Interview: Corin Tucker
We talk with Corin Tucker about performing the mom–musician balancing act, the changing face of feminist music, and her band's new album. Corin Tucker Band plays Bunk Bar Saturday.
Corin Tucker grew up in the music world as a member of the influential Olympia-based riot grrrl group Sleater-Kinney (along with Carrie Brownstein, of Portlandia fame). But as the frontwoman of the Corin Tucker Band, the group she formed after S-K went on hiatus in 2006, Tucker finds herself firmly in adulthood, writing and performing songs about grown-up ups and downs as she raises two kids here in Portland (Her son's got a cameo in the band's newest music video).
The Corin Tucker Band just released its sophomore album, Kill My Blues, a collection of earnest rock songs about the past (“Joey”—as in, Ramone), the present (“Kill My Blues”—playing music does, Tucker says), and the future (“Groundhog Day,” a rallying cry for the women’s movement).
Tucker and company play a record-release show at Bunk Bar Saturday. As she made her way toward Portland in the band’s tour van, we spoke with her about paying homage to Nirvana while remaining in the present, performing the mom–musician balancing act, and the changing face of feminist music (it might look like Pussy Riot).
PoMo: What have you brought from Sleater-Kinney to the Corin Tucker Band?
Corin Tucker: I think I bring my songwriting, and I think that I bring my singing style. But with this record, we’ve really evolved into our own band. We’ve really reached out into different musical genres and tried to do some different things. There’s definitely more of a dance feel with this record—there’s even a little bit of dub and ska on the record. So, I think it’s its own entity in and of itself.
I understand that, midway through the recording process, you guys needed to rent a particular vintage microphone that you used in Sleater Kinney, in order to capture your voice the way you wanted to.
During recording, we worked for a long time on the vocals to feel like we had a really good range of things happening… I think that when you’re an experienced musician, you bring a lot of those past experiences with you. I think the record touches on the past in a lot of ways, but also is very present in the here and now.
In what ways does it touch on the past, and in what ways is it in the present?
There are references, and even homages, to the music that we’ve loved for the past couple of decades or so. I mean, there’s definitely a song about Joey Ramone on the record. In “Constance,” there’s a big Nirvana homage that happens with the chords in the chorus. There’s just a lot of different musical references that happen on the record that are supposed to be out of love, and out of saying, “This is where we’re from.” But I think that the record as a whole, especially the lyrics, really speak about the present day and being an adult—really, truly an adult—and having all those joys and sorrows of living your life.
You and two of the other band members have children, and you’ve toured with them. That sounds like an, um, adventure.
We did that in 2010. On the West Coast, for the album tour, we brought all three toddlers, which was insane. It was bonkers; it was totally bonkers. It was an experiment of love, is what I call it.
This tour is the opposite: this tour is no kids. It’s 34 states in 33 days, so it’s really hard work. It’s grueling travel, but it’s very adult, like, “We’re here to work; we’re here to play our music, and just do it.” It’s a different challenge. It’s hard to be away, to be disconnected from our children and our families.
How does being a mother influence you as a musician?
I just think that as a human being, it has changed my life. It’s brought me a lot of joy as a person; it’s brought me a lot of sense of accomplishment. It’s a huge logistical challenge, to be a parent… I’m really fortunate right now to have a partner who’s willing to completely be like, “Go for it. Do your career and I’ll take care of the kids.”
Can you point to any specific places in the band’s music that are about raising kids?
[The song] “Constance.” That’s all about feeling like, wow, this amazing thing that I dedicated my life to, raising a child… They’re going to be leaving soon. And that’s a whole other aspect of being a parent that’s really interesting.
Why did you decide to name the album after the song “Kill My Blues”?
That song is kind of at the core of this album, and what we’re doing in this band in a way—like, loving playing music again. We’ve all been in all these different bands, and in some ways all of us have had our heart broken—bands end, and things change, and you have different responsibilities, and it’s not so easy to be in a band anymore. But somehow, we sort of found our way into this project, and I think we’ve had some really good times doing it. And that’s really the reason why we’re doing it—why I’m doing it. Because it brings me this kind of happiness, this sense of joy of playing music.
The record’s opening song, “Groundhog Day,” is clearly about the stalling-out of the feminist movement. How would you judge the state of feminist music? Who, if anybody, is carrying on the riot grrrl torch?
Obviously, I think, Pussy Riot. And that’s what’s kind of great, is that there are young women around the world, around our own country… that are influenced. The thing about riot grrrl, and feminism in general, is that it will look different in each woman’s hands. That’s the true nature of social change, is that it’s unpredictable… and what it means to people is different.
But I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s still alive; I think it’s still influencing people. My concern is that, in the United States, we need to keep the women’s movement alive and understand that certain goals that have been talked about for decades, since I was young, have not been met yet, and that we still have a real lack of political power for women in Congress and in the United States. I think it’s important not to lose sight of that.
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