My feature on the Corin Tucker Band is in this week's WE.
Corin Tucker’s new band ‘Years’ in the making
As one of the most recognizable faces of the riot grrrl movement, singer/songwriter/guitarist Corin Tucker knows a lot about breaking the rules. She’s written songs about her period, women’s reproductive rights, feminist politics and sex for her early ’90s alt-punk band Heavens to Betsy and later for the indie rock outfit Sleater-Kinney. But in 2006, Sleater-Kinney went on hiatus, in part because Tucker wanted time to focus on her family. Two children later, Tucker’s slowly edging back into the spotlight with the Corin Tucker Band and a full-length album, 1,000 Years. Gone are the snarling vocals and raw chords; instead the 38-year-old revisited the music of her heroes, crafting a sound that blends elements of rock and folk for her most intimate record yet. Tucker spoke with WE from her Portland home a few days before the band’s show Sunday, May 1 at the Media Club.
WE: Why was last year the right time to come back to music after going on hiatus from Sleater-Kinney?
Corin Tucker: I’m not sure that it was necessarily the right time to come back, but I just really love music so I’m trying to do a little bit of it in my life. It’s certainly not the easiest thing to work out with the schedule that I have. I really love doing it so I’m trying to make it happen. The way the album came together, it’s a really nice arrangement of the schedule and the people and the musicianship, it’s all really great.
Were you doing much writing previous to this album?
No, I pretty much stopped writing for a couple years while I had my daughter. I started writing a couple of the songs for a benefit show Seth [Lorinczi of indie-rock band Golden Bears] asked me to play for the Reading Frenzy benefit. I’d written a couple of songs for that and Seth was like, ‘You should really record an album.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’d really like to do that.’ It just got my itch back for playing music again. I just started writing more songs to make a record and Seth and I started working on it, planning it out. We took our time, and that is really essential for me and the busy schedule I have. I’m not in a hurry. (Laughs)
The album feels very honest and earnest, more personal maybe. Has having a family changed your songwriting perspective?
I think that’s always been my songwriting style. This record is more personal and it’s more reflective. After taking a long break from writing I think that it came back. I think the songwriting style is stripped down and kind of more intimate than more traditional rock band writing.
Did you have an idea for what you wanted the album to sound like?
I definitely wanted it to be this quieter album where I could do different things with my voice, use different instrumentation, using the piano was something I was really excited to do. So we came at it that way, but it ended up having a lot more rock on it that I thought, but I think that’s part of the collaborative process.
“Doubt” really reminded me of early Pretenders.
Cool. Pretenders really was a big influence on this record. The Slits were another we were really inspired by, the Raincoats, Patty Smith. These were the female rock legends we were thinking about while we were putting it together. (Laughs)
A lot of people hold you up as an inspiration for women in music. Did you ever want to be a role model?
When I was young I wanted the notoriety of being in a known rock band because of the power dynamic that comes with being a famous rock person. That’s a really simplistic way of looking at it. (Laughs) But, when you’re 20 years old, you’re like, ‘Let’s be the best band any one’s ever heard of!’ I definitely had that desire, and I think as I’ve gotten older, realizing the much deeper connections you can make with people, it can be a real pain to be recognized by people you don’t know, but you can also use it for good and being a role model for young women. I think in Sleater-Kinney we realized that. Our work with the rock ’n’ roll camp for girls was one way we were able to do good with that role model situation.
What were the most positive contributions music made to your identity?
I think there were some really interesting role models in music. I looked up to Sinead O’Connor. She was amazing! Chrissy Hynde, love her, and Kate Bush, I love her music. I bought all her records when I was in high school. Aretha Franklin, America’s most amazing singer. It’s just a neat way to see a woman, you know, have a career in music. Because of the feminist movement of the ’70s, so many women were influenced by that and it really came out in some of the music when I was growing up. Like Aretha Franklin’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T, this Otis Redding song, she really took that and linked it to the women’s lib movement. That kind of subversive stuff is something we really take for granted in America with the amount of freedom women have here.
Everything ’90s is coming back now. Is there another resurgence of the Riot Grrrl movement coming?
Where is it?! When is it happening? I want to get involved again! (Laughs) It’s kind of sad how nostalgic I feel for it. I read Sarah Marcus’ book [Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution] on the last tour our band did of Japan. I had just forgotten so much of what had happened. And she did such an excellent job of tying together historically what happened, and also the meaning that it had towards what was happening in the larger culture and the degradation of women’s rights that a lot of politicians have been trying to put forward for a long time. It was so re-inspiring for me and just how involved I was in it. Sometimes I look back and go, ‘Why was I so involved?’ And it’s like, of course I was. It was so enthralling and I still feel — I mean obviously with the Planned Parenthood de-funding bill now, we’re still arguing about these really basic reproductive rights for women. We’re so stuck in this same argument that’s been going on my whole life and it’s so frustrating that we can’t move forward for women’s rights.
Corin Tucker Band plays Sunday, May 1 at the Media Club (695 Cambie), 8pm. Tickets $15 (RC, S, Z and TicketWeb.ca).