For Brooklyn's MEN, Politics and Disco Make the Agenda
Monday, March 28, 2011
Category: Arts & Entertainment > Interviews
A walking contradiction, MEN distinguish themselves with their smooth blend of dance floor beats that convey serious overtones. Politics, the economy, gender confusion - no topic is off-limits for the Brooklyn-based electronic group. Delivering music that challenges, MEN express political stances with tight synths and disco beats. With a recent debut under their belt and a nationwide tour in the works, MEN are still exploring their newfound fame. In a brief chat before MEN's set at Rickshaw Stop last Friday night, lead singer JD Samson provided insight into the group's background and aspirations, as well as her own personal motivations.
As a former member of the feminist group Le Tigre, Samson is no stranger to the music industry. But when Le Tigre embarked an indefinite hiatus, Samson found herself at a bewildered standstill. "I was occupationally challenged," said Samson. "(After) DJing for a long time, I decided to start making original music and found wonderful people to make it with." Since its origins in 2007, MEN have exchanged bandmates as members flitted in and out, leaving unique contributions in their wake. The group's current make-up comprises of Samson and guitarists Michael O'Neill and Ginger Brooks Takahashi.
MEN create music with an agenda, making them a refreshing listen when compared to contemporary artists' preference for using songs to lament about personal issues. Stemming from a "feminist confidence-boosting strategy," MEN's name refers to developing a male perspective. It has now grown to become a marker of "the way MEN feel about gender fluidity." Striking content and pulsating beats combine to deliver a sound that is entertaining yet enlightening. "We are radical forward people that want to talk about what we are thinking about," said Samson.
Talk About Body, the band's recently released debut, showcases the marrying of strong ideals and dance floor rhythms. With lyrics such as "I'm gonna fuck my friends to get a little tiny baby/and raise our kids/radical politics," the album is unabashed and filled with blatantly sexual connotations. The messages MEN convey may be frank and controversial, but their ingenuity lies in the irresistible, pulsating bursts of electronic bliss. Despite chants of "Don't give me another war," the blithe dance overtones are what keep the music from becoming self-righteous.
In hindsight, Samson believes that there is no better genre to convey such loaded content than through electronic. Cultivating some of the most interactive fans and calling for a high level of energy, dance music culture fascinates Samson because of its instant accessibility. "I love looking at the audience and seeing people that are just gone," said Samson. MEN draw upon this aspect, succeeding in its discussion of politics, gender roles and materialism without coming off as pompous or preachy.
Ultimately, Samson indicated, MEN stemmed from a need to discuss issues surfacing the LGBT community. Despite years of producing music and being immersed in the spotlight, Samson is still figuring her role as a proponent. Called a leader and an icon, she is careful not to fall victim to stereotypes. "It'd be pretty depressing if I were trying to live up to an expectation," said the singer. "I've been trying to do the opposite and pretend like that's not true." She receives wide support for her music but she returns the favor, helping fans establish their gender and identity. "I know I can't be a politician," said Samson. "But it's important (for fans) to know that my heart is in the right place."
Cynthia Kang is the lead music critic. Contact her at [email protected]
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