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Sleater-Kinney: ‘A little bit shocking to be a band again’

Corin Tucker talks the unlikely reunion of Sleater-Kinney and the band’s new album, “No Cities to Love.”
Sleater-Kinney

Sleater Kinney is playing four sold out shows in New York, Philadelphia and BostonBrigitte Sire

Earlier this month, when the three members of Sleater-Kinney took the stage together for their first full show in almost a decade, singer and guitarist Corin Tucker felt overwhelmed.

“The physicality of it was very intense,” she says. “It’s a very physical thing to do Sleater-Kinney.” The band, which also consists of guitarist and singer Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, went on hiatus after their 2005 album, “The Woods.” Tucker concentrated on family life and a solo project called The Corin Tucker Band while Brownstein and Weiss played in the band Wild Flag. And, oh yeah, there’s that other little thing that Brownstein did, a comedy show called “Portlandia,” which is now in its fifth wildly successful season on the IFC network and just last week was renewed for two additional seasons.

Oddly enough, the Sleater-Kinney reunion came about because of “Portlandia.” Brownstein and her partner in comedy, Fred Armisen, were visiting Tucker to show her a clip from the current season that featured her son. The conversation naturally turned to music and Tucker asked Brownstein, “Do you ever think we’re going to do that again?’ We talk to Tucker about the emotional decision to revive the iconic band.

Before talk of a Sleater-Kinney reunion came about, when you and Carrie would see each other, was there any tension? Why was a reunion never mentioned before?

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I think at the time that we decided to go on hiatus, it was pretty clear that we wanted to do other things. I really wanted to have a bigger family and Carrie really wanted to try writing comedy. And it just felt like those were big aspirations that were outside the band, and we felt lucky that those things happened the way that they did. It went really well, and we were supportive of each other’s accomplishments. And those are not small endeavors. They take up a lot of time and space in our lives, so I don’t think we would ever do Sleater-Kinney in an offhand or half-assed way.

Was getting the band back together a spontaneous decision?

It was just in the moment. We were talking about music, and we had both played music with other people — I had a band, and Carrie and Janet played in Wild Flag — and honestly, it was just a thought that popped into my mind.

Tell me about the secrecy involved in this reunion. You began recording in 2012, and recording new music is something that takes up a big space in your mind and heart, I’d imagine it wasn’t easy to stay mum about it.

We weren’t that secretive about it. We would tell people what was going on, when asked, and it was a “just between you and me, this is what’s going on” thing, so we told probably about 200 people, including Sub Pop, everybody there knew for a while what was going on. It’s surprising to me that it didn’t get out more than it did.

One of the most riveting things to watch onstage with Sleater-Kinney was always the almost telepathic communication between band members.

Yeah, I mean, there definitely is that chemistry, and I think just in the four shows that we’ve done, there’s already been a lot of that going on. I think the first show was almost like a little bit shocking to be a band again, in a good way! It definitely felt like we were experiencing a resurrection.

Was there anything about your muscle memory that surprised you?

There were definitely songs that my hands would remember before my brain would. All of “Dig Me Out” my hands will remember, because we played it so many times. But other songs that we did, like, “Oh!” that for some reason, which is not that complicated of a song, I had to go back and relearn it.

Some of the songs on the album feel like they’re about the three of you as a band. There’s that line in “Surface Envy,” where you sing, “We win, we lose, only together do we break the rules.”

I think that the inspiration for that song was me thinking about how when we did finally have the conversation of, “OK, we’re going to do this for real and make a whole new record. We’re going to relaunch ourselves and reinvent ourselves,” that was a really intense moment for me to think about. It was like, “Wow! Can I jump back into this career that I absolutely love that involves some travel? And so it was really challenging for me, being a mom, but it’s what I love to do, and I just have to be super-assertive about things and really good at planning things. It’s just all of the emotions that came from that conversation went into that song.

How do you talk about Sleater-Kinney to your kids? Have they always known what it has meant to you?

I think that I try to explain to them that it’s my job and that I love doing it, and it’s different from other parents’ jobs. I have to travel for it and that’s hard for a family, but both parents should be able to work and do a career that’s important to them. We’re just trying to make it work for our family.

If you go:

Boston
Sunday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m.
House of Blues
15 Lansdowne St., 888-693-2583
www.houseofblues.com/boston/

New York City
Thursday, Feb. 26 and Friday, Feb. 27, 8 p.m.
Terminal 5
610 W. 56th St., 212-582-6600
www.terminal5nyc.com

Philadelphia
Saturday, Feb. 28, 8:30 p.m.
Union Transfer
1026 Spring Garden St., 215-232-2100
www.utphilly.com

 
 
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