Heart Factory

An interview with Renaissance mind-blower Carrie Brownstein.

Collage by Minna

Carrie Brownstein, guitarist of the late great Sleater-Kinney, is now in a new band, Wild Flag, which consists of S-K and Quasi drummer Janet Weiss, Mary Timony of Helium and the Spells on lead guitar, and the Minders’ drummer, Rebecca Cole, on keyboards. This is the best news for anyone like me who already loves any or all of these women’s bands. OMG THIS IS HAPPENING!!

I was able to snag a ticket off Craigslist this past spring to see them at a sold-out, very small venue in Brooklyn, where I took some pics—and bought a 7″ of “Future Crimes/Glass Tambourine” and a T-shirt.

I took this picture of Carrie performing with Wild Flag at the Rock Shop in Brooklyn on March 5, 2011, during the end of the song “Racehorse.”

OLIVIA T.: I just read this piece about maleness being the norm against which all behaviors—and songwriters—are measured. How do you feel about so often having your bands described as “girl bands” instead of just “bands”? Do you feel that it denies your work’s universal appeal?

CARRIE BROWNSTEIN: I’m not offended by the term “girl band,” but I don’t think it’s an accurate descriptor. It’s also lazy journalism. As for the notion of “universal appeal,” I think that’s the antithesis of good art and music. I equate universality with banality.

Can you recommend a couple of albums to our readers?

New? Eleanor Friedberger, Last Summer. Old? There are too many. Here’s one: Slant 6, Soda Pop * Rip Off.

Is there a teen band you’ve heard lately that really blew you away?

The Unibroz.


First style of music that made a difference to you:
Punk. A chemistry teacher gave me the the Jam’s All Mod Cons LP in 10th grade. It changed my life.

First album or 7″ or tape or whatever you bought with your own money:
In high school I spent all of my money at record stores. There was a series of 7″s on K Records by a band called the Go Team (different from the current band the Go! Team). I remember tracking these down as best I could.

First live band or artist or show:
I saw Madonna in fifth grade on her “Like A Virgin” Tour. She played at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. My other significant first show was Fastbacks/Beat Happening/Mecca Normal at the OK Hotel, which is also in Seattle. I was a sophomore in high school. It was the first time I saw musicians playing music up close.

First song you remember learning all the lyrics to:
As a really young kid it was probably Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” or something by the Eagles, like “Heartache Tonight.” Later, I memorized all of the Replacements’ lyrics.

First chorus or guitar riff that you fell in love with:
The B-52s’ “Hero Worship.”

First song/artist that made you want to start a band:
Every band made me want to start a band. Even if the band was bad, just knowing bands existed—and that playing music was something I might be able to do—was inspiration enough. But certainly listening to Bikini Kill or the Ramones or the Clash made me want to start a band.

First instrument you owned:
A cherry-red Epiphone copy of a Gibson Stratocaster.

First song you learned to play on guitar:
The Jam, “In the City.”

First song you wrote:
“You Annoy Me.” I was in 10th grade. The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory.

First piece of music writing you were really proud of:
“I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.”

First comedian you loved:
David Foley from Kids in the Hall.

First celebrity crush:
Ricky Schroder. I had pictures of him all over my wall and I wrote him letters.

First time sneaking out:
Fifth grade. We smoked cigarettes, kissed boys, and ran around the neighborhood. It was pretty magical.

What is the best book you’ve read about music?

I love anything by Greil Marcus and I like Peter Guralnick’s Last Train to Memphis. Also, Just Kids by Patti Smith is amazing.

You are such a great comic performer on Portlandia. Were there any comedy shows you were obsessed with as a teenager?

I loved Kids in the Hall and watched that show over and over again.

Who is your favorite comedian right now?

Jim Gaffigan, Maria Bamford, Todd Barry.

Do you have any favorite movies about teens?

Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Mysterious Skin; Dazed and Confused; The Adventures of Sebastian Cole; Me Without You; Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains.

Is there anything that you were really into as a teenager, and still really love today?

