Before walking into the locals-only-feeling Fresh Pot that sunny afternoon, I heard about the intelligence, the creativity and most importantly the realness among the members of Sleater-Kinney. You hear and read these kinds of things all the time, so much so you forget to believe in them. None of the claims surrounding the band took on real meaning until the day I sat and talked with them. Sure thanks to nasty prejudice-fueled human tendencies it was easy to initially put each one of them in a box, dubbing Tucker the idealist, Brownstein the intellect and Weiss the cynic. And easy is the key word it's easy to make petty attempts at descriptions, to string together words for the strength of their show rather than their truth. And it's unfair because it fails to paint the entire picture. There is so much I don't know about them, but from my view, the three are smart, insightful and perceptive but seem nonchalantly unaware of it. They are so far away from rock star clichés or images, I don't believe they could even fake it if they tried (this being at least partially responsible for the fact they've stuck with the independent Olympia punk label Kill Rock Stars throughout their existence).
All dress with style but not pretension: Tucker wore a denim skirt and a black T with the sleeves split at the shoulder, Brownstein wore a baby-blue, quarter-sleeve blouse, and Weiss wore all black. Lacking arrogance, they seem very down-to-earth and not so much unlike you or I that is, until they began discussing the thought-provoking ideas behind their songs, letting you know there is something quite special about each of them. Tucker discussed the profound concept behind the new album's title track in a tone that sounded like she was reliving last night's dream. "That song is about, what if we could let go of this old way of living?" she explained. "What if our lives were totally different? What if we could invent something that was brand new? What if we used our thinkers and our scientists to help create a different mode of society? That is what the song is supposed to be presenting, but it is from the viewpoint of the invention, and the idea of fusion, saying, 'I am the new possibility. I am the new generation, and you would be so lucky if you would open your mind to me.'"
Our conversation swerved around grave, dark topics (including Sept. 11, international politics and the frightening events surrounding the birth of Tucker's son), '60s-style booty-shakin' anthems and funny last-minute prep stories from their recording sessions at Portland's Jackpot! Records. Oh yeah, and we talked about the new album a lot.
Driven by the powerful and gritty dual-guitar interplay and grounded by Weiss's intense drumming, One Beat finds Sleater-Kinney sticking to their noisy rock sound yet experimenting in very subtle amounts with elements of new wave and post-punk. The band has invented something impossible to abandon a sound that could only be Sleater-Kinney. "Our lives aren't static, so our songwriting isn't gonna be static," Brownstein said. "It's gonna fluctuate depending on what's going on in our lives, so there's always something to draw from. We don't song-write in a vacuum, so it's gonna change as we change."
The band's closeness shines when they're together occasionally they glance at one another, as if sharing an in-joke. It's as if they've built a world of their own, one that allows them to endure and understand life as a successful band. In some ways, they're just everyday, down-to-earth people making their way though life, stopping to smell the flowers ever so often. What makes them different? They take longer pit stops, examine the flowers closely and find a way to make their fragrance even better for the rest of us. Through their innate and undying determination to create art that touches and moves, and having progressed tremendously during their eight years together, Sleater-Kinney have proven to be one of the most impressive bands of this generation.
So, without further ado, I give you, ladies and gents, Sleater-Kinney! (Insert audience roar and applause here).