JD Samson is no stranger to producing aural gold, from her days in radical rock outfit Le Tigre, to MEN’s critically acclaimed first release, 2011’s Talk About Body and today's newly-released Labor, rife with tracks that simultaneously frenzy body and mind. What JD Samson & MEN have created is a sonic estuary, a place where Samson, MEN co-hort Michael O’Neill and their collaborators empty the contents of their minds and turn in their hands everything from gender identity to the tension between artistic autonomy and commercial success. With an obvious and cathartic new course in the evolution of MEN, EARMILK was fortunate to speak with JD Samson about her new album, career, and future.
EARMILK: Let me start by saying, it’s great to have the music collective MEN back in action, with another great dance record! Labor is MEN’s second album, following the excellent Talk About Body. Can you tell us what it was like to work on this new record, in comparison to your 2011 venture? Did you approach this second album with any specific goals in mind? What was different about making this record? Were there any new influences that helped motivate and create this record?
JD Samson: Well Thank you! The process was completely different actually. Starting with the fact that several people from the band have left to pursue their writing and visual art careers, the process felt like we were flipped upside down. We had to navigate our way through a totally different maze with different people, no label, and a lot of self exploration. That being said it was definitely eye opening and life-changing, and I think we came out of the experience with a really great record that takes the listener through the journey we were going through. We also worked with outside producers for the first time which was really interesting.
EM: Your music has always been fairly politically charged, exploring an interesting cross-section between gender, politics, and music. On Talk About Body, you really seemed to take this exploration to another level, with songs like “Credit Card Babies” and “Who am I to Feel So Free.” Can we expect something similar with Labor?
JD: One aspect of labor that feels a bit different was the way we approached political subjects. We set out to make a record that was a little less exclusive to our community, and ended up making a record that felt very personal to us. So, the historical feminist quote of the 60's comes to play here with "the personal is political". Our stories are political because they are our stories. Of being who we are. And I think that collective reality check is what often occurs with our music. There is a song about Caster Semenya, the African track star who was questioned in relationship to her gender and sex. There is a song called (She) where I talk about my own gender expression. And then there are some truly psycho-analytic songs as well. We actually released two protest songs (one about pussy riot, and one about occupy wall st. that are free when you order the record from our bandcamp)
EM: Speaking of the songs from the new album, on the debut single “All The Way Thru,” you collaborated with French electro producer Yuksek to make a very evocative, emotional song. The lyrics seem to touch on that particular moment when youfall in love with someone… and all the excitement, and fear, pleasure and pain that goes along with it. Can you talk to us about the inspiration for that song? And what was it like to work with Yuksek?
JD: I started a new relationship in 2011 and it changed my life. That moment when you realize you have been sabotaging yourself and your relationships, and you are actually ready. That feeling when you realize that you need to actually love them, yourself, and the relationship all the way thru in order for you to believe in it. That's what inspired me. Yuksek is amazing. His studio is brilliant, his methodology is great. And I sat in the studio with him while he did this work, and it felt so natural and beautiful to me. He is someone I really look up to musically.
EM: Along those same lines, what other collaborations can we look forward to on the new album?
JD: We had some tracks produced by XXXchange, some by Alex Suarez from Cobra Starship, some with Johanna Fateman of Le Tigre, and some with Jordan Lieb who produced our old record.
EM :What projects and shows do MEN have coming up in the future? Hopefully you guys have a tour planned?
We have some shows planned this fall, and then plan to do some regular touring once 2014 starts.
EM: Lastly, is there anything you wish to say to your fans out there reading this?
JD: Thanks for your support! We can't wait to put out new music!
You can buy Labor today on iTunes, and check back here for the full EARMILK review of the album.
JD Samson & MEN
- Men Make Music