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Laura Jane on the Music of Her Life

Laura Jane Grace is guiding us through the discography of beloved UK anarchist punks Crass when security interrupts us.

 

A chocolate Lab starts to sniff around the curtains and scattered Christmas lights that decorate a dressing room in downtown Des Moines, Iowa’s Wells Fargo Arena, where Grace’s band Against Me! will be playing in a few hours. “This is the daily dog sweep,” she explains with a shrug. “2017.”

 

After a few minutes, man and beast leave the room, but Grace is still annoyed by the intrusion. “It’s like that scene in Minority Report where we’re having a conversation, and then all of a sudden our hands are against the wall,” she says. “Talk about your civil rights being taken away.”

 

The 36-year-old is in a great mood as she sips fortified water and radiates joy. Soon, she’ll be taking on intolerance and mindless conformity with politically charged punk rock in front of thousands while opening for her teenage heroes, Green Day. “It is never lost on me onstage,” says Grace, considering her enviable current status in rock’s ecosystem. “This is damn awesome.”

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Her positivity is hardwon. As Against Me! honed their raucous punk protests into anthems big enough to play in arenas across the last 20 years, they endured more than their share of narrow-minded backlash.

 

Tires were slashed. Concert merch was doused with bleach. In 2012, things became even more complicated when Grace came out as transgender, going public about her lifelong battle with gender dysphoria. But through it all, they’re still here.

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Behind the scenes of “Sorry Not Sorry”

Wearing a black hoodie and Doc Martens, Grace talks about how this current tour is something of a full-circle moment—her first-ever concert, when she was 14, was a Green Day show.

It’s just one of the many autobiographical details she fondly recalls while going through the songs that have inspired her throughout the years, an unpredictable list that ranges from ’80s hair metal to quotidian British rap.

A constant in Against Me!’s restless career has been Grace’s impassioned earnestness—personal and political—and that’s also true of their latest album, 2016’s liberated love odyssey Shape Shift With Me.

 

That’s all folks, this was nice and we will do it again soon.

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