For out latest Gear Guide, we spoke with none other than Against Me! frontwoman and She Shreds Issue 9 cover artist Laura Jane Grace.
Today, Grace is a celebrated figure in the pop-punk / rock community, activist, and author—her memoir Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout (co-written with Noisey editor Dan Ozzi) will be released November 15—but like many musicians her first guitar was a basic Harmony Acoustic Guitar (purchased through a Sears catalog with money she earned mowing lawns). “I make the joke when you’re eight years old and starting out on that Harmony Acoustic, it’s so difficult [to play] because the action is so high and the neck is practically bent for archery.” she says.
Thankfully she stuck with it, and over the years she’s grown to become a guitar enthusiast with a particular fondness for Rickenbackers. “I have a lot of Rickenbackers that I don’t even like to play,” she says. “Some of them are damn near impossible to record with because the tuning is so weird with them. It’s almost impossible to get the G string of a Rickenbacker to be in tune with a G string of a Les Paul but I just think they are really beautiful, really unique guitars and whenever I see a unique one I’ll get it…They’re really temperamental guitars. They require a lot of attention.”
For Grace, that extra time and care has been worth it. Her Rickenbackers are a huge component of Against Me!’s distinctive rootsy sound, and while they may be challenging in the studio, on stage (where she typically runs them through a Vox HT30) is another story. “Live, I specifically switch between a [Rickenbacker] 360 and a newer 370. They’ve been my staple touring guitars for years, and I still record with some of them too.”
When it comes to musicians still in search of their own sound, Grace advises, “You don’t need a fancy guitar to make something great or write great songs. You just need to find a guitar you’re comfortable playing.”
“I get really mystical when it comes to guitars. I feel like they have souls, often, or my guitars get mad at me if I haven’t been playing them enough. Sometimes I feel like I’ll stumble onto a relationship with a guitar where I feel that, ‘this guitar has songs in it,’ and I’ll pick up the guitar and write songs with it and feel like if it had been another guitar there wouldn’t have been songs.”
And for Grace, the song itself is ultimately more important than what it’s played on. “The song has to be good enough that it could rip on whatever piece of gear,” she says.
Read on for more about Laura Jane Grace’s current favorite gear. Against Me!’s seventh album, Shape Shift With Me, is available now through the band’s own label, Total Treble Records.
“My new favorite piece of gear is the Nash Wayfarer guitar. It’s a great, lightweight guitar.”
“With our new record, on 90% of the songs I used a Rickenbacker solid state TR7 amp, like a 30-watt amp with a 16″ speaker. I’d been carrying that amp around for years, always wanting it to sound good with something but it never did. Somehow the combination of the [Fender] Coronado through it works, I love it. It’s my favorite recording duo I’ve ever had. Live, it’s totally unrealistic because it can’t produce that kind of volume, but for the record it worked.”
Blackstone Overdrive Pedal:
“I’ve had that guitar pedal onstage with me for ten years now, and it still works. Our song, “Teenage Anarchist,” that’s the sound. That’s the Blackstone. The single note picking on the one string, concise and and tight.”
Rowland S. Howard Pedal (Reuss RSH-03):
“I’ve used it with different combinations of gear, but it’s funny because instead of in and out it says, ‘Jaguar,’ and ‘Twin Reverb,’ because that’s the gear he used. If you plug it into a Jaguar and a Twin you think, “Nice. I sound like Rowland S. Howard.” I love his songwriting. I knew his music from The Birthday Party but I’d never really gotten into his solo stuff until 4-5 years ago.
Gibson Acoustic J-40:
Instead of the J-45 it’s a J-40 and it’s blonde, and I bought it used. There is a store here called Chicago Music Exchange and when you walk in you think, “Goddamn, I’m going to buy something here.” But I’ve always been happy with anything I’ve picked up, and this is my favorite used guitar I’ve ever bought.