Ballad of a Working Mom: An Interview with Corin Tucker
Following Sleater-Kinney's indefinite hiatus, Corin Tucker kept quiet for several years while raising a family. Now, with a new band and a new sound, she its down with PopMatters to talk about how this endeavor came into being, and where she'd like to go next.
Virtually everyone knows that former Sleater-Kinney vocalist Corin Tucker has one of the finest caterwauls in rock 'n' roll, although it hasn’t been heard as much lately, what with her being a mom, wife and part-time web-designer since the dissolution of Sleater-Kinney in 2006. Somehow, she squeezed in time to write and record the debut LP of The Corin Tucker Band, 1,000 Years, for which she recruited Unwound's Sara Lund (drums) and The Golden Bears' Seth Lorinczi (bass).
1,000 Years is a departure for Tucker: gone is the hellacious howl and ripcord riffage of her past. Sure, those defining features pop up in muted form here and there, but Tucker seems more concerned with trying new sounds and telling her story in narratives more direct and vulnerable than her past work.
PopMatters caught Tucker during some rare downtime in between touring and caring for her children to discuss how her new band came to be, how it's different from Sleater-Kinney, and where she's headed to next...
PopMatters: I know you just wrapped up a brief tour. How was it touring with new bandmates -- especially after being away from the road for so long?
Corin Tucker: It was great. The shows were really great. We were on tour with some of our kids, which was exhausting. It was kind of a mix of things -- sort of the job of being on the road and also being a parent at the same time. It was a bit much but we did it. It was fun.
PM: Between being a full-time mom and having a part-time job, was songwriting something you had to force yourself back into, or did it just get to a point where you felt compelled to get certain feelings out in song form again?
CT: I had to force myself to do it [laughs]. I haven't done it in a long time. Every cycle of making this record has taken up all of my energy. We're still in the touring and promotion cycle. So, I haven't gone back to the songwriting bit yet. You know, it will happen eventually.
PM: Have you always been a solitary writer? For instance, did you show up with songs written and ready to record with Sleater-Kinney, or was writing a purely collaborative effort back then?
CT: Well, songwriting with Sleater-Kinney was definitely collaborative. A lot of times, Carrie and I would bring in -- sometimes, mostly finished songs -- but a lot of times we'd bring in parts of songs and the other person would write to it or with it. Or there would be a chorus I'd add or Carrie would come in with a chorus or a bridge or a break. Sleater-Kinney was really collaborative.
PM: Has not having collaborators or people to bounce ideas off of played a part in the songwriting being harder this time around?
CT: I think it's mostly my time management. It's more difficult now with all the responsibilities that I have. You know, it's just finding the time to go back and rework things until I feel like they're finished, listenable songs. I wrote that way in my first band which was just myself and the drummer. I feel like my songwriting process is basically the same, but I just have more patience now to kinda go back and rework things.
PM: One of things I noticed first on your new album is that the songs feel a lot more personal/autobiographical than they've been in the past -- or, at least, more directly personal. Was there a conscious attempt to get more vulnerable on this record?
CT: I don't think it was a conscious effort. I think it was more about writing songs that really spoke to where I'm at right now. I think that, musically, I wanted to try and do different things with my voice and different things with the songs. The songs are sort of naturally personal. Especially, writing by myself I sort of have a story to tell. So, I just drew on stories from my own life or from those that are close to me.
PM: Was there a particular sound or aesthetic that you were going for with this record? Did you have a template in mind?
CT: I think we definitely wanted to do something that was based on the music that Seth and I really liked [laughs]. We definitely drew on certain big influences like Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, The Slits, The Raincoats and Sinead O'Connor. We just sort of talked about female-fronted bands that we really liked. Seth and I have a shared musical past that includes a lot of punk bands too. So, yeah, I think [the record] drew upon our musical taste and our musical histories as well.
PM: I know you had originally planned for the songs to be acoustic or low-key, but a lot of the songs ended up being more full-bodied than you intended.
CT: Yeah, I was thinking this was going to be a really quiet, soft, acoustic record [laughs]. But once Seth and I started playing together -- especially when we started playing with Sara [Lund of Unwound] -- it just tumbled into being a rock band. In a really fun way. I just kind of evolved.
PM: When you were originally writing, did you intend for it to be a completely solo affair or were Seth and Sara involved from the get-go?
CT: Well, originally I wanted Seth and his partner, Julianna [from The Golden Bears], to play on some of the songs, but Julianna was just way too busy and couldn't make the commitment. So, Seth and I asked Sara to play on it.
PM: I know you mentioned bands like Patti Smith and The Raincoats earlier, but are there any new bands or artists that inspire or excite you right now?
CT: This year, I bought the Joanna Newsom record. She's an interesting artist. You know, I'm not really the kind of person that goes out all of the time and listens to every new thing [laughs]. I like Tegan and Sara -- they've got some really cool stuff. I really like The White Stripes and all of Jack's bands.
PM: Actually, I'm glad you mentioned him because I was talking to a friend last night about Sleater-Kinney touring with The White Stripes years back and we couldn't remember who opened for who?
CT: They opened for us [laughs]!
PM: Do you consider Sara, Seth and yourself a solidified band that will continue to record as The Corin Tucker Band? Or is it more of an amorphous thing that may change?
CT: Well, I'd really like to but, right now, we're just taking it slow and playing it by ear.
PM: As a long-time Sleater-Kinney fan, I was always happy that you guys grew and tried new things with each successive album. It was definitely a logical progression, but it was change nonetheless. Is there anything as a musician that you're still itching to do that you haven't done yet -- either solo or with a band?
CT: I'm not sure yet. I feel like The Corin Tucker Band is kinda of evolving while we're on tour. So, we'll have to see. There's certainly more there -- maybe we'll get to it.
PM: Not to harp too much on your old band, but I hadn't heard any updates on the Sleater-Kinney retrospective DVD that you guys started a few years back. Is that still coming out at some point?
CT: Well, honestly, I don't really have an update. I'm afraid it’s not really on the table right now for logistical reasons [laughs]. It's on the back burner for now.