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Why Can’t I Be You: Carrie Brownstein

In which we learn how to be a rock star, writer, comedian, and all-around gift to humanity.

ANAHEED: So let’s say a girl gets a band together, they start playing out, they’re touring regionally or maybe nationally, things are going great. And then they start wanting a record deal. Do you have advice about how to negotiate through stuff like that when you’re in a young band?

CARRIE: Right now is a great time to be in a band, because there’s no reason to give away your [original] masters. So basically, when you record your record, you can own the recordings. There’s no reason to let anybody else own those. I think that’s the most important thing: hold on to your masters.

ANAHEED: Because otherwise the record company will own everything, and they can do whatever they want with it, and they’ll make all the money off of it…

CARRIE: Yeah, and they can then license it out. So, say you have a label in the U.S., but you own the masters. Then you can sell the master to a label in Canada, or you could license in different territories. That’s sort of thinking way ahead, but the best thing right now is that the way that music gets out there is pretty democratic. A major label and a tiny label in Wisconsin—like Jagjaguwar, who puts out Bon Iver—are basically able to do the same thing. You could put out your record by yourself, or have a small label put it out, and you have a pretty good chance of getting heard. With word-of-mouth and blogs and everything—if it’s good, your music will get out there. I’ve never thought that as much as now. It’s almost harder to be undiscovered now than to be discovered. [Laughs]

TAVI: I feel like a lot of people in bands don’t want to be big, or think that being ambitious or thinking of their band like a business would feel like some kind of creative compromise…

CARRIE: Well, in Olympia, Washington, ambition was like a dirty word for a long time. I think in very idyllic and idealistic communities, people want everything to be very even and democratic. And that’s wonderful for supporting one another, but I don’t think it’s antithetical to being a supportive member of a community to aspire to do well, and to feel proud about things. I think it’s OK to have wants and needs that might be at odds with what your friends’ bands are doing, or what the community’s doing. You don’t want to undermine yourself, and to feel like for every step forward you have to justify why you want to do it. If you want success, especially for girls and women, there’s this overly apologetic sensibility, like you have to justify or overexplain why you’re going for it. That shouldn’t exist. But yeah, I definitely came from that.

Miranda July and I have known each other since we were 19, and we both came from Olympia, so we’ve talked about this a lot. We both really wanted things for ourselves. We wanted people to hear our music, and she wanted people to see her performance art and see her films—and that’s not a betrayal, I think. That’s the trick—not feeling like you’re betraying other people. If you have friends who are making you feel that way, that’s not the right community for you. It’s good to find people that are encouraging you, not undermining your efforts or making them seem shallow. Because I think for most people it’s actually not about being rich or famous; it’s about being able to support yourself doing what you love. And I think if you can support yourself doing what you love, no one should criticize that.

ANAHEED: Is there a reason you do so many different kinds of things? Would you get bored otherwise?

CARRIE: Being creative is, to me, one of the only ways that I can really be vulnerable, and to connect with other people in ways that are uninhibited and meaningful. The more of those things I have, the more dynamic my friendships are, and the more that I feel like I’m communicating with people—whereas in sort of noncreative outlets I feel much more critical of myself, and just closed off. I think that for a lot of people their creative outlets are the ways that they are able to express most clearly who they are and what they’re feeling. So I guess that just expanded the way that I’m able to communicate, or my way of using language—because I’m a hermit, otherwise, a little bit.

TAVI: Being in a band, and doing Portlandia—those things involve collaboration. But you also did writing for a while, which is so much more solitary…

CARRIE: Collaboration is difficult, but it’s when I’m at my best, and most open to other people. I really like the way that an idea improves through the input of someone else, especially someone that you start to share a similar language with—whether it’s a sonic language in a band, or a comedic sensibility like I have with Fred. We add to each other’s ideas, and what we stumble upon together is ultimately better than what we might have come up with alone. Sometimes someone brings a certain part out in you that you didn’t know you had.

But working alone is a good test for oneself. I like writing as a way to remind myself that I am capable on my own. I really want to finish a book, so I’ve had to prove to myself that I don’t really need someone’s help.

TAVI: Guys, sorry to interrupt, but I just had bacon for the first time.

ANAHEED: What?!

CARRIE: You loved it!

ANAHEED: Wait, you’ve never had bacon before? You totally did it the right way: you didn’t pre-announce that you were about eat bacon for the first time.

CARRIE: Because then we would’ve been watching you. And now there’s bacon on everything else we ordered, so.

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40 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax July 26th, 2012 3:07 PM

    I love these interviews! You Rookie folk always chat to the coolest of peeps :)

    Rosie Say Relax

  • farawayfaerie July 26th, 2012 3:34 PM

    I always find it strange when people think they’re ‘selling their soul’ if they are successful in the selling of their music. Woody Allen said that making money is an art, and so is good business. It makes so much sense to me. Lovely interview :)

  • caro nation July 26th, 2012 3:37 PM

    OHMYGOD

    • caro nation July 26th, 2012 3:55 PM

      Please interview Eleanor Friedberger because she is my other Stevie Nicks, besides Exene Cervenka. Those two and Bradford Cox.

      Wait, INTERVIEW BRADFORD COX! Not for this segment, but just….. for stuff. I’m sure you guys will articulate a more valid reason.

      Please.

  • Claire July 26th, 2012 3:38 PM

    I’m a little ashamed to admit that Portlandia served as my introduction to her, but since then, I’ve become a Sleater-Kinney fan and come to generally dig Carrie. Nice interview, as per usual.

  • LeatherStuddedFae July 26th, 2012 3:39 PM

    Bacon. <3 Haha. Oh, Tavi.

