Le Tigre Is Back!

by Kelly Kathleen


DEAR READER, I’D like to thank our cumulative manifestation boards and crystal collections for making this interview possible. Le Tigre spoke to me via Zoom—Kathleen Hanna in Los Angeles, JD Samson and Johanna Fateman in New York City. The electro-punk three-piece are about to embark on their first tour since 2005! “When you say 18 years, it sounds so long,” Hanna says, laughing. “Le Tigre had a baby that’s going to college!”

“We were still on a cloud,” Samson tells me, referring to what was intended to be a one-off concert in L.A. last summer. “We still had more energy to put out there.” It was at that show that the trio caught feelings and decided to rekindle things. “I also came off stage and was like, ‘I can do so much better, I wanna do it again,’” Hanna adds. “You get to the point where you kind of start having telepathy with each other again.”

A lot has changed in the past decade and a half. The Internet has radicalized the music industry, both impairing and empowering artists. How does a DIY feminist band make a living while preserving their ethics? “You could knit someone a hat,” Hanna says, describing an encounter with a particularly out-of-touch PR person suggesting alternative income sources. “And I was like, ‘Fuck you, man, I’m not knitting hats. I’m not going to crochet a fucking hat for someone for $1,000 like it’s a precious piece of thing because my hands touched it.’”

Needless to say, Hanna wasn’t so keen on those beans, but if you know Le Tigre you know they resist pedestalizing themselves, which was something Samson struggled with during Le Tigre’s rise to indie fame. “With Le Tigre, there was a certain element of giving my body over to activism,” Samson says. “I’m going to be out there to put the butch lesbian on the wall for 365 days of my calendar; I think that at a certain point I realized that it had an impact on the way I saw myself, and the validation I needed from other people.” Being seen is a key component to Samson’s activism, but her need for personal privacy can be overwhelming. “I’m so glad that there’s been quite a trans revolution where there are so many other nonbinary and transmasculine bodies out there,” says Samson, “and I’m grateful that we can all share the role of visibility together.”

Like many marginalized groups, Le Tigre felt the pressure of being the one for all, toeing the line between the urge to overachieve and the rejection of patriarchal expectations. “When men in the scene that I started out playing punk music in didn’t know how to play their instruments, it was punk; when women did it, it was mistakes,” Hanna says. “I don’t think any of us feel like we need to be the best guitar player or the best keyboard player or whatever because that’s just not what our band is about…and I think that’s empowering in some ways,” Fateman adds. “But we do want to come prepared and be better than the people who talk down to us.”

This leads me to wonder out loud about the relevance of feminism in modern society, especially given our divisive and divided political climate. “I went to bed last night kinda teary eyed,” Hanna says, “and I said to my dog, ‘Terry, I wish that we were wrong.’ It’s worse than we were even singing about then, sorry to depress everyone.” Hanna laughs before leaving me with something powerful to dwell on. “We’ve always talked about intersectionality since the beginning,” she says, “but I definitely think kids today are actually enacting it in ways we didn’t dream were possible. That is something stunning and remarkable, and it makes me really excited about the future.”

Top Image: Photo Credit: Photo Collage Top Portrait by Quinn Tucker, Bottom Portrait by Leeta Harding

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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