Le Tigre Biography
The ladies of Le Tigre (Kathleen, JD and Jo) recently took time out of their busy schedules for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.
How did you promote yourself and your music when you were first starting out?
Kathleen: When I first started out I actually was trying to use music to promote feminist ideas and at certain points, anti-violence against women and girls-type causes I was involved in. I didn't really think about promoting myself or the bands I was in that much. Later as things progressed and I saw the direct correlation between being able to keep making records and having people know about the music, I became more interested in using popular media as a way to get the word out. Doing interviews and such was especially important being on indie labels with little to no advertising budget.
Did you ever doubt yourself or think about giving up?
Kathleen: After Bikini Kill broke up I wondered if it was worth it to keep going, especially when being in a band can cut your social life and free time down so much without ever providing any real financial stability. Also the flack I had taken really wore me out. Luckily I read a bunch of books and saw how much flack so many feminist artists, theorists and activists who came before me had gotten and realized that I just needed to get stronger, take care of the business side of things better and keep going.
What's the wackiest thing you ever did to try and get a gig or sell a record?
Kathleen: When I realized that the guy who was supposed to promote our show (Nation of Ulysses with Bikini Kill) in Memphis had cut out of town without hanging up even one poster, I convinced his roommate to drive me to every house he knew where punks lived and I knocked on doors inviting kids to our show. I also went to the record store and handed out handmade flyers to everyone in the store, two of the guys in there ended up being Bobby Gillespie and Douglas from Jesus and Mary Chain. They ended up not only coming to the show but offering us gas money to the next city and several boxes of cereal as well.
What other ways do you express yourself creatively outside your music?
JD: All three of us are involved with other kinds of art projects and mediums when we aren't making music or performing as Le Tigre. We also are all very involved in the making of our performance videos which play behind us as we perform. In addition to these videos, working on choreography, costume designs, cover art, merch designs, and all kinds of other business for the band makes us feel like we are a multimedia performance group more than just a band.
How much did others encourage you to express yourself at an early age?
JD: Well, my parents were both artists, and so I was encouraged to express myself through drawing and visual arts, but I was not encouraged to express myself through music. I always wanted to play music, but my family was more interested in handing me paints and markers. Art was always my favorite subject in school, and I can remember staying up all night drawing as a small child. My expression via art was extremely strong as I grew and hasn't stopped. I still stay up all night working on all kinds of projects.
What is your community today, and how do you stay connected to it?
JD:Le Tigre's community is made up of many different kinds of people. Our community is really the coming together of feminists queers and activists from all over the world who really want to have a good time and dance. We feel like we are able to stay connected to our friends and our community through playing shows and going on tour with other bands from our community that inspire us.
Do artists and musicians have a responsibility to be leaders in their communities?
Jo: The idea that musicians/artists have a responsibility to be community leaders (or "role models") is problematic to me because I really believe that some of the most exciting art is not community-minded (at least in any obvious or direct way), which is not to say that it is not ethical or consciousness-changing. To me, good art can be sometimes confusing, self-indulgent, negatively cathartic, irresponsible, unsuccessful, whatever. That said, Le Tigre -- like many artists -- has a real desire to use our voices and presence in the public eye to protest injustice, promote radical projects, and hopefully reflect/represent our community's values and interests. I'm not sure if that makes us leaders…
Who do you aspire to be compared to?
Who are you sick of being compared to?
Do you think music can change the world?
JD: Music is an extremely powerful art medium that can really affect people's emotions. It is amazing to realize how much communities can be born from different kinds of music and the people who appreciate them. It feels amazing and beautiful that music can have such an importance on the way that people form social groups. Music can change people. People can change the world.
Have your political views changed over the years?
Jo:My political views have definitely changed over the years. Maybe a better way of saying it is that I have grown into my convictions; the values and ideas of radical feminism that I started to articulate in my late teens feel more internalized or "second nature." I feel like I have a much less reductive view of power dynamics, and I am much less judgmental and prescriptive in my thinking. And of course the world has changed a lot, obviously the global situation is dire (as I'm writing this the Republican National Convention is in town) and it seems more important than ever to find new ways to resist, new ways to sustain cultures of resistance.
Describe one of your proudest moments as a musician/performer/artist.
Jo: It's hard to think of a singular event. Le Tigre is really lucky to have an audience that is generous with their participation and love. Live shows -- seeing everyone together dancing and shouting along to feminist music -- make me really proud of what we are doing.
Le Tigre Bio from Discogs
In their own words: "underground electro feminist performance artists" (from the lyrics to "TGIF").