KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now.
From their early days in Olympia’s Riot Grrrl scene, Sleater-Kinney have been known for their political insight and emotional impact. On their latest album, The Center Won’t Hold – out now on Mom + Pop Records – they explore the loss of human connection within society and the rise of technology.
Sleater-Kinney guitarist and singer Carrie Brownstein spoke with Sound & Vision host Emily Fox about The Center Won’t Hold, how she’s seen the music industry change for women and the departure of drummer Janet Weiss from the band.
On the dark themes of The Center Won’t Hold:
It’s very hard right now to not become misanthropic or cynical, you have to fight those urges every day and I think one theme that occurs on this record is the idea that connection is a way of staving off those feelings of not just cynicism, but skepticism.
On how the music industry has changed for women since Sleater-Kinney was formed in 1994:
"By many litmus tests, things have definitely changed. I mean, if you look at the sheer amount of women who play music in all kinds of bands – the numbers speak to a greater sense of parity. There is still a ways to go – the ways that people write about women and the inability to have somewhat nuanced conversations about women is a little trickier, where it intersects with age and race and class. There's still areas that are lacking. But generally, if you survey the landscape you see a lot more women out there and all kinds of women, which I think is really important."
On how women are represented in popular culture:
"We're in a strange time where you can't read an article without someone celebrating strong female characters and complex female characters in film, television and in books. But then, when it comes to strong women in real life, we will have a harder time reconciling some of those inherent contradictions – some of the transgressions, some of the things that are human and unsavory and not pleasing and not pure. I find that to be tricky, and you see it with women in politics, you see it with women in sports, you see it when anyone is actually just not the character that we wanted them to be."
On Janet Weiss’ departure from Sleater-Kinney, citing that the band was heading in a new direction and it was time for her to move on:
"It's really hard to parse someone's subjective interpretation or definition of different. From my perspective, every album we've done has been a deviation from the last. We’ve each had recording processes that were difficult or strenuous. I mean, that's the nature of collaboration, that's the nature of any relationship. We were surprised and sad that she wanted to leave. It's too bad because we were really looking forward to playing shows with her and we love her, she's one of our oldest friends but, I think at this point, Corin [Tucker] and I just have to keep looking forward. We feel very lucky to get to do this."
Sound & Vision host John Richards spoke with Van Deusen about his views on Christianity and being okay with not being okay.