New adventures with Sleater-Kinney
At the end of 2014, iconic riot grrrl trio Sleater-Kinney emerged from a decade-long hiatus with the announcement of a new album and world tour.
A few months later, vocalist/guitarist Corin Tucker, vocalist/guitarist Carrie Brownstein, and drummer Janet Weiss released their eighth studio album, “No Cities to Love” and promoted it by playing more than 130 shows over the next two years.
But in 2017, with only a pair of festival appearances and no new music to its name, fans questioned whether the influential Olympia, Wash.-bred threesome’s reunion was merely a one-off.
Those fears were put to rest at the beginning of this year when the band announced the release of a ninth album, “The Center Won’t Hold,” produced by none other than St. Vincent (aka musician/songwriter Annie Clark).
Fans of both Sleater-Kinney and St. Vincent rejoiced at the thought of the pairing, and another world tour was scheduled.
Then something strange happened. Weiss unexpectedly quit.
“The band is headed in a new direction,” she said in a statement, “and it’s time for me to move on.”
Down a drummer and facing the release of a new album and an already-booked tour, Tucker and Brownstein were now tasked with finding a replacement.
Luckily, Tucker’s husband - filmmaker and music video director Lance Bangs - suggested Angie Boylan.
A hard-hitting veteran who plays in the indie groups Freezing Cold and Aye Nako, Boylan also spent a brief stint in a Sleater-Kinney cover band.
“It was a very difficult position to fill,” Tucker said recently during a day off in Boise. “Janet’s drumming is amazing and very challenging. We just got very lucky. Angie is such a talented and hardworking drummer. It’s not like we were saying, ‘Hey, we have a new record.’ It was, ‘Hey, we’ve been a band for 25 years. Can you learn our whole catalog?’”
But Boylan did exactly that and turned what could have been a major setback into a mere speed bump.
The band’s upward trajectory continued. “The Center Won’t Hold” came out in August to widespread critical acclaim, and the band expanded into a quintet with former touring member Katie Harkin and St. Vincent keyboardist Toko Yasuda added to the accompanying run of dates.
With things now in full swing and as back to normal as possible, Sleater-Kinner is happy to only be dealing with the details that come with touring a new album with essentially a new group.
Important, but certainly less dire details like set lists, how to incorporate new songs to its already extensive catalog and, for the Tucker and Brownstein, remembering that the rest of band and crew don’t have three decades worth of experiences together.
“We do draw on our history a bit in terms of how we do things,” said Tucker. “Carrie and I have a shared language on stage. We’ll say, ‘Let’s do an encore of this, this, and this, and the crew is like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ We forget that we need to be a little more specific with all of these people that we’re working with.”
And while it does cause an occasional hiccup on stage, Tucker also loves that shared language when it extends to audiences.
“Our shared history and language goes beyond the band,” she added. “It’s with our fans, too. And that’s the really incredible part. We do a lot of songs from different eras in our catalog. And I see people of all ages and all walks of life rocking along. It’s the best feeling.”
There are no set plans beyond the band’s current tour dates, but Tucker was willing to at least give a Magic 8-Ball answer when asked if Sleater-Kinney would be making more music in the future.
“Yes,” she said with a laugh. “I feel like the answer is yes. All signs point to yes.”
Sleater-Kinney with KAINA: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12. Observatory North Park, 2891 University Ave., North Park. $37.50; observatorysd.com.
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