True Trans Soul Rebels

Photo by Ryan Russell
Photo by Ryan Russell

In 2014, what does punk rock mean? “Playing as fast as you can? Playing three chords?” poses Atom Willard, drummer for Against Me! “Spiking your hair? Punk rock is doing what isn’t generally smiled upon by the masses,” Willard says. “Doing something you believe in and isn’t easy to do — basically going against the grain.” Willard says the gender transition of Against Me! vocalist Laura Jane Grace (born Thomas James Gabel) is one of the most punk rock things he’s ever witnessed.

A longtime fan, Willard officially joined Against Me! in 2012. “They say so many times ‘Don’t meet your heroes.’ In that sense I’ve been really fortunate,” he says, describing the journey from fan to band member. “It’s only enhanced the experience.” Against Me! is touring in support of this year’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues, a collection of raw, Clash-inspired punk rock anthems.

Throughout, with songs like “Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ” and “Fuckmylife666,” Grace expresses strong opinions both personal and political, her melodic voice soaring over persistent pop-punk tempos and aggressive guitar playing. And Willard’s urgent percussion provides punch, roll and bounce as evidenced in the title track, a song which, along with the record’s “True Trans Soul Rebel,” might be the best and only punk songs ever written about gender dysphoria, with lyrics like “Does god bless your transsexual heart, True Trans Soul Rebel?”

Against Me! plays with Creepoid and Venus De Mars 8 pm Thursday, Aug. 14, at WOW Hall; $17.