RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Fans of Sleater-Kinney were thrilled last fall when the band released a new song, declaring its eight-year hiatus over. The trio first formed 20 years ago on the wave of the feminist riot girl movement. And Sleater-Kinney emerged as what some critics deemed one of America's best rock bands. Their new album is out today. It's called "No Cities To Love." NPR's Leah Scarpelli talked to them.
LEAH SCARPELLI, BYLINE: Drummer Janet Weiss describes the feeling of being back in the studio with Sleater-Kinney after almost a decade apart.
JANET WEISS: I heard Corin's voice through the monitors for the first time in all those years. I think the hair on my neck stood up. It made it all - it just made sense.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FANGLESS")
SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) Sharp teeth in a broken jaw. Hungry, but I'll hunger on.
SCARPELLI: Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss make up an all-female rock band that never wanted to be just be an all-female rock band.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE")
SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I want to be your Joey Ramone.
SCARPELLI: This was the riot-girl attitude. In the early '90s, women in Olympia, Washington, were forming punk bands, printing zines, coming together to make a place for themselves in a mostly male music scene. Singer and guitarist Corin Tucker had moved to Olympia to attend the Evergreen State College.
CORIN TUCKER: I saw right after I got there, Bikini Kill and Bratmobile played their first show, and I was like, that's it. I mean, it literally was that night I was like, I'm starting a band today.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORDS AND GUITAR")
SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) Words and guitar, I got it. Words and guitar, I want it.
SCARPELLI: Lead guitarist and singer Carrie Brownstein also went to Evergreen and says Olympia was progressive and inclusive, but that wasn't always the story on the road.
CARRIE BROWNSTEIN: Someone made a sign in Houston that said sexist Kinney go home, because we had requested that one of the opening bands, maybe they could have some women in them. We kept that sign. We took a lot of pictures with it. It came with us in the van.
SCARPELLI: But Janet Weiss says one question they couldn't stand...
WEISS: What does it feel like to be a woman in rock? And I'm not exactly sure why people are so compelled to ask it.
SCARPELLI: Brownstein says the band only got stronger.
BROWNSTEIN: That static, like, putting all these modifiers in front of the word band kind of fell away because all we wanted to prove was that we could make good records.
SCARPELLI: Woven through their eight albums are personal takes on love and rock 'n' roll, alongside highly charged stories about war, gender roles, inequality.
BROWNSTEIN: That's a really strong part of our songwriting is being able to find a particular voice for each song and create a whole story from that viewpoint.
SCARPELLI: You hear it in the new song "Price Tag."
BROWNSTEIN: It felt like a woman who was working a job that she was giving everything she had to, that was never going to be enough money for her to take care of her family.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRICE TAG")
SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) We never really checked, we never really checked the price tag. And the cost comes in...
SCARPELLI: During those eight years away from Sleater-Kinney, all three members pursued other music projects. Carrie Brownstein wrote for NPR Music and started the sketch comedy show "Portlandia." But the three friends say the reunion feels right. Lead singer, Corin Tucker.
TUCKER: I wrote the song "Surface Envy" about that moment where we were like, are we going to be a band again? And everyone was like, yes, for real.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURFACE ENVY")
SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) We win. We lose. Only together do we break the rules.
SCARPELLI: Leah Scarpelli, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURFACE ENVY")
SLEATER-KINNEY: (Singing) We win. We lose. Only together do we make the rules. I'm breaking the...
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