Sleater-Kinney (/ˌsleɪtərˈkɪniː/ SLAY-tər-KIN-ee) is an American rock band that formed in Olympia, Washington, in 1994. The band's lineup features Corin Tucker (vocals and guitar), Carrie Brownstein (guitar and vocals), and Janet Weiss (drums). Sleater-Kinney is a key part of the riot grrrl and indie rock scenes in the Pacific Northwest. The band is also known for its feminist and left-leaning politics.
The band released 7 studio albums between 1994 and 2005: 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) and The Woods (2005). They went on hiatus in 2006 and devoted themselves to solo projects. They reunited in 2014 and released No Cities to Love on January 20, 2015.
Critics Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau have each praised Sleater-Kinney as one of the essential rock groups of the early 2000s. Marcus named Sleater-Kinney America's best rock band in 2001. Tom Breihan of Stereogum called them the greatest rock band of the past two decades in 2015.
Formation, early years (1994–1999)
Sleater-Kinney was formed in early 1994 in Olympia, Washington, by Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein. The group's name is derived from Sleater Kinney Road, in Lacey, Washington; where signs for Interstate 5 exit number 108 announce its existence. One of the band's early practice spaces was near Sleater Kinney road. Tucker was formerly in the influential riot grrrl band Heavens to Betsy, while Brownstein was formerly in the band Excuse 17. They often played at gigs together and formed Sleater-Kinney as a side-project from their respective bands. When Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17 disbanded, Sleater-Kinney became their primary focus. Janet Weiss of Quasi is the band's longest lasting and current drummer, though Sleater-Kinney has had other drummers, including Lora Macfarlane, Misty Farrell, and Toni Gogin.
Upon Tucker's graduation from The Evergreen State College (where Brownstein remained a student for three more years), she and then-girlfriend Brownstein took a trip to Australia in early 1994. Their last day there, they stayed up all night recording what would become their self-titled debut album. It was released the following spring. They followed this with Call the Doctor (1996) and Dig Me Out (1997), and became critical darlings as a result.
Later albums (2000–2006)
Their next few albums (The Hot Rock, All Hands on the Bad One) pushed the band towards mainstream listeners, culminating in 2002's One Beat. The group opened for Pearl Jam at many North American shows beginning in 2003, and the band cited the experience of playing to large arenas as part of the inspiration and motivation for the music found on their seventh album, The Woods. The Woods was released in 2005, and was a departure from the sound of their previous albums. In its place, The Woods featured a denser, heavily distorted sound that drew on classic rock as its inspiration. In 2006 they helped to curate an edition of the British All Tomorrow's Parties festival.
On June 27, 2006, the band announced an indefinite hiatus, stating there were "no plans for future tours or recordings." Sleater-Kinney's last major public show at this time was at the 2006 Lollapalooza music festival. The band's last appearance prior to the hiatus was at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon, on August 12, 2006. No explanation for the hiatus was given.
Upon the dissolution of Sleater-Kinney in 2006, Weiss joined Quasi bandmate Joanna Bolme in Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. She performed on two albums, Real Emotional Trash in 2008 and the 2011 release Mirror Traffic. She left the band prior to the tour for the latter album. In April 2010 Tucker announced she was recording a solo album for Kill Rock Stars to be released in October 2010. Working along with Tucker on her solo album was Unwound's Sara Lund and Golden Bears'/Circus Lupus Seth Lorinczi. According to Tucker, the album would be a "middle-aged mom record". The album, entitled 1,000 Years was released on October 5, 2010, to positive reception by music critics. Tucker toured on both U.S. coasts to support the 1,000 Years album, in addition to dates in other parts of the country. The band's second album, titled Kill My Blues, was released on September 18, 2012. This album was supported by a US tour.
In September 2010, Brownstein revealed her latest project was the band Wild Flag, with Janet Weiss, Mary Timony, and Rebecca Cole, formerly of The Minders." Their eponymous debut album was released on September 13, 2011 on Merge Records. By 2014, the band was no longer active., In an interview, Brownstein stated, "We had a fun run... but all the logistics started seeming not quite worth it." In January 2011, Brownstein's television project Portlandia premiered on IFC, and has aired a new season annually every year since.
