Against Me! Today: "No Sugar Dust or Fancy Tricks"
Every half-decade or so, a band becomes the epicenter of a punk-gone-popular zeitgeist. The Clash became hybrid sonic legends underpinned by a political conscience, Nirvana delivered the sludge-core ennui of the Pacific Northwest to the masses, Green Day brought tightly coiled power-trio fare to FM-radio daylight of FM radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs made Williamsburg art-punk a common experience. Most recently, Florida's Against Me! sailed beyond Southern brethren like Hot Water Music and agitprop peers like Anti-Flag.
Photo courtesy of 'Stache Media
First, they combined stripped-down, raucous sea-chanty punk with narrative finesse, then honed a forceful, deeply accessible and smartly barbed musicality, like Cheap Trick bred from Marxism. Fans grew like mushrooms after a pounding rain.
Then the world turned upside down. After years of battling his own self, singer Thomas Gabel transformed into Laura Jane Grace. Against Me!'s newest effort, the concept album Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is an honest, bracing and invigorating exploration of gender identity, as well as the band's fiercest album in years. A few weeks earlier, Rocks Off caught up with drummer Atom Willard during their current tour.
Rocks Off: Atom, as a veteran drummer for alt-music acts from Rocket From the Crypt and Offspring to stints in Alkaline Trio and Social Distortion, what are the common threads of the music -- vision, style, craft?
Atom Willard: Well as similar as everything is, it's all very different. Every band you mentioned has its very specific "comfort zone" and you have to live within that. But it's always fun to bring what I do to a new situation -- to see how my style can fit with what's there.
Transgender Dysphoria Blues features invigorating short, sharp and smart songs by the band. Do you feel it represents a return to punk roots?
It's definitely a punk record -- in Laura's approach and the way we made it. It's raw and natural with no sugar dust or fancy tricks. Very real...
Interview continues on the next page.