meta-scriptFor Laura Jane Grace, Record Cycles Can Be A 'Hole In My Head' — And She's OK With That |
Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace

Photo: Travis Shinn


For Laura Jane Grace, Record Cycles Can Be A 'Hole In My Head' — And She's OK With That

Punk veteran Laura Jane Grace came up as the frontwoman for Against Me!. Now, she's out with her second solo album, 'Hole In My Head' — and all the publicity that comes with it — during a tectonic shift in her life.

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 10:54 pm

Laura Jane Grace is on the precipice of a brand new life.

The Against Me! frontwoman just got married in a whirlwind, to comedian Paris Campbell. Her Jeep got sideswiped by a drunk driver; when we spoke, the pair were on an Amtrak from Chicago to St. Louis to pick it up from the mechanic. At press time, Grace and Campbell will soon drive it back to their new, shared home in Chicago: they've been handed the keys, and they're in the center of that maelstrom.

"We've moved Paris' apartment from New York to Chicago, and now we're moving my apartment to the house we got," Grace tells over the phone, sitting on the tracks with Campbell in Joliet, Illinois. "It's scientifically proven that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do in life.

"Just take my word for it," she quips, when asked if that's true. "Don't Google it."

Grace has done a lot of Googling as of late — to mixed results. Her latest solo album, Hole in My Head — helmed by Drive-By Trucker and Dexateen Matt Patton — dropped Feb. 16, and the press cycle rolls on.

Warm, lived-in and melodic songs like "Dysphoria Hoodie," "Birds Talk Too" and "Tacos and Toast" comprise a satisfying continuation of what Grace does best: yowly, heartfelt punk rock. But presenting them to the world has been challenging. Tidbits from the bio get blown out of proportion. Flat-out mischaracterizations make it to print, and stay there.

She's not bitter about any of it; she's mirthful. "I do think that, ultimately, [you shouldn't] read the reviews, and that you shouldn't live and die by what people say about the art you're making," she says. "But I would rather people are saying good things than bad things. I notice that people are saying good things."

They certainly are. Read on for an interview with Grace about the process behind Hole in My Head, parenting, espresso, Slash versus Izzy Stradlin, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I'm sure you've talked about these songs to death. I want to talk about the — let's say indignities — of releasing a record. Like, "Hey guys, it's three weeks old! Do… you still like it?" as it recedes into the rearview.

Yeah. I was thinking that to myself last night, because I'm a little burnt out on social media at the moment. But I feel that pressure of like, Alright, you put out a record, you've got to promote on social media — you'd better make a post or else people are going to forget that literally last week you put out a record that you've been waiting a year to put out!

And it can be a little disheartening at times, for sure.

Psychologically, what's it like to read the reviews? It seems like the doomsday clock for digital media is at 11:59. Reviews used to make or break careers; these days, they seem to comprise an irrelevant sideshow.

It's strange, because I still think of reviews ultimately in the context of how I thought about them with zines. Oftentimes, you would look through zines and you would see the reviews, and that would be your clue and context of what was happening — other bands to tour with if they had a record coming out, or whatever. People that you'd reach out to.

I do think that, ultimately, [you shouldn't] read the reviews, and that you shouldn't live and die by what people say about the art you're making. But I would rather people are saying good things than bad things. I notice that people are saying good things.

And then also, as you said, I'm aware of the layoffs [in music journalism and digital media as a whole], and I'm aware that you've almost got to be thankful for [any press], as a whole community.

Part of my job is promoting those media outlets in a way, too. And that's just through literally just moving your thumb a couple of inches or whatever and pressing repost or retweet or whatever.

You had a funny tweet recently about how the reviews focus on the relative brevity of the songs, even though that's conventional on pop radio. Is that kind of thing somewhat bemusing — or frustrating?

I get frustrated with it, because the record took two years to write, and then it takes however long to record. But then, it all comes down to the bio. The bio is what all the journalists use as their touch points or talking points.

So, if you say the wrong thing in the bio, then everyone is asking those wrong questions for every interview. It's like that the whole time. It's almost like the bio makes or breaks your record.

And then, you're also tasked with trying to understand something that you just made; with a bio, that's oftentimes really hard to do. You're like, "I don't know, I just wrote it. I don't know what it means. I don't want to have to explain it," but then you got to explain it for the bio.

Without naming any names — and you can obscure the language if you like — what's an example of a wrong question you get asked?

