Feminist force Sleater-Kinney have been sweating onstage for almost 25 years, but the start of a new tour still gets Corin Tucker giddy.
“The lights… and the ‘oh my god I can’t see my hands,’ all that happens in the first few nights of tour. It’s very exciting, though,” says Tucker, gushing.
Especially exciting this time around, as the band performs their most haunting record yet. Produced by Annie Clark (St. Vincent), The Center Won’t Hold calls out the superficiality of the digital age with chilling angst.
Although Tucker and bandmate Carrie Brownstein had been friends with Clark for years before the recording, they didn’t know she would be producing their album.
“We were talking about possibly working with a few different producers,” Tucker says. “We went into the studio with Annie on an almost trial basis, for like, three songs when she had time to do a few in the studio. We had so much fun in those three days that we decided, let’s just do the record with Annie!”
Clark brought expertise, ranging from knowledge of different keyboards to poetic prowess that breathed immediate life into the themes of disillusionment Tucker and Brownstein were vocalizing.
“We worked on the songs trying to be as clear as possible, that the messages were very strong,” Tucker says. “We took those themes and tried to make them as visual as possible. Annie is really good with lyrics, she’s a very visual thinker, and so sometimes she would take one of our metaphors and ask for us to just make it even clearer.”
Clark’s instincts brought the eeriness of The Center Won’t Hold to life by encouraging the band to push against their comfort zone until the walls split. On “Ruins” – a song that epitomizes the record’s sinister tone – Tucker found herself in unfamiliar vocal territory. She explains, “I had a very simple vocal line for the bridge of the song, and she was like, why don’t we try it in another octave? And so it takes on this almost operatic moment in the song that lends a kind of frightening otherworldly mystery to it.”
Sleater-Kinney has had a long run, and lots has shifted since they first conquered the riot grrrl scene in the mid-90s. However, it’s clear they aren’t hitting a wall any time soon. Their electrifying collaboration with Clark proves they’re open to cracking the boundaries of what they know– after all, that’s how the light gets in.