Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Quotation Compendium”

(8): “Buying your first guitar in the suburbs does not entail anything that resembles the folklore.”

– Contrast this of course with Tommy James’ declaration in Me, the Mob, and the Music
that “In 1956, a greasy-haired kid playing a guitar was the ultimate expression of rebellion” (James 11).

(8-9): “I observed the nature of the bands, their internal interactions, their relationships to one another, as much as I listened. It seems obvious, but it was the first time I realized that music was playable, not just performable–that it had a process and a seed, a beginning, middle, and end.”

(22): “I had yet to find the medium or the vessel through which I could harness my anxiety and my restlessness–my yearning to be understood, into something both pointed and vast. That shape needed for my creative hunger would come eventually.”

(55): “I had already been listening to punk and had related to storytellers like Joe Strummer and Paul Weller, but hearing Bikini Kill was like having someone illuminate my world for the first time. Here was a narrative that I could place myself inside, that I could share with other people to help explain how I felt, especially at a time when I was a shy and fairly inarticulate teen.”

(55-56): “I felt very lucky that Bikini Kill came first. By the time I was playing in Sleater-KInney, a lot of those early battles–for space, for respect, for recognition within the context of punk and indie music–had already been fought. We were ultimately recognized as a band, not just as a female band, and that is a luxury that cannot be overstated.”

(57): “I felt like no one was really looking out for me, that I was marginal and incidental. I compensated by being spongelike, impressionable, and available to whatever and whoever (sic) provided the most comfort, the most sense of belonging. I was learning two sets of skills simultaneously: adaptation–linguistic and aesthetic–in order to fit in, but also, how to survive on my own.”

(62-63): “I should acknowledge that I am so grateful for Corin, who, coming up through Riot Grrrl, was never afraid to be unpopular in her beliefs. Who worried so little about what others thought. Because of her I could applaud from the sidelines, I could apply my own analysis to the situation from a safe distance.”

(63): “In our years writing songs together, Corin could make the mess and I could figure out what it meant and what significance it held. It was good balance. She was plainspoken and trenchant.”

“When I dropped out of Western and moved back home with my father, he seemed certain I had ruined my life, that I’d never get back to college, have a job, or amount to anything. He was flummoxed by my indecision and lack of drive. I, on the other hand, was ready to test whether my increasingly thorny disposition could puncture the soft padding of my suburban environs.”

“I wanted to go to Evergreen State College, not so much to study as to have a valid excuse to be in Olympia. My father agreed to let me live at home as long as I left for college in the fall as planned.”

– Agent Orange (“Bloodstains”)

(66): “7 Year Bitch, a rock band of all women, were the heroines of the Seattle scene in the ‘90s. They were equally as tough as the rock dudes and they seemed like they partied just as hard.”

(70-71): “There is a gulf of misunderstanding between musicians and their fans, and often so much desperation that the musician can’t possibly assuage, rectify, or heal. You feel helpless and you feel guilty. With Sleater-Kinney fans I tried to be generous, but I soon grew uneasy. For a long while I could share nothing more than the music itself. I think I was too scared to be open with the fans because I knew how bottomless their need could be. How could I help if I was just like them? I was afraid I might not be able to lessen their pain or live up to their ideals; I would be revealed as a fraud, unworthy and insubstantial. The disconnect between who I was on- and offstage would be so pronounced as to be jarring.”

(71): “In the early days of Sleater-Kinney, we played at Seattle’s Crocodile Cafe. Elizabeth was at the show. By then, 7 Year Bitch had broken up. She came up to me, complimented my guitar playing, and told me she loved the band. Elizabeth didn’t recognize me as the girl who had gone over to her house that day or written her an overly earnest tell-all letter. I was relieved that music had done exactly what I had always wanted it to do, which was turn me into someone else.”

(79-80): “When I moved to Olympia I didn’t really think of myself as a musician. I don’t know if I would consider myself a musician now, not in the technical sense. I don’t know much about theory, I play by instinct and feel, I could probably get schooled by an eight-year-old on tonics and inversions. But back then, the word ‘musician’ had a professional characteristic to it that would have made it even more alienating and anathema. Back then, I was still just a fan of music. And to be a fan of music also meant to be a fan of cities, of places. Regionalism–and the creative scenes therein–played an important role in the identification and contextualization of a sound or aesthetic. Music felt married to a place, and the notion of ‘somewhere’ predated the Internet’s seeming invention of ‘everywhere’ (which often ends up feeling like ‘nowhere’).”

(81): “I was scared my first summer in Olympia, flailing but strangely bold. I biked around town and rode skateboards in the Capitol parking lot. I drank too much malt liquor and cried on basement floors while bands played. I had unrequited crushes on girls, on entire bands, but mostly dated boys. More often than not I woke up hungover in friends’ beds after a night of platonic spooning. I didn’t care about setting down roots or having anything consistent. I wanted to be everywhere, talk to everyone.”

(87): “My entire style of playing was built around somebody else playing guitar with me, a story that on its own sounds unfinished, a sonic to-be-continued, designed to be completed by someone else.”

