Sleater-Kinney Reveal That Their New Album Was Inspired By Rihanna’s “Stay” & A Failed TV Pilot

Earlier this month, longtime drummer Janet Weiss announced her shocking departure from Sleater-Kinney. Shortly afterward, Carrie Brownstein offered an Instagram comment on Weiss’ exit: “what am I supposed to say? She left. We asked her to stay. We tried. It’s hard and sad.” And now remaining Sleater-Kinney members Brownstein and Corin Tucker have given their first major interview since Weiss left the band. It’s pretty fascinating!

For her profile in The Guardian, the writer Laura Snapes went to Portland and spoke with Brownstein and Tucker a few days before Weiss announced that she was quitting. (Snapes is also the co-writer of Phoenix’s upcoming memoir, and she is, full disclosure, a friend.) Weiss wasn’t at the interview, and at the time, the other two band members claimed that she was sick. Later on, they admitted that this was not the case. In a follow-up interview with Snapes, Tucker and Brownstein say that they tried band therapy in an effort to keep Weiss on board. They also seem shocked by Weiss’ apparently-sudden decision puzzled by Weiss’ issues with the band’s musical direction.

Weiss was supposedly as excited as her bandmates about The Center Won’t Hold, the new album that they recorded with producer St. Vincent. Apparently, it was Weiss’ idea to record with St. Vincent in the first place. But Weiss also wasn’t present for much of the album’s recording. Instead, she was working at her day job as a TV location manager, a second career that she started while working on Brownstein’s show Portlandia. On Weiss, departure, Tucker says, “We want Janet to be happy and healthy. If someone’s not happy doing that job, it wouldn’t be good for any of us.” (Weiss, after consideration, declined to comment for the article.)

On the band’ future, Brownstein says, “Corin and I started this band and we’ll end it. It was a long and really special journey with Janet, but there’s also something about it being Corin and I that feels familiar and very normal.”

There are also a few fascinating tidbits about The Center Won’t Hold, an album that’s set to come out in a few weeks. Apparently, part of the inspiration for the album comes from Rihanna. Brownstein and Tucker were driving around and listening to Rihanna’s massive 2012 ballad “Stay,” and Brownstein said that she wanted to write a song like that. The song that she ended up writing is “Broken,” a ballad dedicated to Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who testified before Congress that Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her.

And there’s another reason for the album’s existence. Brownstein had been developing a TV series, an adaptation of her 2015 memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl. The show’s pilot was a fictionalized version of Brownstein and Tucker searching for a drummer in mid-’90s Olympia. The pilot wasn’t picked up, but it led Brownstein to realize that she’d rather make new music than historicize her past: “I was like, why am I examining music through a historical lens? My relationship to music is right now. That’s more important to me.”

The whole article is great, and you can read it here. Meanwhile, The Center Won’t Hold is out 8/16 on Mom + Pop, and Weiss played drums for Kermit The Frog this past weekend.