Band of the Day

2012.03.16

MEN

Breaking gender stereotypes and pushing boundaries through floor-shaking beats
Your tight fists never threw us a bone, now our fists are all that we own.
lyrics from Make Him Pay

Brooklyn’s MEN are a performance and art collective, in addition to being an energetic and dance-infused electro-pop band. MEN are known for their unique ability to combine danceable electronic tracks with socially conscious lyrics to create a one-of-a-kind stage show chock full of energy, passion, and showmanship. Led by Le Tigre’s JD Samson, the group formed in 2007 and is comprised of fellow Le Tigre alum Johanna Fateman, as well as members of Samson’s other side project, Hirsute (including Michael O’Neill, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, and Emily Roysdon). In 2011, they released their debut album, Talk About Body, on IAMSOUND Records. Shortly after the album’s release, they were joined by Tami Hart (of Making Friendz) and percussionist Lee Free. The band has toured all over the world, and have supported Peaches, Gossip, and CSS. Samson and O’Neill currently comprise the core of MEN, with Fateman and Roysdon contributing as writers, consultants, and producers.

During times of political unrest and economic crisis, the arts can be seen as a necessary form of escapism. While some bands make music that can temporarily take you away from the real world, Brooklyn electro-pop/art collective MEN are doing just the opposite. Led by JD Samson, MEN started in 2007 when her former band (feminist/electroclash group Le Tigre) went on hiatus. Picking up where Le Tigre's feminist and LGBT-aware songs left off, MEN's 2011 debut album, Talk About Body, explores everything from gender politics, to war, to the failing US economy. Alongside Samson, MEN also includes fellow Le Tigre alum Johanna Fateman, and members of Samson's other side project, Hirsute (Michael O'Neill, Emily Roysdon, and Ginger Brooks Takahasi). Together they push the boundaries of contemporary pop music. With “Who Am I To Feel So Free,” the message is loud and clear: the very first words sang by Samson are, “Changed our names, used our hands/We found options that were better than a man.” Beyond challenging gender stereotypes through her lyrics, Samson also does so with her personal style—she dresses androgynously, and sports a mustache. Using their music to promote gender and sexuality issues has already earned MEN accolades in the LGBT community, like being nominated for a GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Award. But even if you don't identify as part of this community, at their very core, MEN just makes really good dance music. Opening track “Life's Half Price” has the heavy bass beat of deep house, combined with dance-punk guitar riffs and perpetual handclaps. “Off Our Backs” mixes tropical percussive elements with futuristic synth lines, and Samson's girlish vocals could almost pass for Lovefoxxx (of Brazilian indie-electro group CSS). One of the catchiest tracks on the album, “Boom Boom Boom,” is an edgy collision of dance music and political punk attitudes. Similar to how The Clash's “Lost In The Supermarket” was a political commentary on consumerism, “Boom Boom Boom” has Samson singing lines like, “Working world is changing time/there's nothing left to give/that they commodify.” Whether or not you agree with MEN's message, you'll be hard-pressed not to dance along to their floor-shaking tunes.