Music, obviously. Also, films from the ’30s and ’40s. I was really obsessed with old Hollywood and sort of still am.

I think it’s rad how you don’t limit yourself to one thing. So, what is next? Serious, dramatic acting in big movies? A book?

I have been trying very deliberately to live in the moment. I feel very lucky to be involved with two creative projects that I love (Wild Flag and Portlandia). That being said, I’d like to do more writing for sure. ♦


Wild Flag’s new, self-titled album came out this month on Merge, and they’re touring this fall. Portlandia will be all over IFC next year.


  • Laia September 29th, 2011 3:08 PM

    love carrie forever and ever.

  • Rita Unicornia September 29th, 2011 3:24 PM

    Music is life.. No doubt on that…
    This is amazing *.* Love it so much! Rookie rocks!

    My stupid blog hahaha

  • Hazel September 29th, 2011 3:34 PM

    Such an idol

  • yourenotfunny September 29th, 2011 3:50 PM

    “I equate universality with banality.” Can’t say I agree there. While I do like some more esoteric music that my friends think is “weird”, “funny” or even “scary”, I think music can be accessible AND creative, and it bothers me when people have this kind of mindset. Just throwing that out there. but yea, interesting article! I like these interviews with musicians, very cool.

  • Emily Condon September 29th, 2011 4:31 PM

    Hi everyone – seems like we’re having spotty YouTube trouble with some of these videos. There’s not much we can do on our end, unfortunately. Hopefully it’ll iron itself out soon. Sorry, and thanks for your patience!

  • marypee22 September 29th, 2011 7:36 PM

    Oh GOD! I just love her
    Wild Flag

  • WinnieB. September 29th, 2011 10:47 PM

    I love Carrie and the Kids in the hall! I can’t believe you guys snagged an interview with her, she’s so amazing.

  • Tessa September 30th, 2011 1:08 AM


    Funny, I was supposed to road trip there this weekend with my counterpart (I live in the Chicago Burbs) and there were 1000 signs to scrap plans and do something more low key (like dine out like kings around the city…) and NOW signs of PORTLAND is everywhere tonight! Ah, oh well.

    I love Carrie. Rad you got to have some banter!

  • cherrylion September 30th, 2011 1:51 AM

    I saw this and I just HAD TO make a comment!! I love Carrie! She is so awesome!! I especially love Portlandia. It makes me want to go Portland, Oregon. And weirdly…I didn’t know she was musically talented. That is like a big plus. Woo..Haha!! i love the feminist bookstore. :P

  • L October 4th, 2011 12:10 AM

    I would love this woman for only the fact that Mysterious Skin, Me Without You and Fast Times at Ridgemont High happen to be 3 out of my 5 favorite movies of all time. So the fact that Sleater-Kinney is also a kickass band means that I might have to find her and marry her now. (It’s New York so we can!)

  • everythingiscolorful October 4th, 2011 8:53 PM

    Wow. Never did I think I’d start out reading about some 15 year-old fashion blogger and end up finding an interview with CARRIE BROWNSTEIN in her new magazine. Way to be an awesome voice for all us girls who like Sleater-Kinney just as much as they like shoes…I’m not the only one, right?
    Thanks (:

  • EnidEnvy October 5th, 2011 2:04 PM

    I’m going to see Wild Flag next week in Boston! I cannot wait!

  • urbanroutine October 10th, 2011 10:42 PM

    Awesome questions Olivia! I loved this!

    I’m also way, way, way too excited about the mere existence of this band–seeing them in less than two weeks in Chapel Hill! I might pass out.

    Full disclosure: My personal Wild Flag ladycrush is on Janet Weiss. She is a legendary drummer and her haircut is so precise I am pretty sure you can use it to tell time. And then drum to it like a metronome.

  • alaskaonthemoon June 7th, 2013 7:36 PM

    Carrie is such a badass, I love her. I hope you guys have some interviews with Janet Weiss, too! /Or have future ones.
    -Janet Weiss is the queen of drumming.