The song length thing is one thing, but then the whole thing where people being like, "Oh, the record has a real '50s influence." It's like, "Shut the f— up. It just says that in the bio. Did you even listen to the record? Have you heard it?"

It just sounds like an Against Me! record. It's literally the same process that I've been doing for the past 25 years. I'm not writing songs any differently or approaching them any differently. I read one review that said that it had "handclaps and whoas, which are decidedly not punk." I'm like, What?

Outside of the press, where are we catching you in life, with Hole in My Head out in the world? You're on the precipice of a completely new epoch of existence.

That's what it is. Huge, massive changes happening in life. And that's the thing you don't want to happen in a way, with a record — where a year in between completing it and putting it out because you've got to pull yourself back to that place to even talk about it for interviews then, which can be hard sometimes.

I'm excited about songs that we recorded back in December and then excited about writing new music and just now having a record released holds you in place in that way. So, having it out is a good thing, and [being] free to move forward.

This is a cliché, but whatever: Hole in My Head sounds like a snapshot of where you are in the moment. Some records feel like promotional noise and don't tell me anything about the artist. Have you written in that slice-of-life, "Tacos and Toast" way before?

I think I was building towards that. I am happy with the way that song came out, but it took a lot of work to get to that kind of flow. But I think a song like "Shelter In Place," off of Stay Alive, was a precursor to that style, maybe.

Are you talking about honing your focus on syllables and stresses and stuff? Or themes?

More just relaxing into it.

Tell me more about that.

Like I said, the song "Shelter In Place" was a precursor to that song, because they both mention espresso. So, you're singing about your morning coffee, which to an 18-year-old punk kid probably seems really uninteresting. But when you're in your forties, you're like, Hell yeah. My morning cup of espresso — looking forward to that. I want to sing about that. I'm excited about that.

But I think it takes a nuance to be able to work that into a song. And I admire songwriters like John Prine or Dan Reeder, who were able to sing about their morning breakfast steaks and s— like that and make it good.

**I'm a huge John Prine fan. I don't sense he sat down and overworked anything. It all seemed as natural as breathing. So, it's almost like unlearning.**

Totally. That is what it is: natural as breathing, if you're writing about eggs, you're not trying, and it's coming off way better. And there we are with a Jonathan Richman reference: "They're not tryin' on the dance floor."

I'm not going to make you explain this song, because it's a song. But "I'm Not a Cop" touched a nerve in me, as per how we police each other day-to-day.

There's that, and then I think also it even relates to being a parent and realizing you don't have the authoritarian bone in your body and that that's not you, but I don't know. There might not be many things I'm confident about in life, but I'm definitely confident about that statement.

And, also the observation of seeing a cop at Superdawg eating a hot dog. It makes me smile every time I sing it.

Tell me more.

Literally, I drove by the Superdawg, which is a famous hot dog place in Chicago, and there was a cop in there eating a hot dog. It's f—ing hilarious.

Has parenting been a mind-bending, acid-like experience for you? Or did it all come naturally?

Yeah, mind-bending for sure. Last night, I got in a pseudo-argument with my kid, because they were criticizing me for only playing rhythm guitar that I never played solos. [Note: Grace's child uses they/them pronouns.]

They were specifically saying this because they're just a better guitar player than me already. And they really have focused on solos and doing really intricate guitar playing parts. I'm like, Goddamn, this is just surreal to have your kid digging into you about your guitar playing style

Basically, they're saying they're Slash, and you're Izzy Stradlin — suck it.

Are they hitting What's going on?

They're rad. They're really, really, really good. I feel like they're seconds away from starting their own band.

What are their influences?

I gave them a Fleas and Lice record yesterday to listen to. They're really into punk, and really into odd stuff. At this point, I'm looking to them to see what's going on and what I should be listening to.

You mentioned that this is the process you've always abided by. But, can you talk about any special production flourishes here, or anything like that?

I was working with what I had. If I had had a drummer with me at the time, it would've been a  different record. But I didn't, so the drums came out the way they did.

I think the biggest addition and blessing with the record is Matt Patton. Him raising his hand and going to drive up to St. Louis — having never met me before — and spending a week in the studio. The parts he came up with are so rad; they make those songs. If it weren't for him, it would've been an entirely different record.

One thing I don't like to do when finishing a record, is listen to it comparatively to the record before it. Even sonically, I want to be surprised by it down the road.

