Against Me! are a band who have always challenged convention. Their seminal debut Reinventing Axl Rose speaks honestly on issues of class warfare and the injustices faced by ordinary people in an unfair society, as well as issues closer to home. It rings as true today as it did when it was released thirteen years ago and this unflinching approach has been ingrained in the band from the very beginning. Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the band’s latest release, is perhaps their most potent and radical since that first LP. It’s also their most personal. A glimpse into the deepest thoughts and feelings of, lead singer, Laura Jane Grace it deals closely with acceptance (both self acceptance and that of others) as well as issues of death, new life and politics. The album has helped push Laura and Against Me! into the mainstream along with their messages of positivity and strong anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic beliefs. To hear all of that blasting out from the main stage of Leeds Festival to thousands of onlookers was a trip and something that both Laura and, drummer, Atom Willard were incredibly happy about when I met them for a chat in the fields of Bramham Park.
The pair were almost giddy with excitement, despite having a ton of interviews to get through, and didn’t seem bothered by it at all. “We’re having a great day” says Laura, beaming. “We’ve been over here in Europe for like half the month so these shows, Reading and Leeds with a show in London as well, are like a great end to that...It’s fucking rad”. Not even the elements could sour the occasion although, in typical Leeds fashion, the rain did try and steal the show. Luckily enough it stopped just in time and didn’t dampen the band’s spirits. “We called someone,” joked Atom before Laura revealed that someone to be The Queen herself. “I just DM’d her on Twitter. Does The Queen have Twitter?” Why yes she does, you can follow her here or, if you prefer, here.
The laughter subsided and we pressed on. Even as an Against Me! fan and knowing what the band is all about, their performance was still a breath of fresh air at a festival dominated by, comparatively, run of the mill, tame musical offerings. The cheers from the crowd as Laura spelled out what her band are about were affirming to say the least and using their prominence at Leeds Festival - and as part of the scene as a whole - is obviously something Laura and the band strongly believe in. “[It’s] something that extends beyond just a personal thing, of using the platform you have, the stage you have, literally, to talk about real things”. I did wonder, however, if there was ever a worry about any backlash from the audience especially at Reading and Leeds on a stage that is designed to cater to such a vast array of musical tastes. However, rather than be daunted, Laura appeared to take the challenge in a positive way. “I believe that if you are receiving backlash that people are paying attention,” she said before conceding that having more of a dialogue may sometimes be preferable`. “Sometimes it upsets me that there isn’t more backlash in that way,” she says with a smile.” Like, ok everyone’s on the level. I guess everyone’s on board”. Again, we joke: Preaching to choir again! However Atom quickly and poignantly made the band’s message clear. “The fear of any kind of negative energy that we may get from something like that does not outweigh the importance of speaking our minds and doing what we do.”