Rock And Rules: Sleater-Kinney

Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker impart the life and career lessons that have sustained them...

Rock And Rules is our regular space to explore life lessons learned by those on the frontline of pop culture, by those who have helped re-shape the landscape around us. Sleater-Kinney certainly fit that bracket – across two spells, the American group have proved to have real endurance, the palpable originality of their work standing as foundation stone for countless new groups.

The band themselves remain a force to be reckoned with. Live, few can rival Sleater-Kinney – the energy, the poise, the catalogue, and the relentless determination to communicate.

New album ‘Little Rope’ is out now, and it’s a superb document of their continued vitality. CLASH caught up with founders Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker on a rare visit to London for a few pearls of wisdom.

FIND YOUR COMMUNITY

Carrie: I think it’s really vital to have a community. It’s harder now, because people can’t afford to live in cities, so you end up making music in isolation, and I think that’s very different to the way a scene works. In a scene, you can see all these threads connecting artists to one another, and you can see it being built upon, and then you get deviation from the original form with all these beautiful iterations. That sense of artistic discourse, historically, was very crucial, and it’s more atomized now.

USE THE SUPPORT NETWORK

Corin: We had a community that was so supportive of young women. And that was very, very unusual. There were so many women performing, experimenting, and I felt like that gave me the licence to think: I’m gonna do that.

ART IS CONVERSATION

Carrie: Bands and musicians are in conversation with one another. So, you’re having a musical and artistic dialogue with other people in your community trying to match them – or better them – and everybody’s rooting for each other, and you end up gleaning ideas from each other. It becomes this real cross pollination of sounds and ideas.

STAY PURE

Corin: The major label music industry is about making as much money as they possibly can, in the shortest possible amount of time. That’s not what the independent music scene was trying to do. We wanted to make something that was special, music that meant something to people. That’s where we came from, and that’s the ethos that we approach things with.

Carrie: I think we approach things with a lot of patience, and also try to protect what’s essential about the band. And we also have to renew our commitment to the band with each album. We want to make sure that the story we’re telling is a progression, and not stasis or retrograde.

DON’T CAVE IN TO CRITICISM

Corin: I think we learned early on that people were not always going to react positively to what we were doing. It was more important for us to keep trying new things and growing as artists; if we want to keep doing this for a long time, we have to grow, we have to experiment. Now, people aren’t always super excited about that, and that’s okay. Because down the line a few years later, suddenly they’re like: oh, I love that record!

ART IS A PRIVILEGE

Corin: People often need a side hustle, which is for me an actual job. It’s a lot to have that responsibility, and then try and write a whole album on top of it. But I do think it gives me a scaffolding of discipline, accepting that it is a privilege to be creative, and I will have to work extra hard to make that happen. And that’s not a bad thing.

CREATE YOUR OWN LANGUAGE

Carrie: We’ve been fortunate that Sleater-Kinney created a sonic vernacular. There is a way that Corin and I communicate through our self-taught way of guitar playing. There is this lexicon. It’s so singular, and we can’t find that with anyone else. It’s a style that has been created, specifically, from within and for this band. It sounds like our lives.

As seen in Issue 127 of CLASH.

Words: Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker

Photo Credit: Chris Hornbecker

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