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 bands 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, theres 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 didnt know what that was gonna be. Wed 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. Its music that was rebellious and defied everything. Thats an inspiration to us at a time when its politically very dark and frightening. And yet most of the music thats out there doesnt 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 theres something wrong with their stereo.
Whats 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 its 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 thats important both literally and in terms of its symbolic value, but its also a place of despair where people go to end their lives. In that solidity, there are cracks. [Thats what] this album is about, whether its a song structure or a character thats unstable.
Entertain seems to be a sort of statement against both nostalgia and entertainment for entertainments sake.
I think this is the fight song. Its 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 wasnt all about making money. It was about rebelling and living your life in a different way that wasnt scripted for you, challenging society, challenging politics. Its sad that we dont see that many bands like that anymore.
Do you think there is a place for entertainment for entertainments sake?
Yeah, but that kind of music doesnt 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 youre not big fans of the current 80s-throwback trend thats going on in music?
No. Its huge, though. The most frustrating part of it is when bands imitate these great bands like Gang of Four. Theyre an incredible band and so political and such great social critics, and its 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?
Id like people to let go of gender issues. I think were always three women onstage, but were also three musicians onstage. You never think about male rock bands, like, Oh, theres four guys onstage.
Did you get more of that in the past?
Definitely. But weve been here for a long time, weve done that interview, weve talked about all that. Weve fought for the perspective we have. Hey, shred the music, go ahead, but were sick of having people only write about the fact that were a female band. If youre gonna write two sentences, have it be a review. Are gender issues not issues for men? People dont pick apart things like, Oh, thats a really male lyric. Thats just seen as the norm.
Maybe men dont explore those issues as much.
How much do they write about girls, and sleeping with chicks? Thats completely a gender issue. If we write about having sex or wandering around in a seedy bar, its 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. Its incredible to hear that, someone screwing with the norms. Its an exciting part of rock.
SLEATER-KINNEY | The Woods (Sub Pop)
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.