Carrie Brownstein

Carrie Brownstein  (born September 27, 1974) is an American musician, writer, and actress.  She first came to prominence as a member of the band Excuse 17 before forming the critically acclaimed trio Sleater-Kinney.  During a long hiatus for Sleater-Kinney she formed the group Wild Flag.  During the same period of inactivity for Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein wrote and appeared in a series of comedy sketches with Fred Armisen which was then developed into Emmy and Peabody Award-winning TV series Portlandia.  (More from Wikipedia)
However, that certainly was not true of all of the female musicians in that time period.  Though I was slow to get the details, I was starting to hear about the rumblings of the “riot grrrl” movement, a female offshoot of punk rock; about all I had actually heard in the early days is the 1992 hit “Pretend We’re Dead” by a band called L7 (slang for “square”).  Singer/guitarist Corin Tucker was in Heavens to Betsy, one of many early riot grrrl rock duos.  The fact that only two people could create such a big sound was a revelation and led to a slew of other two-member rock bands in the years to come.  Classically trailed pianist Carrie Brownstein (also a vocalist and guitarist) met Tucker in 1992 and was so inspired by her and other early riot grrrl bands like Bikini Kill that she started her own grrrl band, Excuse 17.  What began as a side project between the two of them became a full-fledged band with the addition of drummer Lora MacFarlane; MacFarlane was replaced by the third album with another drummer, Janet Weiss.  The arrival of Sleater-Kinney’s lo-fi–looking first album in 1995Sleater-Kinney (appropriately released on a label called Chainsaw Records) quickly established them as one of the finest feminist punk rock bands of that period.  Each album brought them greater fame and a more widespread fan base; by the beginning of the new millennium, Sleater-Kinney had enough mainstream appeal that Time magazine named them America’s best rock band in a 2001 issue.  Their 2002 album, One Beat is one of my very favorite albums of the 2000’s decade. 
(January 2013)
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Singer/guitarist Corin Tucker was one-half of the early riot grrrl duo Heavens to Betsy when she met a classically trained pianist named Carrie Brownstein.  Brownstein was so impressed by Tucker’s band and other bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile (which had previously been Corin Tucker’s own influences) that she became a guitarist and vocalist herself and started a band called Excuse 17.  Heavens to Betsy and Excuse 17 were often at the same gigs, and the two women originally started Sleater-Kinney as a side project.  As can be seen, there is no one named Sleater or Kinney in the band; the name is taken from Sleater Kinney Road (off Interstate-5), where one of their early practice spaces was located. 


Returning to Sleater-KinneyCorin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein dated briefly when the band was first started – Carrie now says that it was for “a second” – and this fact was expanded in Spin magazine to indicate that the two, if not the band as a whole were bisexual.  The magazine story caught the two women off-guard; they were not offended by the labeling – mostly they were upset that no one had ever asked them the question; people just made assumptions.  In 2012Carrie Brownstein verified in an interview that no one in Sleater-Kinney is lesbian, although Corin Tucker self-identifies as bisexual. 


For me, Sleater-Kinney has transcended all of these categories.  Their songwriting is simply brilliant and as varied as anyone I can think of.  What Sleater-Kinney can do with their guitars (and without a bass guitar in sight) is a revelation.  Corin Tucker’s lead vocals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (they tell me), but they suit me just fine, and those of Carrie Brownstein do as well.  I have little doubt that I have played One Beat more than any other album that has been released in the current century; my second favorite among their albums (at the moment at least) is their first, Sleater-Kinney.  Original drummer Lora MacFarlane performs the vocals on the truly marvelous “Lora’s Song” on that album that reminds me of past UARB Fur.   


(January 2014)
Last edited: March 22, 2021