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We’re rerunning this interview to help get everyone excited for this Friday’s HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS!!! — Ed.

In the sometimes insular, overlapping worlds of the queer art and music scenes, JD Samson is a jack-of-all-trades. The former Le Tigre member has now teamed up with Micheal O’Neill and Tami Hart to create the core of the new musical project MEN, a group that will surely be appreciated outside of LGBT circles as being just super fun to dance to.

More explicitly and purposefully danceable than it’s predecessor, MEN is a departure from the punk ethos that characterized Le Tigre’s sound, though the commitment to bending conventional gender, sexual, and political norms in both lyrics and performance is a thread that binds the two very different projects. These are songs about in-between souls, credit card babies, and prosthetic sex, after all.

JD caught up with BYT by phone on the band’s trek to Austin (from a lesbian bar in El Paso called Lips) and gave us some insight into the liberating power of dance music, why labels suck and WWMD. It basically reaffirmed that JD is as multi-talented, adorably nerdy, and thoughtful as you might expect. Enjoy and come get sweaty with MEN at the Red Palace tomorrow night the 930 Club tonight.


BYT: I’m excited to have you guys come back to DC. I actually saw MEN play at Phasefest in September.

JD: Yeah, that was really fun!

BYT: It was. I felt like all of Brooklyn’s queer indie bands descended on the District.

JD: I think that happened that night. It was really fun. We met Tayisha Busay and we took them on a couple dates of this tour, actually.

BYT: How do you feel being the nexus of this new queer music scene?

JD: Oh I didn’t know we were! But I think we’re part of a million different music scenes in a way because our genre and then also our content and also just being queers and radicals – we are pretty happy to be part of all those different things.

BYT: So you guys released Talk About Body Last month. How do you feel about the album and how it’s being received so far?

JD: It seems like people really like the record. I mean, for us it’s kind of old news because we made it a long time ago. We started writing it in 2007. So it was a long time in coming and we’re major perfectionists. We picked everything apart so much that now we’re a little bit sick of it. But it is really cool to have it out, have people know the words and playing new songs live makes the set really fun. Just changing it up a little bit is always important to keep us inspired. People really like it so we’re feeling really positive about it.

BYT: I feel like you guys bring a lot of performance styles to your music as well. I think it’s cool that you in particular have done a lot in your career, in film with Shortbus, photography projects with Cass Bird. You’ve worked with mainstream artists like Christina Aguilera and gay icons like Peaches. It’s great that you blur the idea of performance and the lines of all these different art forms.

JD: I think it’s funny you say that. I think since I was in high school I’ve been interested in blurring the boundaries of everything. That kind of manifested itself in my college thesis which became about adaptations of art forms into other art forms. So I think that’s always been a really interesting idea to me – to not be labeled as anything and kind of exist without any boundaries and barriers. I think that’s kind of what this project is about for me. We’re not really a certain genre. We’re artists and bring a lot of visual elements into the performance and into everything we do that’s very content based and concept-based. That’s another thing that makes us different and doesn’t put us into any boxes.

It’s one of those easy things. In high school I remember I wrote on my wall something like “Labels are for food” and that’s still how I feel. I’m just me. We’re just us. We just make the music that we love and we make art. And that’s it. I do feel really lucky to have been involved with so many different kinds of projects and I think that it’s really just about doing what you want to do when you want to do it and making all your dreams come true, you know?

BYT: Very fairytale.

JD: It’s true, though. If you want to make a calendar, make a fucking calendar.


BYT: And you’ve talked about dance and dance music being this radical art form in a way, because it lets everyone kind of boogie down and release. And I was dancing around in my chair this morning listening to “Who Am I To Feel So Free” at my desk in my cubicle.

Yeah, to me with dance music I see so many juxtapositions – the concept that we want to give to the world and the medium of dance music. And also using samples is a really cool thing for us conceptually with our music. To be able to do that with dance music is really awesome. I think it’s kind of like this collage of different elements, of the past and the present that are merged together to form the future or something weird. That was kind of cheesy, but it worked.

The whole idea of movement in general is really awesome to me. That’s a part of the reason why I did my second calendar which was JD’s Lesbian Utopia which was an RV trip across the country to gay and lesbian RV parks because it’s just about the LGBT movement versus actually moving. I think dance music is similar in that way because it is a movement and it’s also the perfect place to have a discussion about movement. Whether that’s forward movement within our political state or whether that’s a movement as in a revolution.


BYT: Who’s been one of your favorite people to collaborate with in your musical or artistic pursuits?

JD: Well, we just collaborated with Antony from Antony and the Johnsons. He did the vocals for “Who am I to Feel so Free.” Our label wanted us to get remixes from people and we suggested Antony because we had wanted to work together. I guess we thought that’s weird, why would we have him do a remix, why don’t we just have him do the regular track and have him sing the vocals. Yeah, that was really cool. He’s so incredible in the studio, just amazing energy and we were all really wowed by what he did. (ed note: the following video may be NSFW if your workplace frowns upon lighthouse erections)

BYT: And so I have to ask this. To have such a queer-identified, radically focused band and then to have it be called MEN… what was the reasoning behind the name?

JD: When we first came up with the name, Jo (Johanna Fatemen of Le Tigre) and I were DJ’ing and someone said “You should have a name other than Jo and JD of Le Tigre” or whatever. And so Jo and I said oh, ok, well we’ll think about it. And that day we were sitting in an airport and had a layover and were really bored and Jo was telling me about how she had this new philosophy that was confidence-boosting for feminists. Which was “What would a man do?” And I know it’s really broad and generalizing but basically it’s like if a promoter says they can’t give you the guarantee and wants to pay you less money, what would a man do in that situation? They’d say, no, sorry, you’re giving us the money you were contracted to. So we started thinking that way that day. So someone cuts us in line — what would a man do? And finally at the end of the day I said “Let’s be called MEN!” And she was like “ok!”

We did that for a while and the project that is MEN now was formed out of a combination of another band that I was in at the time called Hirsute. So we kind of merged the two projects and called it MEN and since that time, we’ve come up with new ideas and ways to explain why we’re called MEN. One is just gender fluidity in general and obviously our interest in not conforming to any gender-binary system and also kind of living under this umbrella term for human beings. We’re all the same, who gets to be a man or a woman? It’s also just really funny when people say things like “Parking reserved for MEN”.

BYT: So what would a man do in DC?

JD: Well… a man would probably eat Ethiopian food. We’re excited to hang out with DJ Joshua, our friend, and we’ll probably get there and be tired and eat dinner and play a show and then drive to my girlfriend’s house and meet a tiny little baby.

Adorbs. You can catch JD in all their dancy, dreamy glory at Red Palace tomorrow 9:30 Club tonight THIS FRIDAY!!! Or here: www.menmakemusic.com