Against Me!'s Atom Willard on Laura Jane Grace's Gender Transition: "It's My Journey as Well"


Were some Against Me! songs challenging to learn?

It's interesting because they've had so many different drummers over the years, so there's really such a diverse group of players that have done all these different things, have had all these styles, that give me a real sense of freedom because you can take what you want from each guy and inject that into your version of the song.

When I'm playing "We Laugh at Danger," I'm not keeping a lot of the parts that were originally written, but there are certain elements that you feel you have to incorporate so that the song is the song. Really, the funnest part about doing any of that stuff was creating this new version. [Creating] this new Atom, James, and Laura version of the song that never existed before, and people know the song because the lyrics are the same and the notes are the same and all of that stuff, but we've evolved, and it's a whole new world of slightly different variations.

What are some of your favorite Against Me! songs to play?

The one with the drums in them, and the one with the guitar, I like that. I really like them all. Every time I play "Black Me Out," it's such a powerful thing. I can honestly say that I get goosebumps 90 percent of the time we play that song live. It's a pretty cool feeling.

By looking at your Twitter, I get the impression that you and Laura are besties. Did you know each other at all before you started drumming with Against Me!?

[Laughs] I definitely met the band, but I didn't have a lot of hang out time with anyone, so basically, it's just been since I started up in January of 2013, we've been building a real friendship. There's just certain people that you meet and you hang out with and you click. We really do have a thing where we all get along really well, and we just have the same things that are important to us, if it's our sense of humor, whatever it is, that's what's us bringing us together, we're definitely on the same page with shit.

Against Me! has been getting a lot of press from larger publications. Has this impacted your fanbase at all?

I don't know, I can't say that I pay a lot of attention to a lot of music blogs. I'm a little bit off the radar in that way, so I can't say who's being talked about. I can't really say that I've seen a change in the landscape of people that are coming. There seems to be music lovers at every show. People show up and you see all kinds of different t-shirts on these people, and you figure people go to a concert and they're going to wear one of their favorite t-shirts, so it's like, "wow, okay, that's your favorite band, I wouldn't picture you to like a band like us." I think you can sort of gauge [laughs] what person you are by if you're wearing a Used t-shirt or if you're wearing a Panic! at the Disco t-shirt, or if you're wearing a Black Flag t-shirt. They're sending a message in some way whether you want to or not. If my only exposure to you is from behind the drums or watching you crowd surf or jump around in front of us, that's all I can draw from it.

Gee thanks, now I'm going to have to plan an outfit for your show.

Just know that I'm watching [laughs].

I take it you're not the type to look up YouTube comments?

That's a pretty deep wormhole that you don't really want to get into because it doesn't matter how many glowing reviews or amazingly positive things people have to say, if you see one negative thing, that just ends up sticking with you, and you're like, "fuck! whatever!" You get defensive, and it makes you feel funny about it, and at the end of the day, what's the basis of that?

Just know that you're happy with what you've done, and you're proud of what you've done. Ultimately, that's the only thing that matters. Whether I achieve those goals on the record or with whatever, that's all I need out of it.

Against Me! plays the Nile Theater in Mesa on Wednesday, May 21.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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