Dance. Think. Rock out. Rinse. Repeat. Le Tigre have followed that formula for over a decade with their signature electro-punk dance grooves and outspoken lyrics. The band is very much still together (their exploits are in a recent documentary that hits DVD shelves soon), but that hasn’t stopped mix-master members JD Samson and Johanna Fateman from exploring other musical interests. The Brooklyn-based MEN is much more than simply a side project. It actually started out as a DJ production company for the Tigre duo in 2007. After a while, another band Samson was part of (Hirsute) joined forces, and together they made MEN’s new album Talk About Body. Hirsute musicians Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Michael O’Neill, and Emily Roysdon appear on the album but the touring company of MEN actually consists of Samson, O’Neill and Tami Hart.
I chatted with Samson earlier this week, and asked him to talk about his “Body,” Le Tigre’s next moves, and the deep issues (sex, politics, war… what have you) that both of his bands address in their songs.
How’d you decide on forming MEN in the first place, and why, may I ask, did you call yourselves that anyway?
Johanna Fateman and myself decided to start an original music/ DJ/ production team in 2007 that we titled MEN after a new feminist confidence-boosting philosophy called, “What would a man do?” Basically the idea was to stop apologizing for ourselves, and demand to be treated equally in the industry… The name means more now though. Somehow I think the project speaks to the larger definition of MEN — the umbrella term to speak of humans. No gender needed. Who gets to call themselves a man or a woman anyways, and why does it even matter.?
How about how has MEN evolved since its inception? It seems to keep doing so…
Well, as noted previously, the project started as a DJ team and then merged with the live band, Hirsute. At that point, Johanna decided to focus on her new daughter as well as her salon, Seagull (located in the West Village), and Emily Roysdon chose to prioritize her visual art career. Both Johanna and Emily continued to collaborate with production, lyrics, and other consulting for the project as myself, Michael, and Ginger began touring as the live band internationally. Recently, Ginger has left the project to concentrate on other endeavors, and Tami Hart has joined us on the tour. We love the fact that the band started as a kind of collective and that is exactly how we have grown.
People seem to come in and out based on their own lives. Which feels natural and real. Honest and organic. We have grown from these changes, and we feel lucky to have involved so many amazing people in our process.
How is the tour going so far?
The tour is going exceptionally well. We started off at Bowery Ballroom with a sold-out show and have marched our way across this amazing continent and back again. We have had barely any time to rest… so in some ways I feel exhausted, but in some I feel exhilarated. We have had incredible energy exchanges and shared the stage with some amazing opening bands. We all feel lucky to be able to meet so many amazing people and to have the experience of being so vulnerable and held every night.
Getting to the album… it’s entitled Talk About Body. Why?
Talk about body is a lyric from the song “Credit Card Babies,” which is featured on the record. We chose this lyric because we feel that the record suggests through lyrical content that people discuss and to speak about many things: bodies being one important focal point we found… the human, how we move… where we fit.
Have you ever talked to your body? What did it say?
I talk to my body a lot, and I guess I don’t really listen what it has to say in return. If anything, I think it probably would tell me not to worry so much and that we are going to be OK.
Would you agree you’re nobody until somebody loves you?
I think if you love yourself, that’s really what makes you somebody. Living for someone else isn’t really where I am these days. I think living for yourself is way more exciting and way more rewarding. Once you decide what you want, everything seems to fall into place, and having that conversation with yourself is the only way you will find true happiness.
Your comments here reflect Le Tigre and MEN’s song lyrics. They often deal with a variety of issues facing us today — is that something deliberate? In other words, is it all too easy to speak your mind through your music?
I see it as this: I wake up every morning inherently political. I wake up every day queer, radical, feminist, and real. I also wake up every day sincere — so throw these things in a bowl and you get feelings, and reality. And that’s what I choose to talk about.
Is any subject taboo?
No. I speak about what resonates with me. I sing about fingers in asses and man piss. I sing about fucking my best so I can try and make a baby. I sing about trying to keep up financially and continually falling short. I sing about passing as a 12-year-old. There are no boundaries.
Do you enjoy making videos? Your last one is pretty trippy cool.
Well, I went to film school so making artistic conceptual videos is very important to me. I wanted to involve people with great ideas and people that are interested in content — so working with Techa Noble and Paola Moarabito made a lot of sense to me. I have known them for a while and really appreciate their work as artists so I put my trust in them to create an incredible work of art and be able to understand my desires as an artist as well. I love being on set. It feels like the right place for me, and I feel strong and confident there.
Before I let you go… let’s get off MEN for a second. Can we expect a new Le Tigre album soon?
Le Tigre will be releasing a DVD this June through Oscilloscope Films. The documentary is a mixture of live performance footage from our tour supporting the record This Island as well as some interviews and documentary material about the history of the band. We have been working so hard on this release that we haven’t had much time to work on new material. Plus, we are all busy with our own projects.