JD SAMSON & MEN with LIGHT FIRES, JEF BARBARA and DJ JOHN CAFFERY at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), Sunday (January 26), doors 8 pm. $15. RT, SS, TSW.
On the cover of Men's latest EP, JD Samson hides inside a mascot version of herself. The black Chucks and blue jeans are made of the same soft foam as high-school mascots and discount Halloween gear. Her giant head sinks forward, supported by nimble arms.
Formerly of the now defunct dance trio Le Tigre, Samson has become the face of politically charged pop music.
"Who am I really?" she wonders over the phone from her home in New York City. "The persona of JD Samson that exists may or may not be the same as JD Samson the human being."
On the album Labor, self-released last October, Samson explores this idea out loud, looking inward for the first time on record. While Men's 2011 debut, Talk About Body, focused directly on the issues affecting her community - gender politics, raising kids as a queer woman - this time around Samson is personal, emotional and vulnerable. She admits that some of these thoughts she hasn't even divulged to her therapist.
"I think it's a really interesting dichotomy in my life. I'd be willing to say these things in a song to whoever wants to listen, but not one-on-one."
Labor, a frenzy of dance hits anchored by Samson's strong vocals and slick production - which band member Mike O'Neill collaborated on - even features some romance, a first for the singer.
"All The Way Thru is a total love song, but it's also about a change for me. That writing a love song is even possible is a new experience."
The politics haven't disappeared altogether, though; they're just coming from a different place. Semenya, for example, is about Caster Semenya, the female South African track star falsely accused of being a man.
"I feel so grateful for everything I've been able to do, everything I've been able to do for other people who've needed this voice," she says.
"But I think part of that is showing my insides, and this record let me do that in a public way."