In Conversation: Laura Jane Grace on Her Upcoming Show at Four Seasons Total Landscaping
Laura Jane Grace has played in many nontraditional venues over the course of her illustrious career, but she has never performed in a landscaping company – until now. Brendan Kelly of Grace and The Lawrence Arms will perform in Philadelphia on August 21st Four Seasons Total Landscaping, the infamous site of Rudy Giuliani’s television breakdown after the election results, which will be remembered as the setting for one of the most bizarre chapters in our country’s political history.
We spoke to Grace about how the show came together and how she’s following this unusual gig. We also discussed the future of Against Me !, the lasting impact of the pandemic on touring culture and how a simple cameo message can foster human connection.
How exactly did this show at Four Seasons Landscaping come about?
I can’t really get credit because Toby asked me to be a part of it [Jeg, Red Scare Industries] and Brendan Kelly. I know Brendan is already on tour by this time and I feel like I asked both of them about their idea and where it came from and I can’t get a straight answer. But I have been asked and I am very happy to be a part of it.
Have you ever played at a landscaping company?
Never have I ever played at a landscaping company. It’s a first for me and I really want to meet the people who run Four Seasons, but I don’t go into any prejudice or anything like that. It’s not really about reclaiming a space, however to me personally it feels like an act of healing because in this strange way we have all experienced this psychotic hellscape of reality, which this mass denial has followed on a fairly unprecedented scale. Only to see Rudy Giuliani standing in front of a landscaping shop in the middle of nowhere in Philadelphia next to a porn shop …Regardless of whether you politically agree or not, I always had the feeling that we have a certain standard of reality.
“It feels like an act of healing because in this strange way we have all experienced this psychotic hellscape of reality, which was followed by this mass denial on a fairly unprecedented scale. Only to see Rudy Giuliani standing in front of a landscaping shop in the middle of nowhere in Philadelphia next to a porn shop … “
Did you follow the press conference meanwhile?
Yes of course. Unfortunately, that part of the pandemic was a rock bottom for me. I broke my foot so I was stuck to the TV and handcuffed.
The initial confusion between Four Seasons Hotel and Four Seasons Landscaping is still difficult for me to process.
Right, and what I know about Four Seasons Landscaping is that it is a woman-run landscaping company which is great. But then the idea: “How the hell did Giuliani stumble into this?” Did he just call her? I could see it all playing out like a movie, and it’s dramatic, isn’t it?
Have you even thought about your setlist at all? Do you treat this show differently from a club show?
I treat it like street musicians on a street corner, and regardless of the context, I’m so excited to play a show. I haven’t played a show other than livestream stuff in a year and a half, and I want a therapeutic moment of liberation where everyone will sing along and it will be happy and not depressing. I want a happy release.
Did you guys work on new music for Against Me over the pandemic! or one of your other musical projects?
Against me! was kind of on hold. I don’t know, we’re trying to find out. If anything, that’s how I learned the value of momentum in this crazy way. We’ve been traveling for over 20 years and it rolled and rolled and rolled. In order for everything to stop, it’s hard to get going again. But I still worked on music myself; I jumped into two recording projects in St. Louis this month, kicked them out, and just keep going.
“How do you position yourself to get out of a pandemic, where to work if you are a professional musician? For me the idea is to go ahead and put a record out that way so that when you’re done you can go on tour and there is something to go out and play. “
Have you already had the chance to play something from Stay Alive live?
No not at all. Some people were talking online the other day about the bottleneck that happens because so many bands are trying to get out and tour – a lot of smaller bands get the wave and can’t pay their bills. I saw something like this coming and wanted to stay before it. How do you position yourself to get out of a pandemic, where to work if you are a professional musician? For me the idea is to go ahead and put a record out that way so that when you’re done you can go on tour and have something to go out and play with.
Speaking of customization, I saw you were on cameo and I fell into that rabbit hole who was on the site – everyone from reality TV stars to HR from Bad Brains. There was nothing like us growing up so I wonder how that experience was for you.
It was really real and it blew me away because I wouldn’t have done it if the pandemic hadn’t happened. But I am a working class musician and have to work during a global pandemic. I think people have the wrong idea about it – they think it’s something that you say, “Hey, would you say a happy birthday to my friend?” Then an artist calls in on this really cheesy birthday message and takes your money. There are people who do it that way, but you can tell that it’s bad for them. The best advice I’ve had about the press: don’t answer the question you were asked, answer the question you would like to have asked. You have the opportunity to create a moment with someone that can also be translated into real moments.
For example, a few months ago someone ordered a cameo from me and asked me to give an encouraging talk to a friend’s band who had a tough time with the pandemic, so I did. I gave the best advice I could. Two weeks ago this band went to St. Louis, we spent the day here in the studio, we spent the day recording songs and walking around making art. It was rad. On a slightly more dire experience, at the start of the pandemic, I connected with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in years. They ordered a cameo from me and I recorded a message for him and he passed away a few months later. It’s these crazy ends of the spectrum of really real possibilities that arise from it – and I see that as a lingering residual effect of the pandemic that everyone should be aware of.
I think a lot of these technologies that emerged from the pandemic will continue in some form into the future.
Yeah, even at the Four Seasons event, did I talk to Brendan and Toby earlier about how you guys stream that live? If you’ve seen Giuliani on the news, why can’t everyone be there and does that need something from the moment you’re there? As a viewer, I’d rather be there in person, but I don’t know. I see this as a consequence of the pandemic: How do you spread your message further? How do you continue to work as an artist? And how do you move things forward and do them in a new and exciting way that actually has energy and vitality? Contrasted with getting out of the pandemic and saying, “Okay everyone, let’s go back to the old way.” What the hell is that? [Laughs.] FL