Whether it’s through her work with electroclash goddess Peaches, Dykes Can Dance or Le Tigre, as a social justice activist, or a filmmaker and artist – JD Samson remains the unapologetically inimitable voice of left-wing, queer-girl politics in the contemporary music industry. Since the natural conclusion of Le Tigre’s output after the release of This Island, Samson’s been busy at work with old band mate Johanna Fateman and a fresh lineup of new collaborators in disco-punk outfit Men – and with one album under their belts and a second due for release very soon, Samson is ready to bring the crew to Australia.
Samson’s roots in feminist experimental film and queer studies have had an undeniable impact on the projects she’s been involved in to date. The difficulty she found in accepting her identity came not from external sources, but an internal struggle, as she explains. “It’s complicated, because I was lucky enough to live in a community of very supportive and liberal people… it was harder on myself to be honest,” she muses, offering sage advice to other girls facing a similar struggle to accept their identity. “I found myself being very critical of myself as queer, and most of the bullying was from me to me. I would say that that is probably the one thing that I think kids who are coming out should be careful of – don’t abuse yourself for being different. You are beautiful just how you are.”
It hardly needs pointing out, the kinds of struggles that LGBT teenagers face, even today – intolerance and structural disadvantage are a common theme that far too may other queer teens deal with, but the politics of tolerance and acceptance are one of the most distinctive and moving themes to shine through her work, and she’s pleased to have made such a positive impact on this community. “It's rough out there and sometimes, people in the public eye are met with criticism for being who they are – and it’s pretty easy to forget how you have helped so many people,” she says. “I’m so lucky to be able to have emails and letters and tweets and Facebook messages from people thanking me for giving them support, when I didn't even know I was. I never intended to be a voice of a community or to be an activist through the idea of how people see my body. But I'm very, very lucky to have been so meaningful to so many kids. It keeps me alive, I'm telling you.”
Men’s first full-length album was well-received for its personality-laden take on everything from infectious dance to punk, which I point out to her and suggest that the group must be particularly pleased with how Men have done so far. “We’ve had a great response, but I do think that we have had a very limited reach,” she replies. “As queer artists, it’s hard to branch out from that community, and I think that is partly our fault for being so insular and perhaps self-referential with our lyrics. We are putting out a new EP and are trying harder to speak to and with a larger audience in our next conversation. In the next record we talk more about money, and more about love, and more about bodies, and more about identity. It’s a little bit more of a mix of the controversial, but also love-song heavy. Who knows how it will all come together, but we are working with poppy producers (Alex Suarez from Cobra Starship, XXXchange, Santigold, Willy Siegel from Ponytail) as well as producing some tracks ourselves."
BY MIKI MCLAY
MEN plays the Phoenix Public House on Thursday March 1 with guests A Gender and Plast Her Ov Paris.