Since forming in Florida back in 1997, Against Me! have been called sell outs, ‘faggots’ and douche bags by audiences the world over. And they couldn’t care less – in fact, the band seems to revel in their ability to stir controversy. The punk subculture, of course, has always attracted the most unique and incendiary amongst us; those who never could quite fit in – and were generally happy not to.
Against Me! frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace sent shockwaves across the music industry back in 2012 when she went public with her secret lifelong battle with transgender dysphoria and announced she was becoming a woman. Grace made headlines again last month when she took on the Trump Administration’s new ‘Bathroom Memo’ – a law likely to compromise what few rights trans* folks have in the United States.
Adam Willard (known best by his stage name, Atom) joined Against Me! in 2013 not long after Grace had transitioned. As a drummer who has smashed skins for big acts like Social Distortion, The Offspring and Angels & Airwaves, Atom is an acclaimed veteran rocker.
Atom was kind enough to take some time away from Against Me!’s current tour – right now they’re playing shows across North America and Australia is next – to answer some questions for me.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Apt613: I’ve watched you and Laura perform together a number of times, and it really strikes me how well you communicate onstage. I find that fascinating given the sheer stardom Laura has generated through her activism. It would be easy to get annoyed by that. How do you negotiate that reality, and keep your band relationship healthy?
We’re just having a good time playing music that we love, doing it in a way that makes us happy… it doesn’t hurt that people tell us it’s helped them through hard times or that it’s given them a feeling of strength to face the issue they have in their life… it’s incredible really.
One of the reasons I love your band so much is because I’m a fourth wave feminist. Punk rock is inherently alternative and rebellious. You guys really speak my language. Would you say you’ve found yourself getting swept up in some of the progressive movements Laura has been pulled into? Feminist activism, for example? What were your thoughts on the Women’s March on Washington?
It was really great to see so many cites all on the same page, all coming together to make their feelings known. I had so many friends posting about their experiences marching in L.A., Chicago, New York and everywhere really… I have to believe that registered on SOMEONE’S radar, that made some kind of impact to let the administration know that we will not be swayed, held back or kept quiet.
Do you think it’s possible for straight men to be feminists? What about trans* allies? What would you like to see dudes do more of to support progressive movements?
I think if you believe in a cause you can support it.
If anything I’d like people to feel confident in saying they don’t agree with something that is happening as it’s happening, not just in a comment on their Instagram. If you witness someone being transphobic, homophobic or just plain shitty, you can say something no matter who you are.
I’m curious how your band feels about touring in Canada. Would you say there’s a decent punk subculture?
We always seem to have great shows in Canada and look forward to coming back.
What’s your favourite place in Canada and why?
You can’t call favourites!
Things are pretty interesting in the States right now. I’ve noticed Laura put out a few tongue-in-cheek Trump tweets in the last few weeks. Tell me what you think about The Donald. How did you guys vote in the 2016 election?
The current White House situation is terrifying… not only because of who’s living there, but because of the voice that racists and misogynists everywhere now have. They’ve been given a sort of “it’s okay…” and that scares the shit out of me.
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) February 23, 2017
Some say punk is a dead genre. There’s so little originality anymore. Tell me where you see the future of punk rock going? Would you say, given the political climate in the States right now, there could be a punk resurrection of sorts at some point?
Everyone has a different idea of what it means to be punk. I feel like it has very little to do with music and a lot more to do with attitude. I think in the coming years we will see a lot more people and bands using their music to express their anger and discontent.
I’m curious what you and the band are planning to do while you’re in Ottawa, besides performing? Any plans? We should definitely party together at some point. Ottawa is a good time – I swear to God!
I’m sure we’ll either get real loose or do laundry… there’s really no telling.
Can you give me any hints as to where Against Me! is heading in the coming months and years? You must be pretty stoked about the upcoming tour with Green Day. Are you looking forward to it? What happens after that?
Yeah the Green Day tour will be fun for sure. we head to Australia after that then Europe in the summer. We’ll do more stuff in North America later this year too
Against Me! perform at the Bronson Centre Theatre on March 24. The show is open to all ages. Tickets cost $25 and are available online at www.spectrasonic.com as well as in person at Vertigo Records and Compact Music locations.