Posted July 9, 2015 by Jeff in Tunes

Against Me!: Playing with passion

Against Me! photo by Ryan Russell
Against Me! photo by Ryan Russell

It’s been a busy year for the punk band Against Me! The band toured Europe and Australia earlier this year and is now making its way across the U.S. While a new studio album is only in its nascent stages, the band has a live album due out this fall. Recorded over last year’s world tour and helmed by Marc Jacob Hudson (Taking Back Sunday, Saves The Day, Worriers), 23 Live Sex Acts features songs that span the band’s entire catalog. It will be available in stores and online on Friday, September 4. Pre-order for the album is now live on Amazon and iTunes, where the live version of “True Trans Soul Rebel” found on the album is now available for download with purchase. We caught up with drummer Atom Willard, who phoned in from a Pittsburgh tour stop, to talk about the forthcoming album. We also asked what it’s been like to accompany singer Laura Jane Grace on her journey as she transitions, something that’s well-chronicled on the band’s most recent album, last year’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues.

I think you joined the band in 2013. How did you end up coming into the picture?
The band had a drummer emergency. They had a trip to Australia planned and they found themselves without a drummer. I had some time off. I’ve always been a fan of the band. I always wished I could play with them and it was the perfect opportunity. It went really well. That’s how the longer term thing happened. I’ve filled in with other bands over the years and it doesn’t always turn into a long-term thing.

Were you involved in the writing of the songs on Transgender Dysphoria Blues?
There were songs that were pretty developed. They had played some of them live. When I did come in, I had things to change and add but the structures were there.

The songs are really personal. Talk about what was like to play them?
You hit it on the head. Lyrically, they’re very personal. I don’t always hear the lyrics first. I heard the vocal melodies and where the placement and cadence of the vocals are. I write my parts around that and try not to get in the way of anything that she sings. When I could concentrate and listen to the words, I was like, “Oh my gosh.” Another layer of the song opened up to me. It’s a heavy thing to be involved with and part of. It’s also something that makes feel good because you’re supporting someone is being so forthcoming and honest.

I think people should be free to determine their own identities.
It’s a matter of people figuring out who they are and who they need to be. Just getting to that point is one of the biggest journeys for people.

If you look at it that way, that’s why the record connects with people. Whether or not you’re experiencing gender dysphoria, you’re likely experiencing some kind of dysphoria.
It could be career dysphoria or whether you should be with the person you are with. There are lots of things that people can draw parallels to.

Do you have a sense of whether the band lost some fans when Laura came out as transgender?
To the contrary really. There were some people who are close-minded about things like that or couldn’t get their heads around what that might mean. You win some; you lose some. But when most people hear the record and it still sounds like the band they know and love, if they aren’t small-minded assholes, they should be able to get there and figure it out. There’s a whole new crop of people who have come to love the band and identify with the band on a level they didn’t before. They’re going back in the catalog and they realize a lot of it speaks to them.

It is about standing up for what you believe in and protest music as a whole. 

Talk about the upcoming live album 23 Live Sex Acts.
It’s a secret location that we haven’t divulged yet. It was developed through the course of touring last year. It’s the culmination of everything we learned and everything we figured out by playing the songs live and developing them. I’m really excited about it. It’s the first live record I’ve ever done in my years and years of recording.

How involved were you with the mixing?
Our tour manager is also our sound man and also our resident record producer guy, although he didn’t work on the last album. He’s helping us with demos for the new studio record. He’ll ultimately record the next record too. He mixed it, and we could pull out the things we wanted and be there for that stuff. The live record is what it is. It’s us playing the shows. It’s very rare. I wanted something that was a true representation of what we do on stage, which is a big energy and passionate performance. I think it comes across pretty well.

Have you started to write songs for the next studio album yet?
We’ve got six songs that are done. We have five or six other ideas that are forming themselves and becoming solidified every time we go over them at soundcheck. Things are well on their way. We’ll record at the end of this year and be done early next year.

You playing the songs live yet?
We have been playing a few of the songs live. After this much touring that we’ve been doing, it’s nice to mix it up and play some of the newer stuff. It’s fresh to us. Some of the songs Laura Jane has been playing for 15 years. It’s like, “You know what, let’s play something new.” I totally get that.

Upcoming 2015 Shows

July 11

July 12

July 14

July 15

July 17

July 18

July 19

Sept. 25

Winnipeg, MB – Garrick Theatre

Saskatoon, SK – O’Brian’s Event Centre

Edmonton, AB – Union Hall

Calgary, AB – MacEwan Hall

Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre

Portland, OR – Project Pabst Festival

Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre

Las Vegas, NY – Life Is Beautiful Festival


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at