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Sleater-Kinney's Deleted Scenes

Sleater-Kinney's new album, its first since 2005, is No Cities to Love. Left to right: drummer Janet Weiss, singer-guitarist Corin Tucker, singer-guitarist Carrie Brownstein. (Courtesy of the artist)

Sleater-Kinney, the beloved and massively influential punk trio, is back after nearly a decade away. NPR's Leah Scarpelli spoke with the three members on the occasion of the new album No Cities to Love, out today. Hear her piece at the audio link, and read on for a few moments that didn't make the broadcast.


Corin Tucker On Finding Her Singing Voice

"I wanted to sing, and I think that I wanted to be in a band, but there just wasn't really the opportunity until I got to Olympia. Right after I got there, Bikini Kill and Bratmobile played their first show and I was like, 'That's it, that's what I'm going to do!' I started my first band, Heavens to Betsy, and I had kind of more of a sing-song voice when I first started that band. But because it was the '90s and grunge was ruling the world, I started experimenting with really loud guitar and much more aggressive vocals — just trying to get people's attention with the music. So yeah, there's a lot of howling on those early records."

Carrie Brownstein On Having Famous Fans

"Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance is a huge fan of our band, and I think he's awesome. I think he's a good songwriter and singer, and I like his relationship to his fans. He covered 'I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,' which is one of our early songs. And Perfume Genius, which is an artist who I love and whose record is one of my favorites of [2014], said he'd seen Sleater-Kinney 13 times. You kind of just never know. People find different ways into this band and different reasons to appreciate it."

Janet Weiss On The Thrill Of Playing Live

"As a drummer, I think it's the best place to be heard. A practice space is just brutal for the people who have to listen to the drummer. The studio can be very difficult — with headphones, and you're sort of trying to make things sound a certain way and it's very challenging. But live, where there is air and there is energy from the crowd, I think that energy can elevate what I do to a new level. I'm sort of recreating that in my mind, I think, when I play on a record or when I play at practice. In the right situation on stage, I feel more like a superhero than any other time in my life."

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Fans of Sleater-Kinney were thrilled last fall when the band released a new song, declaring its eight-year hiatus over. The trio first formed 20 years ago on the wave of the feminist riot girl movement. And Sleater-Kinney emerged as what some critics deemed one of America's best rock bands. Their new album is out today. It's called "No Cities To Love." NPR's Leah Scarpelli talked to them.

LEAH SCARPELLI, BYLINE: Drummer Janet Weiss describes the feeling of being back in the studio with Sleater-Kinney after almost a decade apart.

JANET WEISS: I heard Corin's voice through the monitors for the first time in all those years. I think the hair on my neck stood up. It made it all - it just made sense.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FANGLESS")

SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) Sharp teeth in a broken jaw. Hungry, but I'll hunger on.

SCARPELLI: Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss make up an all-female rock band that never wanted to be just be an all-female rock band.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE")

SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I want to be your Joey Ramone.

SCARPELLI: This was the riot-girl attitude. In the early '90s, women in Olympia, Washington, were forming punk bands, printing zines, coming together to make a place for themselves in a mostly male music scene. Singer and guitarist Corin Tucker had moved to Olympia to attend the Evergreen State College.

CORIN TUCKER: I saw right after I got there, Bikini Kill and Bratmobile played their first show, and I was like, that's it. I mean, it literally was that night I was like, I'm starting a band today.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORDS AND GUITAR")

SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) Words and guitar, I got it. Words and guitar, I want it.

SCARPELLI: Lead guitarist and singer Carrie Brownstein also went to Evergreen and says Olympia was progressive and inclusive, but that wasn't always the story on the road.

CARRIE BROWNSTEIN: Someone made a sign in Houston that said sexist Kinney go home, because we had requested that one of the opening bands, maybe they could have some women in them. We kept that sign. We took a lot of pictures with it. It came with us in the van.

SCARPELLI: But Janet Weiss says one question they couldn't stand...

WEISS: What does it feel like to be a woman in rock? And I'm not exactly sure why people are so compelled to ask it.

SCARPELLI: Brownstein says the band only got stronger.

BROWNSTEIN: That static, like, putting all these modifiers in front of the word band kind of fell away because all we wanted to prove was that we could make good records.

SCARPELLI: Woven through their eight albums are personal takes on love and rock 'n' roll, alongside highly charged stories about war, gender roles, inequality.

BROWNSTEIN: That's a really strong part of our songwriting is being able to find a particular voice for each song and create a whole story from that viewpoint.

SCARPELLI: You hear it in the new song "Price Tag."

BROWNSTEIN: It felt like a woman who was working a job that she was giving everything she had to, that was never going to be enough money for her to take care of her family.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRICE TAG")

SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) We never really checked, we never really checked the price tag. And the cost comes in...

SCARPELLI: During those eight years away from Sleater-Kinney, all three members pursued other music projects. Carrie Brownstein wrote for NPR Music and started the sketch comedy show "Portlandia." But the three friends say the reunion feels right. Lead singer, Corin Tucker.

TUCKER: I wrote the song "Surface Envy" about that moment where we were like, are we going to be a band again? And everyone was like, yes, for real.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURFACE ENVY")

SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) We win. We lose. Only together do we break the rules.

SCARPELLI: Leah Scarpelli, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURFACE ENVY")

SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) We win. We lose. Only together do we make the rules. I'm breaking the... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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