Charles Brownstein caught up with JD Samson from Men, asking her about some of the unique places the band has played, as well as whether the current lineup that her and Michael O’Neil have is going to be around for a while.
CB: Tell me about being able to travel to so many interesting places, I understand there might be some new faces around as well.
JD: Well, it was really incredible, you know—I have an agent who does a lot of my DJ stuff in Australia, and he works oftentimes in Asia as well with other bands and he just kind of threw it out there with “so, do you think you guys want to go?” and we didn’t necessarily think we had fans there when we booked the tour. We thought we’d just end up with a couple of people who knew who we were or wanted to check it out, but it really turned out to be really exciting, and there were a lot of fans there. Right now, Asia is doing so well financially and culturally, and it’s an exciting time over there. There happens to be a lot of expats and just a lot of people willing to take a chance with what they’re interested in artistically, which turned out to be a really great place for us right now.
We actually didn’t go to Japan on that tour. Japan’s a pretty hard place to play, I don’t know why, but particularly in acts that I’ve played in… I’m not sure if it’s about their fear of feminism or because I’ve heard a lot about the fact that there isn’t a word there for feminism… I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it or not but I assumed the same thing would happen in China, and it didn’t, so. You know. We’ll see when we go to Japan, next. It’s something that sort of happened organically, but it’s always really special for us to introduce new people to our music and keep the same songs fresh over and over again. We made a record (well, we started it) in 2007 and it didn’t come out until 2011, so it was a long time playing the same songs over and over again, and we did a lot of touring before the record came out.We’ve been playing the same songs and people want to hear the same songs, so it is really fun to play them with new people, play them in different structures, and play them with different instruments, and instrumentations, and it is something that keeps it alive for us, for sure. This time, for me personally I want as many people on stage as possible, but that’s my interest: I love the energy of a bunch of people playing onstage with me, I love interacting with other people throughout the show; I love that kind of communication, and unfortunately, financially, it’s been really hard for us to do that, and on this particular tour we’re flying out to the west coast just for a couple of dates and it seems like it made sense just to try it out because it didn’t seem like it was going to be an overwhelming addition to our expenses. So. We’re going to finally make our dreams come true, and hopefully in the future we’ll be able to do it more.
CB: You touched upon the subject before that it took about 4 years to get your record out, but
you had another release before that, right? Which you self-released? Or was that your first record?
JD: Well, basically we had been recording stuff kind of slowly. What we did was make some money touring and then record some songs, and then make some money touring, and then record some songs, so this whole record was completed on our own, financially, but there was a time where we had three songs done and we put them out ourselves before we had a label, so that was a self-release but then we took that off Tunecore and whatever when we got our deal with IAMSOUND… so those three songs were part of the full-length album. We left IAMSOUND last summer because we wanted to try and experiment with the idea of just putting out our own EPs in the same way that we put out the first one and see what happens, and we’re just kind of feeling that out right now. It seems like without the right PR and marketing, it’s kind of hard to reach everybody that you reach when you put a record out with a label that has a fund for that, but it’s been really cool to do whatever we want and play it by ear, because the industry seems to be in a place right now where you can do whatever you want and see what’ll happen. No-one knows what’s gonna work, you know? *laugh*
CB: So you have I think, is it three EPs coming out in the next few months?
JD: Yeah, we had one come out called “Next”, a couple of months ago, and then we have one coming out next month, and there will be one that hopefully comes out in July or August, and then we hope to put them all onto one record together with really beautiful packaging and put that one out in September. It’ll be weird because all the other songs are out already, but for the people who are interested in having them all in one place, we’re gonna do that too.
CB: If sounds like you’re feeling quite inspired these days, not only to write, but to perform as well?
JD: Yeah it’s always fun, especially when you have new material, to say the things you’ve been wanting to say, and every record for an artist is like a record of part of their lives, and I think it’s hard sometimes you get stuck saying the same things that you felt like years ago, so it’s fun to go out and say the things that you’re feeling right now, and that’s really nice.
CB: I noticed on your Tumblr that you post a lot of your lyrics. Is it important to you that people really understands the songs for sure, but that they also understand what you’re writing, where you’re coming from? Do you know what I mean?
JD: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of people are… well, there are two kinds of people who listen to our music. One is music lovers, and the other is the kind of people who like conceptual art. You know? And I think that it’s important to me to make sure that I’m both making good music that sounds good, but to also explain where I’m coming from with an artist’s statement… and I think part of that is leaving your lyrics accessible and not making it an exclusive piece of information hat you’ll only get if you listen really carefully and then write them down, because I think that everything that’s written is kind of meant to stand on its own as well. I also think that… Spin actually did a piece on our last EP and asked me a lot of questions about what the songs meant to me and it was really fun for me to describe their production and kind of, what I was going for, and conceptually what everything meant to me, and that made me feel verified or something as
an artist, to be able to have an answer for that, you know what I mean?
CB: Another topic—visuals play a pretty big part in your music. You’ve done a few videos and
you have some pretty interesting artwork on your albums. How important is that to you?
JD: It’s incredibly important to me. I’d actually consider myself a visual artist before I’d
consider myself a musician, and I joined Le Tigre as part of the visual arts team and worked my way into the music part of it because everything was so multimedia, and that was really fun to look at it that way, as it was very performance art-based and visual arts-based, so I kind of see this project as very similar to that. For me, right now, I’ve spent all day searching for a VCR because I’m trying to transfer all of this footage to make videos and some kind of stage stuff, so I’m actually really excited to get my hands on things. I make all of our stage backdrops and all of our costumes and our t-shirt designs, so it’s really fun for me to be involved in that aspect of the project. In terms of our album covers, it was an idea from the beginning to always use someone else’s piece of work in its entirety as the front of our couple, with two different artistswe love and support for each record, and we’re really lucky to have friends who do great art, and people who want to donate their art to us, and work with us and collaborate. The next EP we have coming out has work by Jim Drain, who’s a really awesome visual artist.
CB: I’ve read in more than a couple of places that you’ve been described as an “iconic artist”. How does that make you feel?
JD: I don’t know. You know, I always say that I feel like I was in the right place and the right time, and I guess that means I’ve just fallen into this life that I life, and I have a lot of gratitude for it, and I think it’s important for me to be as responsible as I can as a human, and whether that’s about me emotionally being really sincere and standing up for what I believe in and being an activist with my work, I think it’s important for me to do that as well as I can so that other people can gain from it.