In October 2014, it was revealed the band had recorded a new album, No Cities to Love, later released on January 20, 2015. The members of Sleater-Kinney also announced a 2015 tour covering North America and western Europe. In 2014, the band released a boxed set "Start Together" reviewed by BUST Magazine, writer Claire McKinzie states, "With their feminist, left-leaning lyrics, Sleater-Kinney's relevance today is obvious. While some singers back away from being labeled "feminist," Sleater-Kinney exists partially to redirect society's perception of the word. With 1995's first release, the self-titled Sleater-Kinney, this three-piece band from Olympia, Washington contributed to the kaleidoscopic nature of popular music that year (which, in case you forgot, was a lot of TLC and Coolio). Over the next fifteen years, Sleater-Kinney epitomized what it was to be a group born during the riot grrrl era, one that continues to inspire girls today."
Sleater-Kinney's musical style sprang from and was rooted in Olympia, Washington's fertile punk and independent rock scenes of the early- to mid-1990s, forming around the last years of the riot grrrl movement, and with Tucker and Brownstein coming from veteran acts from the beginning of the movement. Although the band's lyrics revolved around a variety of different topics, they were included in the riot grrrl movement because of the subject matter that supported feminist ideals. On the topic of the band's involvement in political movements, Carrie Brownstein was quoted, "Sleater-Kinney are brave enough and strong enough to make a difference and get the word out."
Their sound incorporates personal and social themes along with stripped-down music that was influenced by punk and the free-thinking ideals of 1980s-1990s alternative and indie rock. They experimented with this foundation by bringing in different instruments and arrangements. Sleater-Kinney have been compared to female singers such as Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Patti Smith and Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex. They have also named influences such as Bikini Kill, Mecca Normal, Bratmobile, Throwing Muses and Sonic Youth. Corin Tucker's emotional vocals and the band's lyrics alternate between personal and political topics, rebelling against war, traditionalism, gender roles and consumerism from feminist and progressive perspectives. Sleater-Kinney contributed the protest song "Off With Your Head" to NOFX leader Fat Mike's Rock Against Bush compilation.
In a documentary about riot grrrl, Tucker revealed that her vocal style has always been intentionally harsh to suit the band's message and to demand focus from the listener, and her vocals have been described by AllMusic critic Heather Phares as "love-them-or-hate-them vocals." At the beginning of the band's career, lead vocals were often performed by Tucker, though as the band progressed, Brownstein began to appear more as a vocalist. Both Brownstein and Tucker played guitar, with Brownstein usually handling lead and Tucker performing rhythm. Although Sleater-Kinney had no bass player, both Tucker and Brownstein tuned their guitars one and a half steps down (D♭ tuning), and Tucker's tone and style enabled her to fill the same role as a bass guitar.
In 1998, the band recorded "Big Big Lights", the first split single (with Cypher in the Snow) in the series of recordings dealing with women's self-defense entitled Free to Fight, and released on Candy Ass Records.
In 1999, Carrie Brownstein recorded a four-song EP titled The Age of Backwards with Mary Timony in a duo called The Spells.
In 2000, all three members of Sleater-Kinney assisted Robert Forster and Grant McLennan of the now-defunct Brisbane indie band The Go-Betweens to record the album The Friends of Rachel Worth.
In 2003, the band recorded the song "Angry Inch" with Fred Schneider of The B-52's for the Hedwig and the Angry Inch charity tribute album Wig in a Box. Proceeds for the album went to the Harvey Milk School, a school for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
Along with performing in Sleater-Kinney, Tucker also was a member of the band Cadallaca with Sarah Dougher and sts (both formerly of The Lookers). In a recent interview, however, she told people "not to hold [their] breath for a new Cadallaca album."
Tucker was featured on Eddie Vedder's solo album Into the Wild, where she performed vocals on the track "Hard Sun" along with Vedder. In 2008, Tucker collaborated again with Vedder on a cover of John Doe's The Golden State on Doe's Golden State EP.
On November 29, 2013 the members of Sleater-Kinney joined Pearl Jam and Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck (who were members of the retired band R.E.M.) during a concert in Portland for a cover of Neil Young's "Rocking in the Free World".
In 2015, Sleater-Kinney collaborated with Bob's Burgers to create a video for the song "A New Wave" off their album No Cities to Love.
Corin Tucker — vocals, guitar (1994–2006; 2014–present)
Carrie Brownstein — guitar, vocals (1994–2006; 2014–present)
Janet Weiss — drums (1996–2006; 2014–present)
Katie Harkin — guitar, keyboards, percussion (2015–present)
Laura Macfarlane — drums, vocals (1995–1996)
Toni Gogin — drums (1996)
Misty Farrell — drums, percussion (1994)