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THE RUMPUS INTERVIEW WITH CORIN TUCKER

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Corin Tucker, formerly of Sleater-Kinney and Heavens to Betsy and now the leader of the Corin Tucker Band, has been called “a punk-rock heroine” by Rolling Stone. Judging by her band’s newest record, Kill My Blues, there is no reason to disagree.
The record spans many themes lyrically—the finite nature of existence, the stalemate of our political climate, a moment in the transition from girlhood to womanhood.

“You’re the noisy surprise / You’re my new ringtone / There’s no medicine like the sound of your voice,” Tucker sings on the title track. And there’s no medicine like the sound of Tucker’s powerhouse voice.

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The Rumpus: Do you see there being a theme to Kill My Blues? Lyrically, the songs seem all over the map in a lot of ways.

Corin Tucker: I think it’s all over the map. I think that there’s more than one theme happening. I think that there’s definitely some looking forward and some looking back on this record at the same time. It has a lot of different musical styles from different eras as well. In my mind, it reached out to a lot of different periods of my life all at once.

Rumpus: I was curious about “Groundhog Day” being the first single. It seems very personal. I was wondering whether you thought today’s political climate, especially toward women, necessitates being more personal and open.

Tucker: The thing for me is I’ve felt that way for a long time. And I still feel like the same things that we were fighting for twenty years ago, we’re still fighting for. We’re still asking for the same rights, and how frustrating to have to say the same thing twenty years later. We’re still talking about reproductive rights. We’re still talking about birth control being a normal part of women’s healthcare. We’re still talking about equal pay for equal work for women. All of these things have come up in this election, and they were definitely part of my political awareness in the early nineties, and that’s part of my frustration. It’s like living the same day all over again. So I’m just wondering where we’re at in the US with the women’s movement, and we’ve kind of let things stall.

Rumpus: What do you think it would take to make a more woman-friendly political world right now?

Tucker: Power. I was watching The Daily Show last night, and there was a woman senator from New York, and she was saying that women make up 18% of Congress, whereas we’re 51% of the population. I think it would be great if we had more women who were involved in politics, and it would normalize a lot of the discussions that we have if there were more women and minorities involved in the political process.

Rumpus: Going back to the music, I know that you’ve said you see Kill My Blues as being very different in terms of being more collaborative than 1,000 Years was. How else do you see it as being a departure?

Tucker: For this record, we really bonded, the four of us, being on tour and playing music together, so in writing this record, we all worked together in the practice space, writing these songs and just enjoying the writing process and everything that came out of it. So it was nice to have that process where we could sort of let these songs evolve a bit and take shape over time and say, “What if we tried this on this song? What if we added a disco beat?” That song “Neskowin” tumbled into this whole musical realm that was really fun. But playing with Sara [Lund] and Mike [Clark], they’ve really come together as this great rhythm section. So it was great to use that on this record and play with it a bit.

Rumpus: I was going to ask you about “Neskowin.” I interpret it as a coming-of-age song. Do you feel comfortable saying what it means to you?

Tucker: Well, the song is really just a little poem about a moment in time. It’s this really bittersweet thing when you change from being a child into being a teenager and the world kind of opens up to you and things change. That was a really fun moment for me, and so it’s kind of taking that and looking back on it and playing with that whole idea.

Rumpus: I noticed that there seem to be a lot of love songs on this record. Not necessarily love songs to people, but songs that were imbued with love of different kinds. Where do you think that comes from?

Tucker: I think that as you get older, you realize how short our time here is, and you end up having to say goodbye to people. I think that we don’t take for granted the people that we love and that we get to spend time with, because when you’re old enough, you start to understand that it’s all very finite. It’s just a way to express that and celebrate the different people that you love while you’re here.

Rumpus: What have you learned from being in this band that you didn’t learn from being in all the other bands you’ve been in?

Tucker: I think that this band has been really fun to try different musical styles, try different instrumentation, try collaborative songwriting. You always learn something new if you let yourself. You expand musically working with different people, and that’s something I really enjoy.

Rumpus: What was your experience like working with the same producer as you did with Sleater-Kinney on The Woods?

Tucker: Dave Fridman? He’s awesome. I love working with Dave. He is incredibly talented and very intellectual. He gets it in a lot of different ways. His real talent is taking a song and making it into this whole expression. I love how unpredictable and unconventional he is as a producer. He’s really got the knowledge and experience to do a lot of different things with music.

Rumpus: What was the recording process like? Did you have a lot of time to record?

Tucker: For this record, we really took our time. We did two different main sessions. We did one—gosh, was it like a year ago? In last August, we started recording. We finished last winter. We mixed through the spring. It was kind of finished in the late spring. Because we had two different longer sessions to record with, we were able to go back and redo things on certain songs, spend a lot of time on the vocals. It was really nice to have that time.

Rumpus: Were there songs that you recorded that you didn’t include on the record?

Tucker: I think there was one song we didn’t include, but for the most part, they’re all there.

Rumpus: I was reading the lyrics today and found myself curious about what you were reading while working on the record.

Tucker: Well, let’s see. I definitely read the Patti Smith book, Just Kids. I read a lot of biographies. I read Kristin Hersh’s Rat Girl, which is really good. Those are the two that I remember.

Rumpus: What are you reading now?

Tucker: I’m reading an excellent book by Ann Patchett called State of Wonder. It’s so good. It’s a really great plot line about a female scientist unraveling a mystery in the Amazon jungle.

Rumpus: What’s your tour going to be like for this record?

Tucker: I think it’s going to be really fun. I think this record is really fun. It’s really dance-y. We just want to go out and play fun shows and get people to move around. We’re going to remind people to vote very gently and politely.


Erin Lyndal Martin is the assistant music editor for The Rumpus. She is also an associate interviews editor for PopMatters, and she runs the music journalism site Euterpe's Notebook in addition to also contributing to The Quietus. Her poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and critical prose have also appeared widely. She can be followed on Twitter at @erinlyndal. More from this author →