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It's 'Those Girls From Sleater-Kinney'

Making punk rock 'n' roll in a post-9/11 world.

Interview Jenny Tatone

"Now when I get introduced to people, it's like, 'Oh, that girl from Sleater-Kinney.'" — Corin Tucker
3 July 2002 - Portland, OR.

Sleater-Kinney need no introduction.

But, 'tis my duty, so I'll give you one anyway. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ... I give you....

Sigh. You've heard it all before, haven't you?

Perhaps I can come up with something you've not heard before. I know, I know! Singer-guitarist Corin Tucker's 1-year-old son shares a last name with the late great Lester Bangs. Let's keep the rock a-rollin' through the family! Little Marshall Tucker Bangs had his first birthday March 8, and the punk-rock trio's incredible upcoming album, One Beat, closes with the beautifully impassioned track "Sympathy," inspired by Marshall, who was nine weeks premature but, happily, is perfectly healthy today.

Hmm — what else? Guitarist-vocalist Carrie Brownstein moved from Olympia, Wash., to Portland, Ore., about six months ago but — I'm sure of it! — you knew that already. Did you also know this means the band — the entire band! — resides in my hometown?! And what a wonderfully kick-back place to be. But don't tell anyone I told you — we've got enough of an influx as it is (damn Californians). Please tell them how much it rains.

Best, best, best of all, I've had the distinguished pleasure of having in my possession, for the past two months or so, Sleater-Kinney's latest and — 'tis my opinion — greatest album of their eight-year existence, purely for my listening pleasure. What's more, I get to rock out to it with the delight no one else can (press folk: pretend you're not here)!

I know what you're thinking. "How callous and mean. Rub it in, why dontcha?" But, wait, this could mean positive consequences for you. Yes, you!

So long as you have not secured an ultra-secret site from which to download the band's sixth album, legally available Aug. 20 on Kill Rock Stars, the album advance not only makes me feel COOL but gives me the chance to, perhaps, tell you something you don't already know.

And — thanks to my chance meeting with Sleater-Kinney — tell you something you don't know through their very own words, without the hindrance of, say, not meeting them.

OK, so it wasn't a chance meeting. Sleater-Kinney's manager arranged it and sent me an email that went something like this: "Meet them here at this time. You have one hour." Are you sure that's enough time for the deal to go down?

Yes, indeed, it was professionally set up. I didn't just happen to meet Tucker, Brownstein and drummer Weiss and have them instantly like and want to befriend me. It took, oh, about an hour. Now they won't stop calling! "Please come hang out with us! It's no fun without you around! Do you want to join the band?"

Stop kidding around. Do you want to get down to business or not?

"Here" was the Fresh Pot, a coffee shop inside the world-famous independent bookstore Powell's Books — a subsidiary of the mega-sized real deal downtown location — that sits like a haven on the East Side's hippie/hipster Hawthorne Blvd. I realize, not very incognito. And "at this time" was 4 p.m. But I was a tad late because Burnside bridge traffic is god-awful during these construction-wrought summer days, compounded by the mad (and I mean, insane) drivers scurrying to escape the city for Fourth of July weekend. Yet I am still alive, hooray!

Speaking of Burnside, here's something else you might not know — "Light Rail Coyote," a song off One Beat, sneers about this main drag: "And Burnside will be our street/ Where the kids and hookers meet/ Diamonds and strip club junk/ Bookstores and punk rock clubs." That makes me feel COOL too.

It took about, oh, one second for me to spot the three dark-haired ladies sitting at the red, '50s-style, chrome-legged diner table, which was the only one of its kind amongst a slew of differing table types. And in the next second, jittery as a bumbling bee, I was off to the toilet — I have since put my reckless caffeine addiction to rest (I think). The Fresh Pot is everything a chain café is not — no likeness, no order, no consistency (the pride and joy of any chain — keep it familiar!).

Indie rock blares from the speakers and the espresso machine screams every now and then (Hot! Ooh, that's hot!) forcing me to ask "What?" repetitively throughout the interview. Like bohemians without the flair, shabby-dressed patrons slouch against their mismatched chairs, immersed in a book or scribbling in a journal. They remind me of where grunge began and — in the "oh well, whatever, never mind" tradition — could care less that one of today's best rock bands is present.

That's the beauty of the Northwest — no oohs, no ahhs, no celebrity infatuation. A fictitious example: "There's Sleater-Kinney," says one fellow languidly, sounding stoned, to his buddy. "Hmm," responds the other, more interested in his book. Northwest natives are so passive, they don't even know how to merge onto a highway — it's a well-known fact. They also don't understand the difference between left and right lanes ("What's a fast lane?").

But anyway, no one minded Sleater-Kinney's presence. I don't know about their driving records but chances are, since two of them are originally from Washington, they don't know left from right either. I digress. Truth is, they fit in too well to stand out much, which makes sense, seeing how Brownstein grew up in the suburbs of Seattle before moving to Olympia, and Tucker in Eugene, Ore., then Olympia, where the two met at Evergreen College. Let's just dismiss the fact that Weiss is from Hollywood, 'cause that blows a hole in my theory and we wouldn't want to do that.

Three frothing soup-sized mugs sat cupped in three pairs of hands, steaming with espresso and milk (or soy perhaps?) and making my mouth water for just one decadent sip. But, fret not, I resisted the energy-igniting temptation and allowed my jealousy to seethe as Tucker commented, wide-eyed and bumbling, on her fired-up buzz. "We've really gone on a rant in this interview," Tucker exclaimed with the intensity of a tiger. "I like it! Have some coffee! Caffeine!"

Oh, rub it in, why dontcha? Again, I digress.


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