Started initially as a solo act by vocalist Laura Jane Grace in Florida during the late ’90s, Against Me! has gained an avid fan base through their many EPs, LPs, and their notable live energy. Last January they released their sixth studio record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which tells the story of a transgender woman who has fallen into a life of prostitution. This album, along with Grace’s own personal journey with gender dysphoria, has helped usher in a new era in the band’s career, as well as establishing them as a fixture in the LGBTQIA community and role models for those who struggle with their own identities. In addition to this disc, they plan to issue a yet untitled live record in the near future which will feature songs that span the length of their discography.
Atom Willard joined the band in 2013. Originally set to be a temporary drummer for a tour overseas, he soon became a full-time member. Prior to Willard’s induction into the group, he was active in a slew of different projects, including Rocket From The Crypt, The Offspring, and Angels And Airwaves. In between wrapping up a short Australian stint at the beginning of the month and embarking on a North American tour that will run through mid-July, Willard took some time to discuss new material, keeping the shows fresh, and his own introduction to the world of music.
Against Me! just wrapped up a tour with Joyce Manor in Australia. Do you have any personally favorite or memorable moments from it?
We had a bunch of great shows, but the second night in Melbourne was pretty special. We were trying to give the “repeat customers” a different set and we ended up playing a bunch of stuff we don’t usually play. There was a great feeling in the room anyway and we just had a blast. It was an incredible last show, really.
How is playing overseas different than playing back home in the United States?
A lot of times people will just let it all hang out a bit more, like they are really going for broke. Sometimes in the States it feels like people are used to seeing tons of their favorite bands, and they tend to be a bit mellower, but not always… There’s always those shows that are just ballistic and over the top, too.
Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to for the States’ leg of the tour?
Yeah! We are stoked to get out there again with the live record coming out, and also trying out some of our new songs in the set.
The band is hitting the road with Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration. How did taking them out with you come about?
I think Laura tweeted Frank, or something. We all kind of know each other just from being around at festivals, so it’s an easy fit.
Between the Australian tour and the North American one, the band only has a few days for a break. How do you keep the stage show fresh and your own personal energy going?
You know, that’s a good question. Sometimes it seems like there’s no way we’re going to be able to rally for a show, but we always do. And sometimes the least likely ones, like the ones that you are most tired for, end up being the most fun. I guess at the end of the day we are all just still stoked to be able to play for people that are excited to see us.
Has the band been writing? Is there any new music in the works for the Against Me!?
Yeah, a bunch actually. We’ve already made like five demos, and there are a few more after that we have been working on lately.
You’ve been involved in many bands. How is performing as part of Against Me! different than any of your previous projects?
It’s both the same and completely different, really. With this band, it’s just that you feel like you’re a part of something bigger than any of us as individuals. With Against Me!, it’s something that’s important to people in a way that I am really proud of. And that’s really an incredible feeling.
Growing up, what was your first experience with music, and does it still affect you today? What initially sparked you to pick up drumming?
My first experience with music is pretty tough to remember. I got my first drum set at age four; I guess I was banging on enough stuff around the house so it made sense. But I do remember playing along to the Beatles’ records, and then KISS records after that. So yeah, I would say both of those things have had a lasting effect on me. I still love playing along to my favorite records when I have the chance.
What are the band’s plans for the rest of the year, after this tour?
In August we do a month of festivals in Europe, then in September we are doing festivals in the States and starting to record the next album during or after all of that.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to add a side salad to my order please. And thank you.
Against Me! will be performing with Frnkiero AndThe Cellabration and Annie Girl & The Flight at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on June 19 and the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA on June 20. For more information check out againstme.net.