Feminist dance pop: Q&A with MEN's JD Samson

Off our backs, on the dance floor.

Just as she did with Le Tigre, JD Samson blurs the lines between feminist theory and modern pop music with her most recent musical endeavor, MEN. The experimental art-pop band, which began in 2007, is a collective with fellow Le Tigren Johanna Fateman – among others – that's as subversive as it is danceable.

The New York band is currently on tour with Brazil's CSS – the road show hits SF tomorrow at the Fillmore – and to celebrate, the groups released a tour-only split 7" vinyl called “We Are Friends.” Earlier this week, I got the rundown on MEN, trashed humanity on the Web, and the possibility of another JD's lesbian calendar:

San Francisco Bay Guardian: Where did the idea for MEN originate? What was the original concept and how has that changed?
JD Samson:
Well, that's a complicated question because MEN's original concept was a couple different concepts that kind of became enmeshed at a certain point. When Johanna and I started MEN as a remix/ production/ DJ/ Original music team. We kind of imagined that we wanted to continue making music together and wanted to make dance music. So we went for it. But then MEN combined with another project I was working on with Michael O'Neill, Emily Roysdon, and Ginger Brooks Takahashi. That project was called Hirsute and our concept was to creative an artist/music collective of people that came in and out of the project freely. I think both concepts show themselves at different points to us and work in harmony to give us what we want at any given time.
SFBG: Why name the band MEN?

The idea for the name came out of a feminist confidence boosting philosophy that Johanna was teaching me. If you are in a club and the promoter is being a dick, don't apologize to them, or feel guilty for existing. what would a man do? at the time she was telling me this, we were asked for a name for the project and we decided to go with MEN.
SFBG: How did you hook up with CSS? Can you tell me a little about the tour split record?

I have known CSS for a while now. Luiza Sa and I are friends from NYC and I have hung out with the band several times at different festivals and stuff. Yhey asked us to go on tour and we were so so so excited and happy that they wanted us to support them. We had the idea for MEN and CSS to remix each other and to create a tour only 7 inch. Lovefoxx made one part of the artwork and I did the other. I'm super into how it turned outSFBG What is your song writing process like? Where do you most like to create?
SFBG What is your song writing process like?
Usually our song writing starts with a sample or a beat and then moves forward into a melody and then words get thrown down. Either words that were already written or words that the song feels like. Michael and I do it all together actually, which is a cool process. We love completely changing songs after we have sat with one idea and it isn't feeling perfect. It's fun to remix ourselves.
SFBG: Can you tell me about making the videos for "Off Our Backs" and "Who Am I To Feel So Free"
JDS: Well its important to us to be involved in the conceptual arena of our work at all times. I am also a visual artist and MEN prides itself on existing within an art community so it is important to us to go to any lengths for this. Bryce Kass directed the “Off Our Backs” video and created magic from an idea I came up with on a phone call to him. Techa Noble and Paola Maorabito from Sydney did an amazing job with both the concept and follow through for the “Who am I” video. I have known Techa for years and she does amazing work so it was a dream of mine to work with her
SFBG In some ways, it seems like MEN would appeal to a wide audience because, while the lyrics and ethos are about sexual liberation, the sound is upbeat, it's danceable pop -- would you agree? Was this intentional?
JDS: I think we hoped we could appeal to a large audience, yes. We had no idea what to expect, and honestly didn't expect too much. We were just ourselves. So it was a great experiment. Unfortunately I would say that I think we are still much a part of the gay ghetto in a lot of ways.
SFBG: Conversely, I see a lot of disheartening misogyny and homophobia in the Web comments -- how do you combat those?
JDS: Well I don't read the web comments, but thanks for the heads up! Ha. No. Seriously it rolls off my back. I've been looking like this for a long time. I'm proud of that at least. But in terms of the Internet. people say fucked up shit. That's just the deal with not having to look someone in the eye and say something shitty. It's cowardly and it's all about trying to get attention and trying to be as cruel as possible. The internet has done wonders in some ways, but literally trashed humanity in another.
SFBG: Is music itself liberating?
JDS: I think music is whatever you want it to be. it can be inspiring and at the same time completely oppressive. I feel so free with music, and my body, and I wish to create a space where everyone can feel safe to do so.
SFBBG: Who inspires you musically and otherwise?
JDS: Talking Heads, Tearist, Das Racist.
SFBG: Is Le Tigre writing songs or planning any future albums?
JDS: Nope, not at this time, sorry. Kathleen [Hanna] is doing Julie Ruin again, which is rad!
SFBG Will you ever do another 'JD's Lesbian Calendar'?
JDS: Hmmm. maybe. I hope. If I feel good enough about myself. Ha.

With CSS
Thurs/6, 8 p.m., $35
1805 Geary, SF

Who Am I to Feel So Free:

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