Lollygaggers queuing for nachos during Sleater-Kinney’s sets on Pearl Jam’s 2003 stadium tour might have asked themselves, “Who is this ferociously loud chick band?”
Those who took positive notice of the Olympia, Washington, punk-rock trio will be happy to know their visceral and passionate intensity has carried over to their new album, The Woods.
And those piqued and yearning for an in-person sonic ass-kicking will be pleased that the band will hit the road this spring a mere seven days after The Woods is released on May 24. The trek will kick off in nearby Seattle and finish June 30 in Atlanta.
A loud, raucous album of aggressive psych-rock jams, tempestuous free-form structures and Jimi Hendrix-like, molten-hot solos, The Woods — the group’s seventh record — is a startling and disarming left turn.
And you can thank Eddie Vedder for that.
Opening up for Pearl Jam on their last tour left an impression on the group. Outside of playing to enormous, sometimes tepid audiences, it was all about the newfound acoustics.
“You start to imagine your music in a different way,” guitarist/singer Carrie Brownstein said of playing to huge audiences in stadium-size venues. “You’re so much sonically larger than you’re used to. A lot of this record comes out of the way we were playing live on that tour.”
Given the mainstream’s current infatuation with all things indie, Sleater could have easily delivered a friendly record that would give “The O.C.” ’s Seth Cohen a new crush. Instead, they provided an unconventional and daring record that proves they’re not afraid of taking risks.
“We just get tired of predictable music,” Brownstein said. “We missed the thrill of turning something on and not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s exciting when something scary, jarring or wrong happens in a song and it just makes you feel really alive for a moment.”
The album was born not only of their goal to shake things up, but from a self-imposed boot camp that found them retreating to upstate New York with producer David Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev).
“We were going crazy out there, with the deer hunters and the snowmobilers,” drummer Janet Weiss laughed. “It’s a strange culture, it’s not like you can really escape into your world. There’s wild packs of dogs out there [and] you’re really isolated and on edge. All three of us were in this raw space, and [the record] came out really urgent.”
Recorded over five weeks at Fridmann’s Tarbox studios, the album takes on a somber tone reflective of the wilderness. “The woods are a place that is inherently unadorned, full of depth and beauty and pockets that are really frightening,” singer/guitarist Corin Tucker said. “Musically we wanted to go to those places and have a title that could house all of the sinister and dark qualities of the music right now.”
Without identifying suspects, Brownstein said current trends in modern rock also shaped the record to an opposite degree, especially its first single, “Entertain.” “It was written as a response to the watering down of art in our culture, feeling like it was getting benign,” Brownstein said. “I just get really tired of a lot of retro nostalgia and music that’s safe and isn’t pushing a boundary in any way.”
Naturally, the upcoming video for “Entertain” follows the dark-forest imagery and features the band chased by a rabid deer for reasons that are not quite clear. “We’re also driving in a truck, and something happens and it’s scary, but you’re not sure why it’s supposed to be scary,” Weiss said.
As morose as the album’s environment is and as miserable as their surroundings were, the experience was ultimately liberating, according to Brownstein. “The Woods means coming back from a dark point of near-chaos, disintegration, and on the journey back, trying to get something positive and illuminating out of it.”
Sleater-Kinney tour dates, according to the band’s publicist:
- 5/31 – Seattle, WA @ Moore Theater
- 6/1 – Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
- 6/2 – Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
- 6/4 – San Francisco, CA @ Warfield
- 6/7 – Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse
- 6/8 – Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Ford Theater
- 6/9 – Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Ford Theater
- 6/15 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
- 6/16 – Chicago, IL @ Riviera Theater
- 6/17 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
- 6/18 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix
- 6/19 – Montreal, QC @ Club Soda
- 6/21 – Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
- 6/22 – Boston, MA @ Avalon
- 6/23 – New York, NY @ Roseland Ballroom
- 6/24 – Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero
- 6/25 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 6/30 – Knoxville, TN @ Sundown in the City
The Woods track list, according to the band’s publicist:
- “The Fox”
- “What’s Mine Is Yours”
- “Modern Girl”
- “Steep Air”
- “Let’s Call It Love”
- “Night Light”