Is making a record almost an uncomfortable experience, where you don't want to look at it too long? Is it like staring into the sun?

Yeah. That's ill-advised. I was actually thinking about that earlier. We were driving down and the sun was coming up and I was staring at it and I was like, Don't look into the sun you fucking idiot."

I think the uncomfortable part of the experience is the necessary part of the experience, and you have to push through the uncomfortable to get to the comfortable part — to know that you've got a good record.

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Lzzy Hale of Halestorm


'Tour Stop(ped)' But The Show Must Go On: Laura Jane Grace, Lzzy Hale & More

MusiCares & the Recording Academy Florida & Chicago Chapters host a candid discussion between top rock acts on mental health and adapting to life without the rush – or revenue – of touring.

GRAMMYs/Oct 30, 2020 - 04:27 am

"I miss airport coffees. I miss sleeping in a bus bunk. And I miss being part of a team," Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace said with a melancholy smile, followed by knowing nods from her colleagues. Even before the pandemic sent countless hearts and minds into a heady darkness of isolation, the importance of frank discussion of mental health for musicians had come to the foreground. Suddenly taking away sources of revenue, of connection, of support, of stability, of routine, from people already facing the challenges of the life of an artist. Presented by Recording Academy Florida and Chicago Chapters with MusiCares and bringing together a variety of Recording Academy members to share their perspective on it all, Tour Stop(ped) opened the floor to the essential conversation regarding the value of self-care and strategies for thriving as an artist unable to hit the road.

"You're basing your life on connection to people," explained rising English rocker Yungblud. "I want to be out there causing chaos but now I'm just looking at the walls, watching the paint dry!"

Stephen Gibb served as the perfect moderator for the conversation, a familiar face in a cozily familiar studio setting, keeping the conversation focused and spirited. As a member of hard rock bands such as Black Label Society, Crowbar, and Saigon Kick, Gibb is intimately familiar with tour life. And as current host of the podcast Addiction Talks, his deft hand with sensitive conversations encouraged openhearted conversation, first focused on a general sense of how everyone was coping with this strange new reality. In addition to Yungblud, veterans Grace and Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, and new wave experimentalist KennyHoopla contributed an array of perspectives on Tour Stop(ped), both in terms of their careers and their personal experiences, offering viewers a variety of valuable lessons.

Hale found herself stumped by the first chunk of time without a gig on the schedule since the band's founding. "Even when I was 13 I had a gig at the bowling alley lined up," she laughed, framed in her home studio by racks of her distinctive Epiphone Explorer guitars. From her home in Chicago, Grace reiterated the confusion that comes from utter stillness after decades of constant movement, but with a sense of contentment. "This very well might be one long manic episode," she laughed. "I've been doing this for 20 years, and in a way it was 20 years of wondering when it was all going to go away. And that it did, but not because of anything I did, something totally out of my control, was calming."

A large part of the conversation focused on strategies to ensure that musicians can feel creative and fulfilled in this time, to keep from falling into unhealthy ruts. As an artist still early in his touring career, KennyHoopla has seen the inability to perform as an opportunity for reflection. "I'm just trying to catch up to myself," he said. "To use this time to hone the fragile parts of me and make them stronger."

Grace, meanwhile, compared the time to Bob Dylan's self-imposed years off from touring, saying she was similarly using the pandemic as a period of woodshopping and working on her craft. "Being an artist is about being creative, and we're in a situation right now that's asking us all to be our most creative selves to make this work and to make the best of this," she mused.

Gibb and the panelists elaborated on the importance of maintaining a connection with fans—as a way of keeping the audience engaged, of garnering financial support for new projects while tour revenue is gone and of maintaining the necessary emotional support. When the pandemic necessitated canceling gigs, Yungblud was already in the midst of a global tour. When he got home, he immediately knew he'd need to put together a livestream event and to stick close to his social media accounts. "Luckily, I love being online and I love social media. That's our stage right now," he said. "Everybody's in the same boat, feeling that need, like, ‘I'm going to mosh my head off, I'm going to go crazy, I'm going to release my energy even if it's in my bedroom with my cat.'"

Read More: Yungblud Talks Turning His Tour Postponement Into An Online Rock & Roll Variety Show

While the panelists were all musicians, the entire music industry, Gibb noted, are struggling through this pandemic. Countless individuals are having their livelihoods hit hard by the inability to work in crews, sell merch, and promote tours, among countless other outlets. "My heart is breaking for my friends and family, the techs, lighting guys, riggers," he said, holding back the tears. "We're in the fun business, the happiness business. We bring joy and we connect with people on a visceral, emotional level. It's heartbreaking for there not to be any end date to this."

