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Brownstein hopped and yelped and high-kicked like a true punk goddess, and everyone there to see the impressive group, born from the Pacific Northwest’s riot grrrl scene, bounced right along with her. Today, Brownstein’s in a Los Angeles photo studio and she’s not holding a guitar, but rather a gigantic prop toothbrush.It’s almost as tall as she is, and as Ramona, our photographer, snaps away, the 39-year-old brandishes it like an enormous spear, pretends to brush her teeth, uses it to scrub her armpits, and twirls it around like she’s an oral care majorette. And not just because she’s channeling Lily Tomlin in the 1981 cult flick , though that certainly helps.Brownstein’s not unusually short, but she is legit petite and low-key. As we chat, seated on a mustard-colored vintage couch at the photo studio, there’s a thoughtfulness to all of her answers. [But maybe you can] superimpose Janet and Corin next to me? A., Airbnb-ing a house in Laurel Canyon with one of her two dogs (the less adaptable one stayed home in Portland with her house sitter) while writing season five, which will premiere early next year.She is quick to smile but more reserved with her laughter, even when she’s exercising her signature wit, which she does when we talk about her cover (“I’m so psyched, it’s like a bucket list thing. ”), her happiness over finally giving up on reading the entire literary canon (“I’m like, ‘Wait, I can read Silk navy top by Wren, wrenstudio.com; Silk pattern skirt by Gemy Maalouf, gemymaalouf.com; Bracelet by Erickson Beamon, net-a-porter.com; Faux leather cut-out heel by Delta by Heart Soul, bracelet, Carrie’s ownpremiered in January 2011—“Put a bird on it,” from a sketch about avian trends in handcrafted DIY décor, quickly became one of the year’s most oft-repeated catchphrases—and its popularity has increased exponentially. (’s production takes place in its titular town, but all of the writers live in Los Angeles, a testament to the show’s humor having roots in a mindset rather than a specific location.) “I can’t believe it’s season five, that just seems so surreal.“They would air it in blocks on weekends and I would tape them all and re-watch those VHS tapes over and over again.
The trio, which also included guitarist and singer Corin Tucker and drummer Janet Weiss, had just released what turned out to be their final album, , and they were tearing through their new songs for an extremely pumped-up crowd.
And not just any band, of course, but one of the most iconic feminist groups of the late ’90s and early aughts. Brownstein met Tucker while they were both attending Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, the epicenter of the riot grrrl movement.
“I’m like, ‘But wait a second, that’s what I did first! “They just see me as this person they know from television, and then they listen to Sleater-Kinney and they think, ‘What is this scary music? They formed Sleater-Kinney, named for an Interstate exit near Olympia, in 1994 (Weiss joined two years later), and quickly gained a devoted following, even among mainstream press (in 1997, they were named one of , Sleater-Kinney’s seventh full-length, came out, they were more popular than ever.
But they called it quits shortly after its release, a demise akin to the breakup of the Beatles for those reared on the passion and fury of riot grrrl music. I mean, Sleater-Kinney was lucky, we didn’t ever really have a moment that faltered,” Brownstein says. Even though it felt like we ended prematurely, 11 years now seems like a long time to do anything. Kind of a dive, that ER.’” And making such high voltage music—which music writer Ann Powers dubbed “suffragette rock”—took an energy they didn’t necessarily want to put forth anymore. A short stint at uber-hip Portland ad agency Wieden Kennedy gave her what she’s called an “existential crisis” before she found a niche as an NPR music columnist and “All Songs Considered” contributor.
It’s a whole lifetime.” Deciding to discontinue what you’ve spent a whole lifetime doing is a terrifying prospect, but as the women got deeper into their 30s, Sleater-Kinney and the lifestyle it required no longer seemed sustainable. “It was the kind of band that required an insularity and an intensity that’s very hard to maintain,” Brownstein explains, as she absentmindedly removes bobby pins from her messy bob. You start to want things that feel more comforting.” It took Brownstein a while to figure out what those things were. (It was also during this time that she was named “Volunteer of the Year” for her work with animals at the Oregon Humane Society.) , and gave the pair a reason to get together.