Feeling It Still

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Proof positive that girls can indeed rock comes to the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on Monday evening in the form of punk rock trio Sleater-Kinney.  Based in Portland, OR, and currently celebrating its tenth anniversary, the band has just released its seventh album, “The Woods.”

The three members of Sleater-Kinney are vocalist/guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss.  Despite having no bassist, the band manages to put out a hugely powerful sound, with grinding, distorted guitars, caterwauling vocals and thrashing drums all played with intensity reminiscent of the Ramones.  The latest album shows, in addition to the trio’s trademark energy, a maturity in the songwriting which could well gain Sleater-Kinney a new generation of fans while still satisfying their diehard fans.

Sleater-Kinney began its decade-long history in Washington State.  Carrie Brownstein was born in Seattle, and began playing guitar at age 15.  Her parents at first thought it was just another teenage craze.  “I’d gone through so many phases as a kid with my interests that my parents put their foot down with guitar,” she said.  “So it ended up being the first thing that I had to save up my own money for – and maybe that was the whole reason that I actually stuck with it.”  She became interested in punk rock after hearing the album “All Mod Cons” by British band The Jam, and formed her first band in high school.

After graduating high school, Brownstein went to college in Bellingham.  There, she saw a performance by the band Heavens to Betsy, which featured Corin Tucker.  Brownstein was so taken by the band’s sound that she actually wrote Tucker a fan letter and, when Brownstein later transferred to Evergreen State College in Olympia, the pair got together to play music.  Their respective bands had broken up, so the pair, together with Australian drummer Lora Macfarlane, formed a new band.  They named the band Sleater-Kinney after the street where they had their rehearsal space, and recorded their debut, self-titled CD in Melbourne, Australia in1995.

The band achieved critical acclaim with its follow-up album, 1996’s “Call The Doctor.” Sleater-Kinney making the number 3 slot in the Village Voice’s Critics’ Poll that year, and Time magazine proclaimed the trio to be the best rock band in America.  The same year, Macfarlane was replaced by current drummer Janet Weiss and, turning down offers from major labels, the band signed to Olympia-based independent label Kill Rock Stars.  Sleater-Kinney released four albums on this label including 2002’s politically-oriented “One Beat.”

The band moved to Sub Pop Records for its latest release, which is regarded as Sleater-Kinney’s most experimental to date.   At a point where many bands break up, the members of Sleater-Kinney feel that, after 10 years, they still have new directions to explore musically.  Weiss sums the band’s attitude up thus: “There’s some sort of ending to this somewhere, but we haven’t seen it yet.  We haven’t really felt it yet, which is why we keep coming back to it, even when it’s really hard.”

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, June 2, 2005

Back to Articles List