At first glance, there’s something strange about the cover of Le Tigre’s 2004 album This Island. Especially if you’re familiar with the history of the band’s members.
For New York-based Le Tigre are famously feminist. One of the band’s members -“ there are three, and they all play everything -“ is Kathleen Hanna from riot grrrl pioneers Bikini Kill. For a long moment, the band on the cover of This Island looks like two women and a slightly-built man.
Look again. That’s J.D. Samson, a musician happy to fly the lesbian, butch, feminist flag. In Viz, a track from the electro/punk/pop This Island, Le Tigre sing about lesbian visibility -“ butch lesbian visibility in particular. They also sing about abuse, the war and protesting. With a major label contract and a place in the line-up of Australia’s mega-festival the Big Day Out, Le Tigre are possibly one of the loudest voices of protest in rock.
One of my friends recently congratulated me on being a professional gay person, Samson says.
And I feel really good about it. I came out in high school and I’ve always been a part of the gay community and I’m really proud to be something of a role model for same-sex people.
In negotiations with major labels last year, Le Tigre’s members were not prepared to negotiate on political areas. They would not be told what they could or couldn’t sing, Samson said. Luckily, no one asked them to.
No one had an issue with our politics at all, and they realised that’s what people liked about us. They saw that the world was ready for people with specific political motivations.
And being on a major label to me feels really important. To have the cover of the record that we have -“ a cover I think is pretty subversive, really -“ on a major label means so much more.
Samson hopes whatever success Le Tigre has will translate into success for other queer bands.
We’re possibly trying to create a breakthrough, where other gay bands and bands with gay people in them can make it because we’re crossing boundaries, she says.
There are so many amazing bands that are sometimes overlooked because they’re just seen as part of the gay community.
Le Tigre will perform at the Sydney Big Day Out on Wednesday 26 January and at the Gaelic Club on Saturday 29 January. Tickets for the Gaelic Club show are available online at www.thegaelicclub.com.