The panelists provided fascinating and refreshing perspective on what might happen when touring does start to kick back into swing. "If everyone is going to try to tour at once, then the market will be completely flooded and it's going to be just as much pandemonium," Grace insisted. "[We need to be] figuring out a strategic way through this and a strategic way out of this for the community that we have spent so long building that is collapsing around us."

As life, and this year, have shown us difficult times can manifest surprising moments. Two surprise guests dropped into the conversation as well in order to ask questions that hit close to their hearts. Frontwoman of legendary LA hard rockers L7, Donita Sparks popped in first ("I don't know if I'm a guest or a Zoom bomb!" she grinned). Her question centered on what the artists missed most; for Sparks, it was her tour family, the larger crew beyond the band, and how artists can keep that connection while at home. "I always feel invincible because I know they have my back," she said.

On top of lamenting the inability to connect more personally with his fans, Yungblud encouraged everyone on the call to let out their most raucous shout, a release of pent-up punk-energy inspired by Sparks' iconic spirit. Experimental songwriter Grandson popped in later (first thanking the "music Illuminati" for the invite), and then offering a succinct and powerful explanation of the importance of gratitude. "Set your goals internally to make the best art you can, be the best friend you can, and let the things that are out of your control remain that way," he said.

Naturally, the conversation wound its way through to coping mechanisms, strategies which the individual musicians would recommend for keeping their mental health strong. Aerobic exercise as a replacement for long nights on the stage were a common refrain. Hale added that an herb garden had become a centering activity and Gibb extolled the virtues of meditation, while Grace vouched for long baths with epsom salts and apple cider vinegar. Yungblud's solution was endless jamming at the exasperation of his neighbors, while KennyHoopla's suggestion for boosting spirits focused on one word: love.

"Having time to elaborate on my love for everyone in my life and loving myself... just putting out love as much as I can and continuing to give myself to the universe," he said. "When you give yourself to the universe, it will always return."

In addition to the panelists' discussions of their own experiences, the event featured video interludes. In the first, Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman highlighted the Academy's collaboration with MusiCares, noting that the organization had already assisted nearly 20,000 individuals in the music industry and dispersed over $19 million, whether for helping cover rent, fixing broken instruments, organizing doctor's appointments for uninsured members, and even establishing cyber support groups and addiction and rehab counseling.

Later, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Recording Academy Daryl Friedman led a conversation regarding how artists can help in the fight to sustain independent stages. Throughout, short videos from Academy members sharing stories of their favorite venues and what they missed on the road reinforced not only the community aspect of the music industry, but also the Academy's commitment to bringing everyone together in the fight to make lives better until things can get back to a relative normal.

But then even this very panel showcases just how important that community feeling can be, the four panelists exchanging their own biggest takeaways. "Laura said earlier, you have to do things quickly [because] when you have time you can overthink things," Yungblud reiterated. "Right now, what the f*ck do I have to lose? Why not push my boundaries?"

KennyHoopla had been meant to open for Yungblud on a series of tour dates, and the two naturally bonded during this time over their joint focus on pushing boundaries during pandemic. "There's this sense of urgency because people are relying on you to give them a sense of escapism and a high," he said. "I've gotta keep going and keep providing art and putting myself out there."

As the conversation neared its end, Hale insisted that when they were all back out on the festival circuit, they'd need to find a way to get together for a hug and a beer -- a simple pleasure that's somehow turned into a transformative dream. And after all of the sage advice dispensed throughout the evening, Grace offered perhaps the most important three-word signoff: "Just stay alive."

Recording Academy's 'Pass the Aux' Forms a "Zoomchella" Community

Laura Jane Grace at Reading Festival 2019

Laura Jane Grace

Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns/Getty Images


Bonnaroo Virtual Fest To Feature Laura Jane Grace, David Lynch, Charli XCX, Nubya Garcia & More

In addition to live content, archival Bonnaroo sets from Metallica, Beastie Boys, Alabama Shakes, Tears For Fears, Run The Jewels, the xx and more will be streamed during the three-day online event

GRAMMYs/Sep 16, 2020 - 11:33 pm

Today, Sept. 16, Bonnaroo announced a star-studded three-day "Virtual Roo-Ality" fest, streaming on their YouTube channel Sept. 24–26. The event will feature both live and archival music sets, as well as programming like Hayley Williams' Sanctuary of Self Love, which she has hosted at past Bonnaroos.

