When Scottish indie rockers the Spook School stopped through New York City recently, Rolling Stone set up an earnest sit-down to introduce them to the singer of punk rockers Against Me. Both groups have transgender frontpersons – Nye Todd and Laura Jane Grace respectively – and immediately found common ground to discuss.
Todd opened things up by telling Grace how Against Me!'s most recent album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues – which contains several references to her transition, after she came out in the pages of Rolling Stone in 2012 – and how it prompted him to reassess the punk group's back catalogue, before Grace's transition. "It seemed very strange that you hadn't come out before, that there was trans stuff in the songs," Todd said. "Were you aware of that when you were writing them?"
"At first it was more like your subconscious pushing you towards it," Grace replied. "And then feeling, 'Oh, I'm saying too much.' I've got to mask this. And then it gets to the point where you're like, 'What do I have to do to get your attention and make you realize what I'm actually saying here?'"
Todd said he discovered what "transgender" meant from a YouTube video and the realization that all the guys he had dated, prior to his transition, turned out to be gay. After coming out, he intuitively started treating his own music the way Grace did hers. As he wrote songs, he began presenting them to audiences and explicitly telling them that they were about being transgender.
One of the most poignant parts of the two artists' meeting was when Todd asked whether fans had treated Grace differently since she came out. "Looking out at the audience and seeing a bunch of people sing along to 'True Trans Soul Rebel,' you have those moments wondering who the people are who are singing it," she said. "We had this one show in particular that was shortly after I'd come out and we were playing in Texas and I'm looking out in the crowd and there's this total dude and they jump up onstage and fucking lift their shirt and have their mastectomy scars. And I'm like, 'Whoa, I'm totally judging wrong. . . . I thought you were some college dude.'"
The Spook School currently have a number of dates lined up in the U.K. this summer and fall and recently put out a new song called "Burn Masculinity," which will appear on upcoming record titled Try to Be Hopeful, out in September.
Against Me! will issue a new live album, 23 Live Sex Acts, which they recorded on their 2014 tour, on September 4th.