When Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein says that her band's upcoming
album is "kind-of scary," she is not referring to the group's reputation for blood-curdling,
She is referring to the newest work's tendency toward tenderness, something pretty
much absent in Sleater-Kinney's music up until now.
"It was kind-of scary at first to have songs that actually sound pretty. That is not a place
that we're very comfortable in," Brownstein, 24, said as she and her bandmates Corin
Tucker (vocals/guitar, 25) and Janet Weiss (drums, 31) prepare for an October tour of the
Sleater-Kinney have, by more than a few accounts, recorded some of the most
frighteningly raw sounds in all of '90s rock. In fact, the Pacific Northwest trio arguably
solidified its reputation on the title track of its album Call the Doctor (1996).
Whereas in the past Sleater-Kinney have often found their power in heart-wrenching
expressions of hurt and anger, some of their new songs sound downright happy,
Brownstein said. "Get Up," for instance, is a joyous cut that revolves around letting
oneself feel pleasure. Other songs, such as "A Quarter To Three" (not the Gary "U.S."
Bonds number), pair popish music with darker lyrics.
"A lot of the songs are celebratory," Brownstein said, "in terms of feeling a sense that you
have a spirit or singing about love from a perspective that's not about victimization or
commodification, which we have done in the past ... Maybe for the first time there are
these plateaus, where things sort-of feel OK, things feel good."
Up until now, Sleater-Kinney have found a niche in rendering impassioned, poignant
explorations of all types of relationships, from social (
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Doctor"[RealAudio excerpt]) to romantic (
Hour"[RealAudio excerpt]) to artistic (
and Guitar"[RealAudio excerpt]).
On the as-yet-untitled new album, due in February on the Kill Rock Stars label,
Sleater-Kinney have documented what Tucker and Brownstein call a search for grace
Although the final sequencing for the disc is not complete, the band said the number of
songs slated for inclusion is hovering around 14. Among those guaranteed for release are:
"Banned From the End of the End of the World," "Hot Rock," "The Size of Our Love,"
"Living in Exile," "God Is a Number," "Get Up" and "A Quarter To Three." Also under
consideration is "By the Time You're 25," a track that wowed audiences when the group
played it on tour last spring.
"We all worked really hard in terms of what the songs are about," said Tucker, who, like
Weiss, calls Portland, Ore., home. (Brownstein lives in the group's original base,
Olympia, Wash.) "There's a lot of themes of love and struggling through different things.
They're also about working really hard in your life to find a sense of gracefulness. And I
think this record is more graceful because of it. That's also reflected in the searching that
the lyrics do about how to live your life."
While Sleater-Kinney's critically acclaimed Dig Me Out (1997) and Call the
Doctor were produced by Northwestern punk-mainstay John Goodmanson, for this
release, their fourth album, they turned to Roger Moutenot, known for his work with
indie-pop rockers Yo La Tengo, art-rock veteran Lou Reed and experimentalist John
"It's nice to have someone who really saw it from an outside perspective," Brownstein
said. "John was so much one of us. He went to school in Olympia. He's done so many
other records for Kill Rock Stars. It was nice to have someone from the outside a little bit,
but who also came to share our enthusiasm for the music."
In addition to pulling in fresh ears for the album, Sleater-Kinney also spent three and a
half weeks in the studio on this record, longer than they dedicated to any previous
release. Although plenty of rock stars wouldn't bat an eye at taking that long for a song or
two, it's nearly twice as long as Sleater-Kinney spent on Dig Me Out.
"On Dig Me Out, we basically set up our amps how we wanted them to sound and
played the whole record in sort-of a live setting," Tucker said. "For this record, we spent
at least two hours getting the guitar sound for every song. And sometimes it would be two
hours on each guitar-sound just for a certain part."
The end result is a more varied sound on each song and a more natural-sounding
record, Tucker added.
"Because of its variation, it breathes a little bit more and it has a little bit more space to it,"