Heavens to Betsy

Heavens to Betsy  was an American indie-punk band formed in Olympia, Washington in 1991.  They were part of the DIY riot grrrl movement in the punk rock underground in the early 1990’s, and were the first band of Sleater-Kinney vocalist/guitarist Corin Tucker.  (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. 


Sleater-Kinney is not a “lesbian band”, nor is Bikini KillL7Heavens to BetsyExcuse 17, or most of the other riot grrrl bands I know of.  Excuse 17 is actually classified as a “queercore” band by Wikipedia, a more overtly gay/lesbian offshoot of punk rock that emerged alongside riot grrrl, and in many of the same places.  


(January 2014)
Last edited: March 22, 2021