Diverse Dance Music: MEN, 'Talk About Body,' at Red Palace

April 4, 2011


In the four years that the Riot Grrrl dance-punkers of Le Tigre have been on hiatus, bandmember JD Samson has been inordinately busy. She’s posed for her own beefcake calendar, made a cameo in John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 film “Shortbus,” dated Aussie indie-pop sensation Sia and co-produced a track for Christina Aguilera.

She also hooked up with fellow Le Tigre alum Johanna Fateman a few years back to form MEN, a DJ/remix crew that’s morphed in and out of styles and identities. As MEN grew, Fateman stepped back and Samson recruited friends from the art and music world to contribute to a project in intentional constant flux.

“When we first started the project, we called it a collective because we wanted to have this community sense,” says Samson. “We wanted to make decisions with other people and have constant collaboration. Strangely enough, it’s really turned out that way.”

MEN’s early experiments caught the attention of the Gossip and electroclash oddity Peaches, who brought the group on the road in 2009. Now, with a brand new line-up including Ladybug Transistor’s Michael O’Neill and singer-songwriter Tami Hart and the release of the group’s long-awaited debut disc, “Talk About Body,” MEN has matured into a full-fledged, self-contained band.

“Talk about Body” finds Samson and pals ruminating on gender, radical politics, family and financial meltdowns, all set to slick disco beats, charging guitars and catchy synth-pop melodies. It’s as much a protest manifesto as a party record.

“I think that, instead of being a preacher, we’re trying to remind people that we are all in this together,” explains Samson. “In Le Tigre, it was an interesting time where the Riot Grrrl mentality had shifted from anger to joy and togetherness,” she adds. “I think that was Le Tigre’s main goal, to stop being so angry and start celebrating what we are. I think that this is just an extension of that.”

That spirit of celebration and art-damaged activism drives the band’s wild live shows — and trickles over into their infamously weird videos. Their latest video, for new single “Who Am I to Feel So Free,” was filmed in Australia and casts a dapper Samson as a sea captain standing atop a cliff, overlooking the sea.

According to Samson, “It’s based on an old German photograph that is a discussion about masculinity. When the video starts it’s really slow and you’re waiting for something to happen. Then there’s this super over-exaggerated performance of maleness.”

It would be impossible to properly explain just how over-exaggerated that performance gets at the video’s end; suffice it to say that sometimes a lighthouse is way, way more than a lighthouse.

“We were really interested in making a video that wasn’t what you would expect,” says Samson.

Red Palace, 1210 H St NE; Tues. Apr. 5; 8 p.m., $10; 202-399-3201.

Written by Express contributor Kristina Gray
Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein

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