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.
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.