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Rock Monsters

With her 4-year-old son sleeping

in the dressing room nearby and sound check booming on the stage above, Sleater-Kinney lead singer Corin Tucker sat down before a recent show at the Henry Fonda to discuss her band’s outstanding new record,

The Woods.

Seven albums into their career, the Portland-based threesome — the first ladies of shrill, angular post-punk — have apparently discovered the deep joy of stoner rock: extended guitar solos, fuzzy blues riffs and Zeppelin-referencing monster rockers.

The Woods

was recorded and produced by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Delgados, Low) in his upstate New York studio — and while the tremulous, high-pitched vocals and biting social commentary remain intact, there’s a real sense of technical and sonic experimentation here. In fact, Sleater-Kinney have just made the most raucous and original album of their lives.



L.A. WEEKLY: Is the sound of The Woods a natural evolution, or did you set out to do something really different?
CORIN TUCKER:

We definitely set out to do something different — but we didn’t know what that was gonna be. We’d been doing a lot of improv onstage, a lot of live jams, and that was a factor in how the sound came together . . . And we

love

classic rock. We were listening to tons of Cream, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix.



It seems like a lot of bands from the Northwest have that kind of background. Is that stuff you grew up listening to?

Yeah, absolutely. The spirit of that music is really important to us. It’s music that was rebellious and defied everything. That’s an inspiration to us at a time when it’s politically very dark and frightening. And yet most of the music that’s out there doesn’t seem to reflect that at all.



Do you see a connection between punk rock and classic rock?

Oh, yeah. Patti Smith was a punk rocker, but the music was much more classic rock — those things were tied together in New York. That whole guitar-based sound developed and went further and further into punk rock.



The guitars are so fuzzy on this record when I first heard “Modern Girl,” I thought my speakers were fucked up, because the fuzz actually seems to increase after the first verse.

Yeah, there was a lot of experimentation in the studio with guitar sounds. We went out and got a bunch of different pedals. We wanted variety. Dave loves to experiment; he wants things to be crazy-sounding. He wants people to think there’s something wrong with their stereo.



What’s “Jumpers” about?

I wrote that song after reading an article in

The New Yorker

about suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge. It stayed with me for a long time. I lived in the Bay Area for a while. But on a symbolic level, the entire album is about the instability of structure, whether it’s political or social structures we rely on to aid in the advancement of society, or the internal structures we count on to deal with our lives. That song deals with a symbol of engineering prowess that’s important both literally and in terms of its symbolic value, but it’s also a place of despair where people go to end their lives. In that solidity, there are cracks. [That’s what] this album is about, whether it’s a song structure or a character that’s unstable.



“Entertain” seems to be a sort of statement against both nostalgia and entertainment for entertainment’s sake.

I think this is the “fight song.” It’s about challenging the commercialization of indie rock, and wanting that to mean a bit more than just tearing up your clothes and being on MTV. That meant a lot to us when we started playing music, doing things in a different way that wasn’t all about making money. It was about rebelling and living your life in a different way that wasn’t scripted for you, challenging society, challenging politics. It’s sad that we don’t see that many bands like that anymore.



Do you think there is a place for entertainment for entertainment’s sake?

Yeah, but that kind of music doesn’t have any meaning for me. I wanna fight for [music with meaning] because it basically saved our lives when we were 15. There was Sonic Youth, SST, K Records, these great groups of people that were freaks and ready to defy social norms and the ideas of how to live your life.



So you’re not big fans of the current ’80s-throwback trend that’s going on in music?

No. It’s huge, though. The most frustrating part of it is when bands imitate these great bands like Gang of Four. They’re an incredible band and so political and such great social critics, and it’s frustrating to hear the imitation of their sound without any of the meaning of their music.



Do you still get asked about gender issues and being a female band in a male-dominated scene?

I’d like people to let go of gender issues. I think we’re always three women onstage, but we’re also three musicians onstage. You never think about male rock bands, like, “Oh, there’s four guys onstage.”



Did you get more of that in the past?

Definitely. But we’ve been here for a long time, we’ve done that interview, we’ve talked about all that. We’ve fought for the perspective we have. Hey, shred the music, go ahead, but we’re sick of having people only write about the fact that we’re a female band. If you’re gonna write two sentences, have it be a review. Are gender issues not issues for men? People don’t pick apart things like, “Oh, that’s a really male lyric.” That’s just seen as the norm.



Maybe men don’t explore those issues as much.

How much do they write about girls, and sleeping with chicks? That’s completely a gender issue. If we write about having sex or wandering around in a seedy bar, it’s seen as a gender issue, because rock music is usually so male-dominated. It freaks people out. Patti Smith did that amazingly with her cover of “Gloria.” She turned it on its head, and suddenly she was this sexual predator. It’s incredible to hear that, someone screwing with the norms. It’s an

exciting

part of rock.



SLEATER-KINNEY

| The Woods (Sub Pop)





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