“I think part of the uniqueness of our sound is that we rarely land on a basic chord–the music stays somewhere in between, it’s always not quite right, which of course can sound more right than anything, or at least like nothing else.”

(87-88): “In Heavens to Betsy, Corin had always tuned her guitar to her own voice. So it was completely arbitrary that when she plugged into a tuner one day in an attempt to coordinate our tuning, her guitar happened to be in C-sharp… It’s one and a half steps below standard tuning, which creates a sourness, a darkness that you have to overcome if you’re going to create something at all harmonious and palatable.”

(94): “I felt (in Sydney) that first awareness that there’s a whole set of species whose sounds and calls you’ve never heard–the wonder of realizing that people are growing up with an entirely different sensory experience from yours.”

(100): “Sometimes I wish we’d had an elevated sense of mythos, that we’d come up in another scene, like 1970s New York with Richard Hell and Television, the New York Dolls and Blondie; or David Bowie and glam rock in England; or the Mods or even just picking a dress code or a way of amplifying the sense of time and place. I remember trying to think of a different last name for myself: Rachel? Kinney? Always we just ended up back at who we were… It was so Northwest. All about the music.”

(101): “I didn’t want to be a girl with a guitar. ‘Girl’ felt like an identifier that viewers, especially male ones, saw as a territory upon which an electric guitar was a tourist, an interloper. I wanted the guitar to be an appendage–an extension even–of a body that was made more powerful by my yielding of it.”

(114): “On U.S. tours I would read novels about the states through which we were traveling, trying to populate the vastness–the long stretches of green and brown and grays–with characters I could grow to know and love.”

(117): “Even though we were playing tiny shows, tumbling across the country in a petri dish of a van, Call the Doctor was attracting the attention of both audiences and critics. Robert Christgau came to our sparsely attended Bryn Mawr show to interview us for a feature in the Village Voice.”

“I stood next to (Christgau) in the back of the room while the opening band played, discussing college and what I was studying (sociolinguistics), trying to impress him more with my intelligence than with requisite rock slickness or aloofness, neither of which I possessed.”

(124): “Janet hit the drums harder than anyone we’d played with.”

(125): “Sleater-Kinney arrived at the tail end of a time when ‘college rock’ bands were in fact a thing.”

(132): “Many of my reservations about signing to one of these larger labels (Matador) could be boiled down to–I’ll borrow a phrase from an old Cat Power record–‘What would the community think?’ In 1996, if you lived in Olympia, like I did, or were part of any underground music scenes across the United States or even abroad, signing to a major label was resolutely considered ‘selling out.’”

“(Signing to a major label) implied you wanted to be accepted and loved by the mainstream, the same people who had rejected, taunted, and diminished you in high school. Jocks. Cheerleaders. Preppies. Yuppies. It sounds silly now but at the time these categories seemed finite, immutable, and significant.”

(134): “If nothing else, I was living in a town that had once been home to Kurt Cobain. The simplified version of his story could be reduced to a guy who signed to a major label, got so famous that he felt alienated from his audience, and then killed himself.”

(142): “Corin decided to write a zine while we traveled called Hey Soundguy. She took a picture of every house sound person we encountered, told a short story about them, and wrote a review of both their performance and their personality.”

(145): “In the winter of 1997, we set off to Londong to begin a six-week tour, our first ever of Europe, to promote Dig Me Out. Helium, a band from Boston featuring the fantasy-driven lyrics and inventive guitar playing of Mary Timony, would open for us nearly the entire time.”

(165-166): “Musicians, especially those who are women, are often dogged by the assumption that they are singing from a personal perspective. Perhaps it is a carelessness on the audience’s part, or an entrenched cultural assumption that the female experience can merely encompass the known, the domestic, the ordinary. When a woman sings a nonpersonal narrative, listeners and watchers must acknowledge that she’s not performing as herself, and if she’s not performing as herself, then it’s not her who is wooing us, loving us. We don’t get to have her because we don’t know exactly who she is. An audience doesn’t want female distance, they want female openness and accessibility, familiarity that validates femaleness.”

(170): “In fact, a weekly Seattle paper called The Stranger decided to publish not one review but instead a roundtable on All Hands on the Bad One.”

(172): “My narratives were often oblique, (Tucker’s) direct. She was bold; I described boldness.”

“‘#1 Must Have’ dealt explicitly with the Woodstock 1999 violence.”

(172-173): “Up until All Hands, when I sang I often felt like the songs were on the verge of swallowing me. I didn’t feel like that on guitar; my guitar could fight back in a way I never could with my voice. But All Hands was the first album where I start to sing above the surface of the song.”

(173): “We had been operating from a place of sonic misanthropy in some ways, but All Hands also has frivolity and irony, a sense of humor despite all its seriousness and direct assessment of specifically tragic incidents.”

“Live, we were tighter and more confident than ever, and the All Hands touring was energetic and mercifully free of injury.”

