Posts Tagged ‘Stay Alive’

Laura Jane Grace wasn’t planning on making a solo record this year. In fact, she was planning on making a record with Against Me!, the band she’s fronted for the past 23 years. But clearly, nothing went according to plan this year. “We came home from the Against Me! tour we were on in March, and right before we left, we had been in the studio working on songs, and I had been working on them for months prior,” says Grace. As she sat at home, all of her tours cancelled, and the members of Against Me!—as well as her other band Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers—spread across the country, she was left with a batch of songs and no band to record them with.

“I sat around for a month-and-a-half at a home just being shellshocked being like, ‘What the fuck happened and what the fuck is happening with the world?’ As I started to get my bearings, I just came to the realization that waiting was going to kill the record and kill the songs. I spent two years working on all these songs, and the idea of throwing them away didn’t sit well with me,” says Grace. “But then I was like, ‘What am I waiting for?’ All I have to do is adjust my scope. I can sit here on my fucking ass and do nothing, or I can work.”

So, Grace got to work. She picked up the phone and called Electrical Audio, the iconic studio in her adopted hometown of Chicago, Illinois, to ask if she could make a record with famed engineer Steve Albini. The goal was to go in and document these songs exactly as she’d been playing them in her home, straight to analogue tape. When she hung up the phone, she had four days booked.

The result of the session at Electrical Audio is “Stay Alive”, a record that doesn’t just embody that title, it serves as the guiding principle behind its creations. But it also put life back into an industry that’s been ravaged by venue closures, cancelled tours, and delayed records. “By putting the songs out, that puts the label in work, that puts a photographer in work, that puts a graphic designer in work, that puts a merch company in work, that keeps it alive,” says Grace. “You hear on the news every day about people losing their jobs and everything collapsing, and I want to fight against that. The only way I can think to fight against that is to work.”

Across the 14 songs that comprise Stay Alive, Grace takes all her pent-up fears, anger, and anxiety and releases it, like an olive branch to the weary listeners who are feeling those exact same ways. As she says in “Blood & Thunder,” a love song to Chicago—or perhaps a mea culpa for “I Hate Chicago” on The Devouring Mothers album Bought to Rot—the album’s thematic premise is all but spelled out: “When you give in and quit / There’s a power to be found in it.” It’s an idea that may sound odd on its face, but it displays Grace’s commitment to no longer resisting the changes in front of her. On a record that sees her traversing the globe—from Marbella, Spain to Glasgow, Scotland to London, England to the Land of Oz—”Blood & Thunder” is a begrudging embrace of what can’t be changed; Instead of resisting the city she once loathed, she finds the beauty in the little things, like the moon rising over Indian Boundary Park, or the wind rolling up Western Avenue.

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The album’s title is one that surfaces in the record itself, and serves as a subtle rejoinder to her Polyvinyl labelmate Chris Farren, who gifted Grace a hat that said “Can’t Die,” and she’s spent the last two years running in it every single day. By flipping the phrase on its head, Grace built her own message; one based around work, struggle, and reaffirmed commitments. In certain cases, songs like “Hanging Tree,” which has a chorus that builds to the phrase, “A burning crucifix and a hanging tree,” have been kicking around since 2017, but finally found a moment that made sense for it on Stay Alive. And in the case of “Shelter In Place,” a song about her own isolation and introspection, the pandemic finally gave words to a feeling she’d long had but was never able to accurately describe.

The songs that make up Stay Alive are documents of a time and a songwriter who experienced enough to find levity in the simple act of doing the work. Recorded with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, an occasional drum machine, and her own powerful voice, Grace’s distinct song writing signature is front and center. What’s more, she made it purely for herself. “I just want to put this out because it makes me feel alive and it’s giving me something better than sitting here losing my mind while the world falls apart,” says Grace. “It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about what you do. Just stay alive.” 

Released October 1st, 2020

Laura Jane Grace – Stay Alive LP/CD

The one and only Laura Jane Grace (Against Me! Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers) has signed with us and announced her incredible new solo record “Stay Alive” streaming everywhere right now!

There’s so much we want to tell you about the record, but listen now and read what Laura herself has to say…

A short note from Laura Jane…“Hi, my name is Laura Jane Grace. This is my album. This album is about staying alive. Stay alive. Don’t die. Work hard. Fight back.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Laura Jane Grace had a panic attack, quit smoking weed, and decided to put out a record. Thursday, she dropped Stay Alive with little warning or preamble —  a raw, unedited missive from lockdown.

“I just wanted to make a record and I wanted to make a record that was the antithesis of a Zoom call,” she says. “I wanted to record all analogue. I didn’t want to make any edits. I wanted to make something that matters from this period of time because all that shit like livestreams … I don’t mean to bash them, but they don’t create anything lasting, you know?”

This album is an entirely analogue recording. No computers were involved in the making of this album. These recordings were not edited together, these songs are documented performances. This album was written and recorded in Chicago, Illinois. I recorded this album with Steve Albini at Electrical Audio on the two days after the full moon of July 5th, 2020. The album was mixed in another two days time. Steve and I were the only two people in the studio. We both wore face masks and stayed 6 feet apart at all times. I only took my face mask off while singing. Please wear a face mask.

There are songs on this album about haunted swimming pools and burning churches. There are songs about mountains. There are songs about astral seas and dry lakes. There are songs about drinking espressos and eating croissants at the Bora Bora beach club in Marbella, Spain. There are songs about dirty rivers that smell like pee in Glasgow, Scotland. There are songs about Nelson Algren’s Neon Jungle and Simone de Beauvoir’s Mandarines. There are songs about petrified polymorphs and blood and thunder and LSD and laying on the grave of the Marchesa Luisa Casati while day dreaming of fabulous parties thrown 100 years ago and how the world has fallen apart before and how it is falling apart now and how if we’re lucky it will fall apart again someday long from now too. There are songs about all of that and more but really this record is about staying alive. Stay alive. Don’t die. Thank you for listening to my record. –LJG

Grace worked feverishly with Albini on the record; mostly masked, the two never saw each other’s faces. The producer’s reluctance to try too many takes suited Grace fine since she didn’t want anything to sound too over-cooked. The result is a fast-paced 14-song record with the fist-pumping old-school bravado of Against Me! (“So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Fuck Off”) mixed with almost painfully beautiful imagery (“The Swimming Pool Song,” in which Grace describes herself as a haunted pool).

Laura Jane Grace knocks it out of the park with this unexpected solo effort, in a time which we need artists like her. Even though I’ve been listening to her music for years I still find something refreshing in it, such as the track “Ice Cream Song” which has a twing of modern broadway, as well as the demo aesthetic of midi drums and intriguing vocal mastering on “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, fuck off”. A definitive quarantine classic!

PS: this may technically be my first proper solo record but I can’t even tell anymore PSS: if at any point you refer to this album as an “acoustic album” my 6 string strumming ghost will haunt 10 generations of your family every night of their lives with bedroom busking from 11PM to 6AM 🙂 ”

As you’re frantically hitting that link, be sure to pre-order your physical copy on a limited UK/EU Starburst (Black/Blue/Purple) vinyl variant as well as black LP/CD and an exclusive t-shirt too.

Laura Jane Grace’s new album, Stay Alive, is available December 11th, 2020.

Laura Jane Grace