VOLTRON ROCK “If you think of Asia or the Traveling Wilburys,” says Brownstein (right, with Timony, Weiss, and Cole), “now those are supergroups.”
Last December, the PortlandMercury announced that Wild Flag would play the Bunk Bar. Carrie Brownstein -- Wild Flag singer and guitarist, Sleater-Kinney alum, and star of the IFC sit-com Portlandia -- saw the write-up online.
"The first comment was like, 'They look like soccer mommies,' " she tells me from her home in Oregon. "That's the most sexist thing I've read in so long. There are so many bands with four old guys! We're not even that old! I'm in my mid 30s. That to me is so telling. I can't help but think that there's so much more to prove — still — if you're a woman playing music that isn't singing softly or prettily. I think it's so weird that it's novel at all. I was like, we should call the album Start Your Minivans."
In spite of what Brownstein might hope, many consider the band to be a novelty because of its members' impeccable riot grrrl pedigree. Brownstein is joined in Wild Flag by Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss, Helium's Mary Timony, and the Minders' Rebecca Cole. In a Google search for "first all-female supergroup," Wild Flag take the top three results.
Brownstein bristles at that appellation. "We don't consider ourselves a supergroup. It's watering down the term to apply it to a group of people who have probably only sold a couple hundred thousand records at most. If you think of Asia or the Traveling Wilburys, now those are supergroups." She pauses. "I actually love the Traveling Wilburys. I sometimes can't believe that band existed."
Still, with the debut Wild Flag album not out until this spring on Merge Records, Brownstein can't be entirely unsympathetic to music journalists in search of an easy tagline. Before she started her television series and current band, she had a stint as a music blogger for NPR's All Songs Considered. "I don't like having to describe my own music, but I love coming up with adjectives for describing other people's."
She's determined not to worry about what adjectives critics or fans might use to describe a band whose members have already achieved so much glory. "Everyone likes the band's first record, everyone likes the old songs better. There are these things that exist in the world of fandom, but you always have to tune that out when you're creating something or you'll never do anything again."
Rather than rest on her laurels, Brownstein plans to fight. "I think it's always a good thing to feel that you have to earn something, that there's something on the line. We don't have youth on our side . . . and the fact that people think it's the first all-female supergroup, it's like, 'Oh my gosh, come on!' I think, yet again, here we go, trying to break free of these preconceived ideas of who we're going to be. I think it's always so scary to try to do that."