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WILD FLAG Portlandia Trail Blazer The dream of the ‘90s is still alive for Carrie Brownstein. The former member of Sleater-Kinney is now flying the Wild Flag and starring in the hilarious sketch comedy show Portlandia. She talks to MATTHEW HOGAN ahead of Wild Flag’s appearance at The Bakery on Wednesday, March 7. The last time Carrie Brownstein was in Perth, she was tearing it up on a side stage at the Big Day Out with Sleater-Kinney. That band had just brought out the album of their career with The Woods and were on a triumphant world tour to celebrate it. But not too long after their Australian dates in 2006, they called it a day. Why? “I think it was something about going out when you’re still doing something that you really care about, when you still mean something to people,” Brownstein begins.“I think we had reached a point where it was hard for us to tour and we

“I always assumed we would do music and Fred assumed we would do comedy and he won, but it worked out

weren’t all on the same page in terms of that; but I’d rather that than make a couple of bad albums and then fade away. But I know what you’re saying, I recently listened to The Woods and I thought, ‘ooh that was a good record maybe we should have been smart’. Oh well! We’ll get back together.” Sleater-Kinney will get back together? “Eventually, probably,” she teases. Instead of starting another band straight away, Brownstein decided to become a listener again. “Immediately afterwards I began writing for NPR, which is the National Public Radio, I wrote a column about music for about two years,” she says. “I was writing about fandom and writing about the way that people connect to music in different permutations. By writing about it, I realised that I wanted to participate in music again. I don’t think I would have rediscovered it if I hadn’t spent two years analysing it, and putting myself back in the position of just being a listener. And when I went back to music I felt a renewal; a sense of urgency again. I was ready. I didn’t want to go back before I thought it would work.” Eventually, Brownstein was ready to create the sound of “an avalanche taking out a dolphin”, the time was right for Wild Flag to be born. “Rebecca [Cole - keys] and Janet [Weiss - drums] and I worked together on a soundtrack and it was

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okay for me though!” just instrumental and then we really liked playing together,” Brownstein says. “And then we just wanted another vocalist and I think Mary [Timony] creates a nice counterpoint. I think she has a more fluid style of guitar playing, my playing is a lot more angular and more riff based and jagged. Her singing is more mysterious and understated. I don’t sing anything back, I just feel like I’m barking on stage! She’s a really good counterpoint to that.” Brownstein had previously recorded with Timony in The Spells, who released an eight-minute, four track EP on K Records in 1999. “The Spells were definitely a time specific project of which we didn’t have any other plans, so Wild Flag was a way of not even really picking up where we left off, but just start anew,” Brownstein says. “Remembering the ways that we liked working with each other and figuring out new ways of working. I’ve always been a fan of Mary Timony.” Brownstein has also found a much larger, newer fanbase for her work on Portlandia. Screening on IFC in the US since January 2011, it finally makes its Australian debut tomorrow night on ABC2. Brownstein co-created the show with Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen. “I met Fred in New York,” recalls Brownstein. “He was a fan of Sleater-Kinney and he invited us to Saturday Night Live, actually it was just to the after party because Sleater-Kinney were playing a show

in New York. So we met him that night, and I think partially because he used to play music, we just felt like we’d known each other for years and we had a lot of mutual friends. We just had a very instant connection and we share some of the same sensibilities on music and film and TV. We wanted to work together. I always assumed we would do music and Fred assumed we would do comedy and he won, but it worked out okay for me though!” The two found themselves making a series of internet shorts called Thunderant. “Eventually we had a lot of clips and then we thought maybe we should be more ambitious and intentional about this,” she says. “We pitched it as a show and we brought on a director and producer named Jonathan Krisel he elevated it from a series of disparate internet shorts to the next level.” Like Saturday Night Live, the show has Lorne Michaels as an executive producer.“He really changed the landscape on television with Saturday Night Live and Kids In The Hall,” says Brownstein. “I just trust his opinion a lot. He doesn’t say a lot about the show but when he needs to pop in and he has an idea or suggestion, we take it pretty seriously. His main advice is just to not worry and to not over-think things. He doesn’t over-think things or he doesn’t let on that he is. He keeps his mind on other things, which I think is good for shows that you want to have freedom with and little bit of chaos and uncertainty.”

X-Press – First on the street, Wednesdays

X-Press Magazine #1306  

Wednesday 22nd February, 2012