, it was owned by a drum­mer – so I made up this story in my head that this gui­tar sat its full life in its case. And any gui­tar that’s ever been made just wants to rock, y’know? It wants to be on­stage and it wants to be played on records.

“So this gui­tar was owned by a drum­mer, al­ways around cool gui­tars and cool gui­tarists, in the stu­dio with Tom f***ing Petty, but never got played on any of the records. And then it be­came mine! And I’ve been sit­ting on it too, just wait­ing for the right time. And now it’s that time, and the Jaguar is like, ‘Yeah, I wanna be on a f***ing record! I wanna rip! I wanna go play some shows!’ And I’m like, ‘Yes! I will give you that chance!’ So I feel like I’m very much bound to this gui­tar, karmi­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally.

“And y’know, it’s weird – some­times the small dif­fer­ences are the big­gest dif­fer­ences. I’ve done in­ter­views for this record where peo­ple will ask, ‘What are the dif­fer­ences be­tween this band and Against Me!?’ And it’s re­ally just the sim­ple things, like the fact that we’re a three-piece, not a four-piece. The dy­namic is dif­fer­ent; you change one per­son in the mix and the whole at­mos­phere changes. And I played Jaguars in­stead of Rick­en­back­ers on this record – that made a real big sonic dif­fer­ence, and it in­spired me to play dif­fer­ently.” The al­bum’s ties to Aus­tralia don’t stop at Grace’s setup, either. Against Me! have long found our hum­ble shores to be a sec­ond home of sorts – it’s no se­cret that we love our punk rock, and we were one of the first coun­tries to wel­come Grace and co. with open arms – so we’re un­sur­prised (though hon­oured) to hear that our mate has thrown us a few nods on BoughtToRot.

“This al­bum owes so much to Aus­tralia,” Grace muses. “Mul­ti­ple songs on the record were writ­ten in Aus­tralia, or in­spired by tour­ing in Aus­tralia. We did Groovin The Moo in 2017, and that was just such a f***ing tremen­dous tour, and I got so much out of that. And the song ‘Apoca­lypse Now’ in par­tic­u­lar, I wrote that while we were in Perth. I woke up that morn­ing, and I was hang­ing out with a friend that I care deeply about; we smoked a joint, and then we went to Bon Scott’s grave and hung out there for a lit­tle while.

“At the end of the street where the ceme­tery where Bon Scott is buried in is on, there’s a go-kart place, so we went and rode go-karts. It was James’ birth­day as well, so then we went to this restau­rant and I had an amaz­ing meal, and then we went and rode fer­ris wheels in the city. It was just one of those per­fect days, and that di­rectly in­spired that song. And then ‘Air­plane Song’ is in­spired by Aus­tralia too… So much of the record is an ode to Aus­tralia, so on be­half of your peo­ple, thank you!”

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