Plus, the Against Me! frontwoman previews what's next for the band
Laura Jane Grace is having a full-circle moment. Three years ago, the Against Me! frontwoman presented Joan Jett & the Blackhearts with the Icon Award at the Alternative Press Music Awards. Now, EW can exclusively reveal she’ll be receiving the very same award herself at the this year’s APMAs, which will take place on July 17 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Below, Grace talks to EW about what this award means to her, her musical heroes, and her complicated history with AP.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does it feel to be an icon — officially!
LAURA JANE GRACE: It feels weird! [Laughs] It’s flattering as f— to be given something like that or be acknowledged in that way. It also makes me feel the way I feel when I open presents in front of people: wanting to be thankful, but the attention is a little bit like, “Whoa, that’s crazy.” I can’t help but be thankful for that. It’s really an honor.
Previous recipients of this award include Marilyn Manson and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. That’s impressive company.
I gave Joan her award and gave a speech in 2014, so in that respect, it’s really surreal! Only three years ago I was handing off this statue to Joan, and now you’re telling me someone’s going to be handing me that little statue?
You’ve graduated into the club.
That day I remember so fondly. I did a song with Joan & the Blackhearts, and Slash [from Guns N’ Roses] did a song with Joan too. Going down there that morning and being on the side of the stage and being like, “Oh my God, literally just me and my daughter and the crew are sitting here watching Slash and Joan Jett soundcheck ‘Starf—er’ by the Rolling Stones” was the coolest thing ever. My daughter’s going to come with me for this, so it’ll be special in that roundabout way too.
Does she understand awards shows?
I don’t think she fully understands. You’ve also got to realize the AP Awards show is a way different environment than the Grammys or the Emmys. In 2015, I was nominated for an Emmy for the docu-series I did [True Trans], and that was very different, much more of a suit-and-tie event. Not a ton of screaming kids in a huge outdoor festival environment with a bunch of bands, like it’ll be for this. It’ll be a really fun evening.
Who are the musical and non-musical icons you look up to?
I mean, when I think of the word icon, I think of Joan Jett! I just walked into my living room right now and I have a picture of me and Joan from that night on my wall. That picture is next to a picture of Jayne County. That is next to a picture of the New York Dolls, next to a picture of Candy Darling. When I think of icons in a musical setting, I think of Joe Strummer, Kathleen Hannah. Those people. People who forever changed me musically.
This awards show is about musical achievement, but does receiving this award feel especially meaningful as a highly visible figure in the LGBT community as well?
I think that’s really commendable of them, for shining light on that by having me there. That’s a really awesome thing for the event. I’m really just appreciative that it’s AP given the relationship I’ve had with AP over the years. I talked about this a little in my book [Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout]. AP is a magazine and organization that has always supported my band since we first started getting record reviews or doing press. But we did have a tumultuous relationship over the years. There was a period when I was going through a really hard time and really struggling with dysphoria and trying to self-sabotage my career because I didn’t want to have my picture taken and do interviews. I was terrible to them. I talked s— about them. I was really rude and not cool to them. That night in 2014, I was able to apologize in-person to a lot of the people at AP that I had bad interactions with. At the time, that felt like a good bit of closure. It was full circle: You can make amends with people and heal and come back and be supportive of each other, and I appreciate that a lot. I appreciate being given second chances with people.
What are your obligations with this award? I assume you have to give a speech and perform?
If it was like it was in 2014, I think I do have to say something — I can’t just walk up there and do a microphone drop and peace out! But other than that, we get to play a couple of songs. I know that within our set we’re allowed to try and make collaborations happen. I want to make something cool happen. A lot of that depends on who else is going to be there, and who could come there just because of where it is. I think our only limitations are who can be physically present.
Do you still get starstruck at events like these?
Hell yes! Totally. That starstruck-ness creates the opposite of “Oh, I want to go talk to these people.” It’s like, “Oh, I’m going to stand here and be terrified in the corner.” When my daughter and I were watching Slash and Joan Jett, I went up to Slash after he came off stage and was like, “Hey Slash, my name is Evelyn, this is Laura — I mean, I’m Laura, this is Evelyn.” I totally called myself Evelyn when I introduced Slash to me and my daughter.
She could be a great icebreaker: “My daughter really wanted to meet you!”
Yeah, except for the fact that at no point did Evelyn give off the impression that she gave any kind of s— about meeting Slash. She’s like, “Who? Slush? Sure, whatever. Let’s move on.” Kids are a little less impressed with that. It might be hard to pull off using them as your excuse.
Last fall, you were putting out a new album, readying a memoir, juggling producing projects. How is your 2017 going? A little calmer, I hope?
Yes and no. We’ve been doing epic touring. This year we were just out with Green Day for a month and a half, which was amazing. Talk about icons and being really nervous around people! I’m fumbling through a conversation because I’m like, “Oh my God, you’re Billie Joe Armstrong!” I’m heading to Europe in July, and we’ll be playing festivals and shows over there, and then I’m coming back from the AP Awards. I have time off in July and August, and then we have a full two-month-long headlining tour with Bleached and the Dirty Nil. After that, it’s December! It’s good having it like this. I have my touring year lined up, and I know how to do that. It’s different than writing stuff. Now there’s a little bit of relief where I realized I can give myself a second! I can just play some shows! At the end of the year, I’ll get my headspace into what’s next: What cool project can I work on? It’s a nice place to be. I’m really thankful for it.