(177): “In 2000, Corin called to tell me that we would need to take time off from the band–she was pregnant. I went into a momentary state of panic. What would I do without Sleater-Kinney? But also, who was I without this band?”

(179-180): “During one of these meetings we talked about press for (Ladyfest). The team that was in charge of PR expressed open agitation and disdain that many of the media outlets were most interested in interviewing Sleater-Kinney. At the time, we were one of the biggest acts playing the festival, and certainly the most well-known active band associated with Olympia. Here I was in a group of women, allies, I thought, colleagues, and I felt like I was being shamed for the relatively modest success I had achieved. But instead of sticking up for myself, I apologized. I downplayed my level of enthusiasm for my own work and accomplishments, I expressed remorse for the fact that my band was considered separate from the community as a whole. And, truth be told, I did feel terrible. At least in that moment. I left the meeting with a pit in my stomach. Later, however, I was livid. And heartbroken. I felt like I had been thrown under the bus and betrayed by my own gender.”

(181): “Portland became a respite and a true hometown.”

– (Brownstein hails originally from Seattle suburb Redmond and relocated to Olympia for
the formation of the band.)

– Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy

(182): “Writing songs after 9/11 felt treacherous. There wasn’t much of a vocubulary other than fear and patriotism. Many people felt a growing anger and distrust toward the Bush administration, yet public dissent or even questioning of the status quo was likened to treason. The Dixie Chicks’ relatively mild comment admonishing George Bush while performing overseas would soon ignite vitriol, boycotts, and even death threats.”

(183): “One Beat is often characterized as a ‘political’ album, which speaks to how long it took for musicians–especially in the mainstream–to address or make sense of the xenophobia and jingoism that took hold of the culture post-9/11. One Beat was one of the earliest.”

(184): “One Beat was released in August 2002. We took a small up-and-coming band from Akron called the Black Keys out on the road with us.”

(187): “Some of the bands who opened for us went on to be huge: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gossip, the White Stripes, the Black Keys.”

(188): “(The kids from Gossip) made us goofy and happy. We had dares almost every night of the tour. They painted our faces with ridiculous makeup–Janet was a marionette, I had freckles, Corin was a doll. We lost bets and had to give embarrassing shoutouts involving crushes in the middle of the set. At one point there was a conga line onstage. The silliness was buoying, it staved off the tour tedium.”

(190): “In 2000, Greil Marcus named us the best rock band in America in Time magazine.”

(193): “Without giving it a second thought, (at S/K’s April 1, 2003 Denver show opening for Pearl Jam,) Corin criticized George W. Bush from the stage. It was almost the first thing she said to a crowd of over fifteen thousand, at the Pepsi Center, people who had little or no idea who we were.”

(195): “So, I’ll be honest, I wondered whether I could like Pearl Jam’s music… they seemed normal. And bubbling up from the formative years that shaped my relationship to outsider art, which I loved and related to, I still held on to my skepticism of normality.”

(196): “Touring with Pearl Jam allowed me to see how diminishing and stifling it is to close yourself off to experiences. It was a tour that changed my life.”

(199): “Opening for Pearl Jam enabled and emboldened us, and it instilled in us a desire to write songs that had improvisational moments built in… Instead of approaching a song as something small, we started big, and we carved smallness and detail out of a broader canvas. I don’t know if we could have envisioned that broadness if we hadn’t played on a big stage, heard our sound echo around an amphitheater.”

(201-202): “While (in California), I read a Tad Friend article in The New Yorker about suicides on the Golden Gate Bridge. I wrote the song ‘Jumpers’ about this piece. I read it as I was taking BART into the city, and I found myself crying and thinking about how out of place I felt. I had never lived outside the Pacific Northwest before. And I couldn’t understand why, in this place of such intense beauty and sun–and where I assumed I’d find those things invigorating–I felt a sharp, alienating contrast. I related to the feeling of not being able to find meaning in your life, so that you try to find a way of instilling meaning in your death, looking for a way for it to somehow be symbolic or beautiful or publicly acknowledged.”

(203): “I think The Woods turned out exactly how we wanted it, but the process was very painful.”

(204): “Dave (Fridmann) told us to let him produce and have a say on this record, or we shouldn’t work with him at all. It was a scary prospect. We were accustomed to having total control; John Goodmanson was always wary of overstepping, of intruding too heavily on our process. But we were willing.”

“(Dave) would question why a certain part (of a song) needed to be there, and we either had to justify the structure or reasoning, or change it. It was an intimidating but important process. On ‘What’s Mine is Yours,’ which abruptly changes in the middle of the song, it was Dave’s idea to have it completely fall apart. Originally the song went from the second chorus into a bridge, but his thought was that if we wanted a change, it should be noticeable. He said, ‘Why doesn’t everyone just stop playing and see what happens?’ And that’s how we got a sudden long weird guitar solo in the middle of the song…”

(207): “It’s no wonder that many artists deal with tour by desensitizing themselves until the moment they are onstage. Tour is a precarious nexus between monotony and monomania–a day of nothingness followed by a moment that feels like everything.”










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