The Ballad of a Ladymom: An Interview with Corin Tucker

Corin Tucker Band
Kill My Blues
Kill Rock Stars

Outsized political beliefs, unbridled D.I.Y, and loud, loud guitars -— it’s a shock that the Riot Grrl Rrrrevival has taken as long as it has to get off the ground. But we’re two years into it now, with copies of Sarah Marcus’ Girls to the Front and Wild Flag’s self-titled debut sitting side-by-side on the shelf. While Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony’s supergroup gained garnered headlines for their classic Nuggets-rock sound, Brownstein’s Sleater-Kinney bandmate, Corin Tucker, released 1,000 Years, with a quieter, even acoustic sound. The Corin Tucker Band wasn’t quite James Taylor, and it was generally received very positively, but older fans couldn’t help but wonder where the aggression had gone. 1,000 Years was good, but in her first riot grrl band, Heavens to Betsy, Tucker sang in a cool monotone, “My hate for you is a passion/ that will run one million years.”

They needn’t wonder anymore. While there’s nothing quite like the rage of 1994 on Kill My Blues, the band’s follow up, every song either wants you to shake your ass or punch you in the gut. Only a selective memory will think that every riot grrl song came from a place of anger, and only someone stuck in the past would think that a new Corin Tucker album could only work if it was called Two Beat, but there’s a tension that runs through Kill My Blues, one frustrated with the seeming lack of progress since 2005, when Sleater-Kinney went on hiatus. “What’s up ya’ll?? I thought we had a plan! To move things forward for us and women ‘round the globe!” she hollers on lead-off, “Groundhog Day”. “Don’t you want a seat at the table?” she asks on “Summer Jams”, and it’s hard to figure out any reason why you wouldn’t.

Listening to Tucker sing almost requires footnotes. She has one of the best voices in rock, and not in some whiskey-soaked alcohol metaphor way. Few singers can get as many emotions out of a single inflection as she can, the slightest variation drastically changing the tone. She’s direct, but her voice is filled with the complexities of direction that populate real life. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that our conversation jumped from Pussy Riot to Joey Ramone without skipping a beat.

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The first thing I wanted to talk about was your new single “Groundhog Day”. For the last couple years, people have been openly asking about what happened to politics in music. And suddenly, we have Pussy Riot come along, openly citing riot grrl as an influence. I was wondering what you think about them, and what you think it takes for political punk music and political punk acts to get noticed.

Well, I think Pussy Riot is amazing. I’m honored that they were inspired by riot grrl, and obviously they’re making history around the world. I think… I worry about the women in Pussy Riot as well, their future. Going to prison is no small tragedy for them and I really hope that the appeals are able to go through and they’re able to get out.

I feel really privileged that I’ve been able to be an activist and a musician for over 20 years now, and I’ve always been able to say whatever I want. I think that’s something we Americans really take for granted, but it’s a big deal, and it’s not something most people in the world are able to do. I think there’s a huge lack of political artists in America, and I think it really speaks to our consumeristic culture and how people are driven to be financially successful here. It’s such a shame that we don’t have people who are more inspired than that.

Do you think that’s because of the freedom of speech, the lack of active oppression?

I think that by and large the predominant voice we hear in rock music is a white male voice. Unfortunately, I think that’s still true today. I think that the resources available to women and minorities is not what it should be, and I think that’s part of the reason for being a female musician. Thinking about that, speaking up about it. Thinking about women receiving paid for equal work. I think that if we don’t keep fighting for these things, then we’re never gonna get them.

You called 1,000 Years a “middle-aged mom” record. Kill My Blues is certainly a different record, a lot more raucous. Would you call it a mom record?

I think that being a mother is definitely one of the themes on the record, but this record is more extroverted. Stuff about the outside world rather than just the inner world. I think that’s a part of it, but I think that it’s also a record that draws on a lot of different time periods a lot of different identities all at once, in a way.