Back in 2006, singer/guitarist Corin Tucker stepped away from Sleater-Kinney—the much-loved, riot grrrl-inspired indie-rock trio she’d co-fronted for 12 years—to focus on motherhood. Two kids and four years later she’s returned with a fantastic (if not quite as searing as S-K’s output) solo debut, 1,000 Years, and a tour with her three-piece backing band—featuring members of Unwound and Golden Bears—that comes to Philly this week. We caught up with Tucker over the phone from her home in Portland, Ore., for a “Fill in the Blanks” session:
The last time I was in Philadelphia I ... “Thought that I could live there. I was like, I love this city! I walked around and it seemed like a lot of really interesting, creative people have moved there and it reminded me a little bit of an East Coast Portland.”
The thing I missed the most about being a touring musician is ... “I think just the shows are so much fun, just playing music for people that love it. It’s such a great high, so it’s been really great returning to that after all these years.”
The thing I missed the least about being a touring musician is ... “Being away from my kids. But I’m dragging my daughter along on this tour.”
The thing about my new album that seems to surprise people is ... “That it’s got a little bit of teeth to it. It doesn’t come on strong—it comes off softer than people are expecting from my time with Sleater-Kinney. But it’s got some teeth to it, some rock to it.”
My songwriting now, compared to 10 or 15 years ago, is ... “A little bit more thoughtful. I try to spend more time on a song and I try to edit it more. I think that comes with being older and having a bit more patience.”
The best advice I ever got about writing songs is ... “Write what you know. That’s really important. I think also, write a lot. Calvin Johnson told me he wrote three songs every day and one would be decent. Dolly Parton says that, too. She writes about six songs a day. She’s one of my heroes.”
Being a mom and being in a rock band have a lot in common because ... “They both involve a lot of dirty laundry.”
Being a mom and being in a rock band have nothing in common because ... “They require two entirely different outfits.”
My live show is not a success unless ... “Someone starts to flip out at some point, someone starts dancing spasmodically and someone screams loudly, and then you know there’s some rock ’n’ roll happening.”
In the 10 minutes before I go onstage I ... “Re-apply my lip gloss.”
In the 10 minutes after I come offstage I ... “Try and think about the business aspect and go to the merch table.”
The one goal I had when I first started playing in bands was ... “To change things. When I first started playing music I wanted to be a part of this movement. The underground Olympia music scene was really about this idealistic punk rock, like, we wanted to change the world. There was a whole social criticism there that I wanted to be a part of. We were saying, ‘Our society is morally bankrupt’ and wow, kaboom, it is! There really were greedy people stealing money from poor people, and it’s just come to bear so incredibly literally. The foundation has collapsed and it’s been exposed, that it really does hurt people to live in this consumeristic, capitalist way that does not put people’s well being as the priority. I still want to fight for the people that are under-represented in society.”
The one goal I have today is ... “To make a difference. Looking back, one fantasy I have would be to have been involved in music when Obama was running for president. I hadn’t finished my record yet, and that would have been a really interesting time to have people ask me questions and interview me ... Obama just came here to Portland— he was stumping for our governor, and it was just amazing to have my kids watch him. I was inspired by what he had to say and his toughness and his tenacity. To turn the country around and have it be a country that’s dedicated to taking care of working-class and middle-class people, that’s huge. And it is a really tough thing to turn everything around so there are safeguards for people and there are opportunities for a better education and all that stuff that I feel like has kind of been taken away or slipped through the cracks. I get the whole anti-Obama thing right now, people are kinda desperate ... I have all these friends of mine that still don’t have jobs here in Portland. It is difficult for sure, but I hope people think it through before they vote.”
The strangest thing a fan has ever said to me is ... ‘“I got you a Costco membership.”’ This guy totally hooked me up with a Costco membership and it was awesome! I really do have the most thoughtful fans.
One hundred years from now I hope to be remembered as ... “Someone who tried to make things a little bit better while I was here.”
Corin Tucker performs Thurs., Oct. 28,
With the Hungry Ghost.
First Unitarian Church,
2125 Chestnut St.
PW's Music Issue 2014