music

Carrie Brownstein

This weeks Illustrated Women in History was submitted by Rachel Nelson. 

Carrie Brownstein is an American musician, comedian, writer, actress, and director. She rose to prominence in the acclaimed punk band Sleater-Kinney, which she formed in 1994 with Corin Tucker.

Brownstein grew up in Washington State and attended college in Olympia. During this time she was involved in and influenced by the Riot Grrl punk scene, which actively brought women to the forefront in both audiences and bands. Brownstein formed the influential Riot Grrl band Excuse 17 with Becca Albee and CJ Phillips. Through touring with Excuse 17 she met Corin Tucker, of Heavens to Betsy. Brownstein and Tucker started Sleater-Kinney in 1994, touring and recording for two years with various drummers until Janet Weiss joined the band. In 1996 both Brownstein and Tucker were publicly outed in an article in Spin Magazine, which detailed their brief romantic relationship. Brownstein has since written about this moment, explaining “I had not yet figured out who I was, and now I was robbed of the opportunity to publicly do so; to be in flux.” Sleater-Kinney toured extensively between 1994 and 2006, released seven albums during this period, and built up a loyal and dedicated fan base. In 2006, after a tour in which the band felt emotionally and physically exhausted, they abruptly announced their indefinite hiatus.

From 2007-2010 Brownstein wrote a blog for NPR called ‘Monitor Mix’ and appeared occasionally as a guest host on the NPR Podcast ‘All Songs Considered’. In 2010 she created a new band, Wild Flag, with Janet Weiss, Mary Timony and Rebecca Cole. Wild Flag released one album in 2011, and played numerous shows together.

In 2011, Brownstein created the satirical television series ‘Portlandia’ with Fred Armisen. Portlandia began initially in 2005 as set of sketches written and performed by Brownstein and Armisen and uploaded online. The television series pokes fun at hipster culture in the city of Portland, where Brownstein lived for many years. As well as their involvement in writing the episodes, Brownstein and Armisen also star in the show and are credited as executive producers. Portlandia has won three Emmy awards, the Peabody Award, a Writers Guild of America award, and an Art Directors Guild Award. Portlandia’s eighth and final series is currently being written and will air in 2018.

Brownstein has also acted in the award-winning Amazon television series ‘Transparent’ and the Todd Haynes feature film ‘Carol’.

In 2014, after eight years apart, Sleater-Kinney reunited. They released their eighth studio album ‘No Cities to Love’ in 2015 and began touring again. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone has called Sleater-Kinney ‘America’s greatest punk band ever’, and Greil Marcus labelled them ‘America’s best rock band’ in TIME magazine. When asked if Sleater-Kinney should be described as a feminist band, Brownstein has responded: “We told stories from a female perspective in a way that was unapologetic and unafraid of its own voice. There is a forcefulness to that, that I think posits it within the context of feminism.”

In 2015 Brownstein published a memoir titled ‘Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl’, in which she wrote about her childhood, the Riot Grrl scene, touring with Sleater-Kinney and what music means to her. ‘Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl’ has been praised as ‘a fitting and beautiful tribute to one of the most unforgettable rock groups ever.’

Sources here, here, here and here.

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