    Carrie is so amazing. I love the interview. <3

    http://stylestuddedfairy.blogspot.com

    • Maddy July 26th, 2012 5:23 PM

      Well cuz she was probably Kosher and didn’t eat pork, not because of some weird self-imposed isolation from normalcy.

  • ladiesfirst July 26th, 2012 4:44 PM

    Two emotion:
    – Extreme jealous that someone got to interview Carrie Brownstein
    – Glee&joy at the fact that I get to read a Carrie Brownstein interview.

    http://politicizenow.wordpress.com/

  • falkor4eva July 26th, 2012 4:47 PM

    Thank you for this interview, it comes at a perfect time. A friend and I were talking about appreciating new music, and about a certain band I said I liked them especially because they were girls. She is also in a band and feels like fans will like it just because she’s a girl, and she feels like that can be unintentional sexism. While I think of it as a girl who has been prevented from doing things creatively, it is really encouraging and helpful to see other girls pursuing those creative endeavors. That’s what I really meant, but I can see more of what what she means because of what Carrie said here about “Every time I want things to be transcendent and not have to do with gender dynamic or sexism, those things just rear their ugly head.” It’s still confusing to me, but conversation really does open things up…. thanks again!

  • Lillypod July 26th, 2012 4:49 PM

    sometimes i wonder if Rookie is in mind head, listening to my thoughts…

  • whatnaomiloves July 26th, 2012 4:57 PM

    Portlandia is one of my favorite new shows. Love the picture of Carrie, Petra!

  • tellyawhat July 26th, 2012 5:02 PM

    YAYAYAYAYAY

    I am in love with this conversation! Carrie is RAD. Just saw Deep Time play in Oakland last week (for the 4th time). Formerly known as Yellow Fever. They are my favorite modern band.

    Jennifer, of Deep Time, just wrote an awesome article about sexism in music http://www.imposemagazine.com/features/jennifer-moore-of-deep-time.

  • July 26th, 2012 5:26 PM

    I LOVE Carrie Brownstein and Portlandia!! This interview us the best :)
    On a mildly related note I never liked bacon…sorry bacon lovers
    http://thelunalovingbookworm.tumblr.com/

  • July 26th, 2012 5:26 PM

    *was

  • suburban grrrl July 26th, 2012 6:28 PM

    I’m just gonna throw this out there.

    Cacao.

    http://sub-urbangrrrl.blogspot.com/

    • Whatsername July 26th, 2012 11:46 PM

      Cacao to leaving! CACAO TO CACAO.

  • lylsoy July 26th, 2012 7:09 PM

    I never heard of Carrie Brownstein, and I absolutely fell in love with her in this interview. Itis just so good, nd so inspiring and I don’t even know how to put this in words, I will bookmark this and get all the paragraphs out, that inspired me to follow my creative dreams. I am so excited!!
    Thank you so much Carrie, I am going to check out everything about you rite now :**
    http://gossipgonzesse.blogspot.com.au/

    • Anaheed July 26th, 2012 7:17 PM

      You are in for a really great night.

  • isobele July 26th, 2012 7:31 PM

    I wish I was friends with everyone on rookie, you all seem so awesome.

    http://seesusiebean.blogspot.co.uk/

  • flowerchild49 July 26th, 2012 8:34 PM

    first the ice-cube-milk… now all this bacon business. tavi, your food world is morbidly backward.

  • youdonotdo July 26th, 2012 8:45 PM

    The only reason I will consider having children is that hopefully Rookie will be around for them to read when they’re old enough. I love this website.

  • Ben July 26th, 2012 10:55 PM

    I love Portlandia! This interview is wonderful for many reasons!

  • lindzi July 26th, 2012 11:01 PM

    I love her on Portlandia!

  • Whatsername July 26th, 2012 11:44 PM

    Loving the band advice and the discussion of sexism in music and the entire interview in a general sense.
    She’s so cool omg

  • ivoire July 27th, 2012 2:49 AM

    Tavi did you like bacon?! Cos I love bacon. And Carrie seems like an incredible person.

  • unefillecommetoi July 27th, 2012 11:14 AM

    god i’d never seen portlandia before!! best show ever :O

  • Spotty July 27th, 2012 11:51 AM

    sleater kinney is my baaaaand, y’all don’t even know!

  • Laia July 27th, 2012 11:57 AM

    YES CARRIE BROWNSTEIN FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER <3<3<3

  • Aubrey July 27th, 2012 10:30 PM

    I was nervously awaiting this interview! This concept of being A Girl Who Makes Stuff is so absolutely true. Unless men pursue a traditionally “feminine” vocation, they’re never asked “How does it feel to be a male [blank].” That just doesn’t happen. And I love that you guys discussed it.

    ALSO TAVI NO BACON EVER BEFORE? HOW. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE.

    http://www.lifeofmagicalthinking.blogspot.com

  • Aubrey July 27th, 2012 10:31 PM

    Oops. That was supposed to say anxiously. Nervous has negative connotations. Which I didn’t intend at all.

  • Tavi July 28th, 2012 4:17 AM

    yo i really love bacon now

    • caro nation July 28th, 2012 1:35 PM

      Tavs you’ll never transition into food bloggin with your track record gurl

    • firky November 4th, 2012 8:42 PM

      I won’t tell your Rabbi.

  • florans July 29th, 2012 7:21 PM

    Às rookies brasileiras : O que acham de organizarmos um encontro das leitoras da Rookie no Brasil?

    • Rafaella Cardoso April 22nd, 2013 9:02 PM

      acho uma ótima ideia!

  • starpower July 30th, 2012 1:21 PM

    great interview, I love Carrie so much.
    Thank you!

  • Faith August 11th, 2012 2:06 PM

    You read my mind, Rookie! I was hoping you would interview Carrie.

    Would love to see an interview of a visual merchandiser (makes displays for stores) and an artist like Emily Winfield Martin!