Chris Hornbecker

Always Thoughtful – Catching Up With Sleater-Kinney

Brooklyn Steel, Racket, and Theatre of Living Arts – mid-March is a good time to be a Metropolitan-area-based Sleater-Kinney fan.

Little Rope, the January LP release from Sleater-Kinney is sonically, thematically, and personally in line with who they are and what they have continued to do for the last 30 years. The album is a reflection of society at large, but that is carefully woven into the firsthand familial grief that Carrie Brownstein experienced first hand.

With her bandmate Corin Tucker by her side, the singer-songwriter was supported and loved. They evolved together once more – another phase of life spun intricately into an album that is as much for themselves as it is for the rest of the world. The duo leaned, learned, loved, hoped, and healed; all traits of which are felt strongly in the empowering, thoughtful creation that is Little Rope.

The Aquarian interviewed the earnest Corin Tucker, and the below conversation is that heartwarming chat.

You’re coming our way very soon for shows in New York on March 13, 14 and 16; not to mention Philly to follow on the 18th. Are you excited to be bringing these songs and this era of the band to the city? New York has always gravitated to the sound and ethos of Sleeter-Kinney.

We’re thrilled. Right now we’re rehearsing and getting ready to go on the road and kind of going through each of the sounds on these new songs and trying to make them as best as possible for the live show. It’s really rewarding to get to this point after sort of dreaming this idea and coming up with it and then recording it in the studio. The live show really is the pinnacle for me of being in the band and getting to share the music with other people in a live setting. It’s my favorite part, and New York is special.

I think that, too, but why do you think so?

New York is really special, because it’s a place where we really felt big when we went there the first time. If you have a great New York show, it means that you’re really doing something as a band, you know? […] Some of our best memories and most amazing shows have been in New York, so we’re really excited to bring this record to the audiences there.

I’m so glad, and this is a really layered album. I would argue it’s the most grounded and universal record that you guys have released. When you’re in the studio recording, putting these songs together, how do you know which will kind of get to live their own life and have a single release? Do you know right away, do you shop it around? I think the ones that came out ahead of Little Rope did a good job at laying the groundwork of all that was to come.

We try and trust ourselves and think about what is most impactful for us and what , as you said, sets the table for the album. We really did think about “Hell” as being the first song because it’s very immersive of the world that we wanted to build and the story we were trying to tell. It doesn’t pull any punches [Laughs] in terms of going from this sort of spooky place to a full on kind of revelation moment. That, I think, is the core of what a lot of Sleater-Kinney does – ask questions and feel all the feelings, you know? I think we wanted to bring people in right away with that being the first single.

I believe you did just that, especially as you went forward with “Say It Like You Mean It,” “Untidy Creature,” and then the whole album. Since you put a lot of thought into the order of events, I want to commend you on maintaining a through-line with each single as they do carry different weights.

Yeah, and we worked really hard on that for this album. We talked about it a lot and we did record some extra songs that didn’t make it to the album, but I felt pretty strongly that we needed to have something that was very concise so that it would be more impactful if it was a compact story. Every song was placed really specifically to provide a kind of beginning, middle, and end. Sequencing is a really big deal to us because we became a band in the era of vinyl; that’s how people bought music. You had two sides to each album and there was a time limit of what fit on the vinyl. That just played a part in how we made this and how we make all the choices for sequencing of what went where. We also thought about what sounded good next to each other, what would sound good on a vinyl album next to each other, because that, too, was important for us: to make something that had an actual weight to it as a complete album. That’s how we wanted people to approach the record.

It was quite impactive and refreshing to see two of the amazing single releases be used as the opener and closer for the record. There is beauty in the tracklist here and beauty in a cover-to-cover listen, as well.

That’s something that we just love. We grew up listening to music like that and thinking about what the artist had in mind or what their intention was with A-sides and B-sides. We really enjoy being inside that world. That’s how I enjoy listening to music, and so I think we wanted to take this opportunity to give that to people, give them this kind of world to be inside for the whole entirety of the album. 

For sure, and the album is not drawn out nor a speedy piece. It’s heavy in the journey and honesty and such, but the fact that it’s not even 35 minutes long makes it very concise, like you said. Song after song after song, the record feels complete with no excess fat to cut off. It is beautiful and mesmerizing and inspiring. Not one track feels like it’s just… there.

Absolutely! It’s hard when you have a song that you think is going to turn out a certain way and maybe it just isn’t as strong as some of the other songs. It’s kind of unpredictable when that happens, but we did think about that. We were like, “Well, these songs really tell this one particular story….” That’s why we paired it down to just 10 songs.

My favorite song off the album is “Crusader.” To me, it feels, like the wise older sister to “Stay Where You Are,” [1997] and there is not necessarily a direct parallel, but it just feels like these two songs are two people at different points of their life and their personal growth, having an intimate conversation. What was that song like to put together, because the verses and the story are just poignant.

That song we worked on a lot. Carrie wrote the verses to be talking about this idea of us having politicians and people in this country that just are trying to eradicate certain people’s identity and deny their bodily autonomy by denying gender affirming care and burning certain books. It’s bizarre to have come this far in terms of social progression in our lifetimes to be going back to certain places in the country. It’s bizarre and it just needs to be named as such. Also, because we’re older now as songwriters, it’s a song that, iin some ways, is a love letter to a young person listening to this song. We’re saying, “Listen, you are exactly who you should be and we love you just as you are.” I just feel like that is something that is really important to hear as a young person from an artist that you care about – that they are being exactly who they should be regardless of what anyone else says. I think that that’s really important for young people to hear. We know that we have young fans who need to hear that, so we just wanted to put it kind of explicitly into the song and say, “We are so glad you’re here regardless of the circumstances,” in terms of just caring about our fans.

That’s beautiful, Corin. What is your favorite song on the record currently? Is there one that you gravitate towards the most or you’re simply the most excited to bring to life on stage?

It’s funny, because it changes every day in rehearsal [Laughs]. Actually, “Small Finds” has turned out to be really fun. We didn’t even think we were gonna do that one live, but it actually is pretty fun to play, so I’m excited about that one. I’m excited about all of them, you know? We’re really just enjoying playing them.