David Lynch, Laura Jane Grace, Charli XCX, Nubya Garcia, Tank and the Bangas, Chromeo, CloZee, Billy Strings, Big Gigantic, Ashley McBryde, Denzel Curry, Jamila Woods and many more will make live appearances during the weekend. As for the archival sets, of which over a dozen will be aired, Metallica (2008), Alabama Shakes (2015), Tears For Fears (2015), Run The Jewels (2015), the xx (2015), Nile Rodgers & CHIC (2018) and the Beastie Boys (2009) will be featured. The Beastie Boys show was their final live performance and will be its full-length streaming premiere.

Related: GRiZ & Friends Honored Dr. John And Other Music Legends During Bonnaroo SuperJam Set

Bonnaroo 2020 was originally slated for June 11–14 with Lizzo, Tame Impala, Flume, DaBaby and others on the stacked lineup. It was later postponed to Sept. 24–27 due to COVID-19. Like other festivals, it has since been pushed to 2021 and, now, the virtual event will offer a musical balm during these live-eventless times.

The entire three-day event will be streamed on their YouTube channel, and some content will be available after on-demand. The event is free to tune in to, but Bonnaroo will be fundraising for voting rights org and the ACLU. As their website explains, "donations collected during the weekend for these and additional organizations will be made by the Bonnaroo Works Fund, whose mission is to foster community, creativity and positive influence."

The schedule will be announced soon. For the full lineup and more info on Bonnaroo Virtual Roo-Ality Lineup and Bonnaroo 2021, visit their website.

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Tash Sultana

Tash Sultana

Photo: FilmMagic/Getty Images


Eddie Vedder's Curated Ohana Fest Announces Lineup With Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tash Sultana & More

Other headliners include Incubus, Jenny Lewis, LP, the Strokes, and more

GRAMMYs/Mar 5, 2019 - 03:55 am

The fourth annual Ohana Festival is set for Sept. 27–29 at Doheny State Beach at Calif.'s Dana Point. The ocean-side celebration is curated by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who co-founded the fest and will be headlining. Additional headliners include Glen Hansard, Incubus, Jenny Lewis, LP, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Strokes, and Tash Sultana.

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Former Pearl Jam drummer Jack Irons is also on the bill, along with Laura Jane Grace And The Devouring Mothers,  Lukas Nelson & The Promise Of The Real and White Reaper.  

"It's been a true honor," said Vedder last year, "to work with the community and organizers to create a stimulating vibe and uplifting atmosphere for the great crowds and incredible musicians who come out to play in the park."

Tickets go on sale on March 8 at the festival's website. A portion of Ohana Fest's proceeds will be donated to the Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association, the San Onofre Parks Foundation and other charities.

Students Meet Their Hawaiian Ohana At The GRAMMY Museum

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga

Photo: Christopher Polk


Lady Gaga, Kacey Musgraves Donate Gear For Girls Rock Camp Alliance Auction

Dolly Parton, Sharon Van Etten, Hayley Williams, Reba McEntire, and Fergie have also contributed items to the auction to benefit the non-profit organization

GRAMMYs/May 9, 2018 - 07:11 pm

Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, and Kacey Musgraves are among the ist of top female artists who have donated their personal gear for a new auction benefitting the non-profit Girls Rock Camp Alliance, which supports more than 100 summer camp and music education programs around the world for female, transgender, and gender non-conforming youth.

The star-studded list also includes Paramore's Hayley Williams, Lydia Loveless, Marian Hill, Melissa Etheridge, Evanescence, Tal Wilkenfeld, Amanda Shires, Sharon Van Etten, Fergie, Mindi Abair, Charlie XCX, Reba McEntire, Imogen Heap, Against Me!'s Laura Jane Grace, and more.

Items up for the auction, which is hosted by the online marketplace Reverb, include microphones, guitar effects pedals, instruments, concert tickets, memorabilia, and more.

"My sister and I were very lucky to have inspiring resources at our fingertips and people championing us to find our passions very early in life. We need more perspectives of strong women living on through art and music, so I’m happy to support Girls Rock," said Musgraves, who is donating a mixer and an autographed plastic pink flamingo.

The auction launches on May 10 on Reverb's website.

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