An Interview With SLEATER-KINNEY’S Janet Weiss On The Band’s Hiatus, Their Latest Album and Working On Portlandia!
Posted On 30 Jul 2015
Sleater-Kinney is the all girl rock group based in Portland. The group consists of Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss. They are a key part of the riot grrl and indie rock scenes in the Pacific Northwest.
Starting in 1994, they have released 7 studio albums: Sleater-Kinney(1995), Call the Doctor (1996), Dig Me Out (1997), The Hot Rock (1999), All Hands on the Bad One (2000), One Beat (2002), The Woods (2005) and after a hiatus, in January 2015, they put out No Cities To Love.
“The core of this album is our relationship to each other, to the music, and how all of us still felt strongly enough to about those to sweat it out in the basement and to try and reinvent our band,” adds Tucker. With No Cities To Love, “we went for the jugular.”
Learn more about this iconic band and their return to music in the following All Access interview:
Where does this interview find the band today?
I’m home in Portland enjoying the beautiful weather. It gets more like San Diego outside with each passing day.
In January, you released your 8th studio album. It was your first collection since your hiatus. How do you think your sound has changed over the years? What have you gotten better at doing as a group?
The goal has always approached each record with fresh ideas. Our previous records were recorded with only short breaks between them. That fact naturally caused the newer material to be a reaction to the record it followed. A good example of that is the sonic and structural differences between “Dig Me Out” and “The Hot Rock”. “The Woods” was such a bold, daring statement for us. If we had tried to write sooner it may have been more daunting. On “No Cities To Love”, the sound is more focused, tight and condensed with a more intense focus on melodies than our previous work. As a group we have gotten better at editing.
Ultimately, why do you think the hiatus was necessary for the band? How did you spend that time apart?
The hiatus allowed us to exist outside the confines of Sleater-Kinney – to forge new identities that made us feel enriched. I personally kept playing music but in different contexts – I pushed myself to be a better drummer and to gather experiences which make me a better musician and person.
What was it like putting “No Cities To Love” together after the hiatus?
It was hard work. We knew the record had to be one of our best and we were determined to keep at it until it was.
Since its release, the album has received so much praise from all over. Did you have a feeling when you were creating it that it was going to get this kind of positive reaction from the fans?
We weren’t really thinking about that when we were writing. We were focused on melodies and and telling a succinct story. Our fans tend to be the musically adventurous types – they usually appreciate our taking risks.
Your first performance after the hiatus was on The Late Show with David Letterman. What was that like for you three?
Well for me it was a huge challenge! That song is one of the more difficult tracks to drum – it doesn’t really sound like it but it is. To play on television without any live shows under our belt required A LOT of extra practice on my end. I put in hours outside of band practice working on my own. Once the cameras started rolling though, I knew we were ready. The nervousness melted away and just like that we were a band again! I think we were all relieved when it was over and really happy with the result.
Your music has always dealt with important topical issues. Has that always been the group’s intent? Do you all share the songwriting duties?
Corin and Carrie write all the lyrics and usually the beginnings of the songs. Sometimes the songs are born in a more improvisational setting, like on “The Woods” or “One Beat”. For this new album however, the two of them did a lot more writing just the two of them. Arrangements are always tackled as a band.
So, I’m a huge fan of Portlandia so I have to ask you about it. How are you going to be involved with the show’s next season? Have you already done work on it in the past?
I’ve worked on two seasons casting locations – it is very challenging and very rewarding – makes tour look easy! Next season I will run my department and help in further capturing the look and feel of the show. It’s a grueling 4 months – but the crew is amazing and of course Fred and Carrie are great friends. I introduced them you know!
You just wrapped a 41-date US and Europe tour. How did it go? Any favorite venues or crowds?
The tour was utterly fantastic! Our fans are the best in the world. And to look out and see so many young faces was an unexpected joy. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being onstage such these talented, powerful, heroic women.