Interview: Corin Tucker
My first exposure to Corin Tucker was a mix tape made by a girl living in Portland in 1997. She included the Sleater-Kinney song “Good Things.” This good thing hooked me. Nine years later I experienced the band live at what was billed as their final Philadelphia show. Despite the suffocating August heat, more than a thousand people crushed together to see what could have been the band’s final Philly stand. Sleater-Kinney kicked out the jams with more power and passion than almost every band I had ever seen.
After fours years of a music world respite, Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker reemerges with her solo debut, 1,000 Years. Tucker put performing and recording on hold to devote undivided attention to being a parent. Yet creativity always calls and she enlisted multi-instrumentalist Seth Lorinczi to help realize songs she’d begun writing. When the two crafted much of what would become 1,000 Years, Sara Lund signed on to complete the ensemble with the percussive majesty that lay at the heart of her former band Unwound.
1,000 Years reintroduces the world to Tucker’s staggering songwriting talent. Some of the feral rock found in her former band appears here; yet Tucker takes a more nuanced approach with her post-Sleater-Kinney material. In contrast to the bluster of The Woods (Sleater-Kinney’s 2005 album), 1,000 Years boasts a multiplicity of moods. “It’s Always Summer” showcases Tucker’s rich, soulful singing over bluesy, backwoods riffs. “Dragon” weaves together plaintive piano and wailing violins with early-Who vigor. “Handed Love” features production tricks and Rhodes organ to counterbalance the song’s triumphant rock finale.
With musicians as vaunted as Corin Tucker, it isn’t easy to forget their past. Not that Tucker would want to: while proudly discussing 1,000 Years, she spoke fondly of Sleater-Kinney. Though the members of that band never rule out performing together again, Tucker is focused on the present. 1,000 Years stands up to anything Tucker, Lorinczi, and Lund have done before. I was honored (and a little nervous) to speak with Tucker from the opposite coast of the country.
How was it working on your first solo album compared to working on a Sleater-Kinney album?
Really different. We really took our time with this record. I wrote for a long time by myself. Then Seth and I worked on pre-production for a long time, really mapping out what we wanted to do. We spent a couple of months doing pre-production and then we started tracking last year around November — and we tracked for a long time; we tracked for like three months. It was a slow boat, for sure.
Did you write some of the songs collaboratively with Seth and Sara?
Well, what I did was, I wrote the songs on guitar and then I brought them to Seth. Then he would arrange some. For certain songs he would add a piano or a guitar, or add another guitar sound to it. We worked on that. Then we added Sara once we figured it how we wanted it to sound.
Did you go into writing the record and conceiving it with Seth and Sara in mind?
Yeah, I knew I had wanted to work with Seth after we played together in Blue Giant. I had written a couple of songs for that group and I really liked the way Seth arranged them when we played together. He was just good at working out drum parts and putting things together. I kind of had a vision — a light bulb went off over my head — and I thought we could make a good record together. He has a studio; he makes records in his house and does it during daylight. So it was kind of like a hospitable situation for me.
So it must have been an entirely different situation than doing a Sleater-Kinney album?
Yes, it was really luxurious to have a low-rent kind of situation where we could work for a long time. Seth and his family were extremely generous, letting us stay at their house all of the time.
Everything was recorded at Seth’s house?
How was it playing with Seth and Sara after playing with Sleater-Kinney for so long?
It was really fun. They’re both really experienced players and I’m a fan of their bands and their work. So it was really fun. I think we were playing “1,000 Years” and we kind of clicked and suddenly came together on that song. [We] had this chemistry that was really fun. Yeah, it was exciting and it was really fun.
Has the band played live yet?
(laughter) No, not at all. We just rehearsed — we just had one of our band practices, so we’re getting ready.
When is your first show?
Our first show is October 7th in Portland.
Are you very excited for that?
Yeah, I’m very excited. I can’t wait. We’ve been simmering these songs for so long that to play them in front of an audience — it’s going to be interesting.
Have you performed since 2006?
Yeah, I did that stuff with Blue Giant. Then we did the benefit for Reading Frenzy that Seth organized. I wrote some songs for that that ended up on the record. And I played with Seth and Julianna [Bright] at that benefit. That was another push to make this album.
You’ve made it pretty clear that you aren’t looking to go the full-time musician route any time soon. Is it difficult right now between being a mom and having a husband who travels for work to find time for music?
We figure it out. We schedule everything. You know, we’ll schedule childcare during this time and we’ll have practice in the afternoon. Yeah, it’s worked out. My life is really managing schedules right now.
Do you play music at home?
Yeah, in the evenings, when the kids go to bed. That’s when I usually write or play guitar.
So do you ever consider doing music full-time again?
I don’t know — I don’t think so.
You don’t miss the touring lifestyle?
Well, I feel like I really did it. I was in an amazing band that I love and I’m so proud of the work we did.
You don’t foresee going on tour for 10 months out of the year any time soon?
No. (laughter). Not really possible. I’m really happy to be a parent and be really involved with my kids. That’s really important to me now.
Before everything happened with Sleater-Kinney, did you want to be a professional musician?
At the beginning of Sleater-Kinney and my first band [Heavens to Betsy], touring was more something you did to promote the record. But the most we would do was like three weeks. I kind of always thought I would do other things. I don’t think I ever thought I would be on tour all of the time. It’s really exhausting for anyone.
I was wondering if your kids enjoy your music?
Well, Marshall, he’s starting to get that it’s really important to me. He’s supportive of it. I think he’s mature enough to understand that this is what I love to do.
Have you written any songs for them or considered writing children’s songs?
Yeah, I’ve considered it. I’m just having a lot of fun doing what we’re doing right now.
Recently, I came across a live clip of Sleater-Kinney performing at Bryn Mawr College in 1996. What do you think of when you look back to the early and mid-’90s?
It was a really fun time. We would get any show we possibly could; we would hope people would like us. When you’re in your 20s, that’s a great time to just go out on the road everywhere. You’re ready to do everything and meet everyone. It was fun, it was wild.
So with you getting back into the music industry, what do you think of it at this point in time?
It’s pretty frightening. It’s very, very different. We are working in really modest circumstances and we have modest goals. We hope that people understand that we want them to buy our record. It’s really important to us and our survival. That’s all you can do: make the record and make the music and play the shows.