The “Labor” and “Self-Care” of JD Samson & MEN

In a recent chat, JD Samson admitted to me that her favorite aspect of promoting her music is actually her time talking to journalists: “Doing interviews is always interesting...

In a recent chat, JD Samson admitted to me that her favorite aspect of promoting her music is actually her time talking to journalists: “Doing interviews is always interesting for me because it forces me to intellectualize the choices I’ve made or lyrics I’ve written.”  For those about a decade out of the loop, the NY-based queer, feminist artist of all sorts kind of does everything in music.  She’s a DJ, producer, songwriter, and musician, best known as formerly 1/3rd of Le Tigre.  However, since 2007, MEN has been her most significant musical output. (I’m actually surprised to hear that she doesn’t consider herself to be primarily a figure in the music world: “I recognized that I fell into it.  It’s an option for me, but it’s not the be-all, end-all.  I’m more of a visual artist than a musician.”)

JD Samson is the core of MEN, while Michael O’Neill serves as her full-time musical partner in crime. But MEN has also come to include (or originate with) former Le Tigre bandmate Johanna Fateman, Tami Hart, and Emily Roysdon, among others.  Last October saw the release of MEN’s second full-length, Labor.  The album boasts the punky and funky, ‘80s-inspired electropop sounds Samson has become known for throughout the majority of her musical ventures, however, she tells me that she did attempt to push the spectrum of her sounds with this release.

“It’s sort of a grab bag.  I think it’s a little more varied than any of my previous work.  Some songs are influenced by certain genres and some by completely different genres.  It doesn’t feel completely cohesive.  It has ups and down, like life.”


My most recent chat with JD Samson took place in the middle of this week’s snowy, wintery abyss… yet the two of us apparently remained locked away from the elements (for better or worse)

“Well, it’s snowing, but I haven’t been outside for a few days.  I’ve been making my banner for tour.  My hands are covered in paint.  But the skies are blue and look really pretty.”

MEN are hitting the road beginning this Friday, with a benefit for Hetrick-Martin Institute in Brooklyn, that will have them making their first live stop at Johnny Brenda’s on February 6th.  The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection has seen MEN a handful of times now, but it’s been a few years (I believe the last time was Union Transfer in 2011 with CSS.), so I had to ask what their upcoming shows might look like (in addition to the banner): “You can expect different versions of old songs, which I felt was really important to do on this tour.  It’ll be a little less of the obvious pop show and more of a dance party.  We have costumes and costume changes.”

In addition to the visual arts and music, JD Samson has also worked in my world, the world of journalism, in recent years.  Her most significant piece being “I Love My Job, But it Made Me Poorer,” a piece she wrote for Huffpost in October of 2011, that addresses the practical struggles of being a queer (and) female (and) freelance artist and the issues that arise due to not having a steady income or full-time job and of people tending to view you as an unstable person in general.  I ask her for a follow-up of sorts, or her reflection on it about two years on, and her reply is just as wise as it is hard to swallow.

“I think that not that much has changed.  The biggest thing is that I had to focus more on the things that bring me more money, and sometimes you have to turn down one thing for another that you might not want to, which is hard to admit, when you grow up as an artist and not wanting to work within a capitalist society.  It’s all about self-care, which is the most important and political thing you can do.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.