Sacred Paws chat Sleater-Kinney and the legacy of 90s feminist-punk
After a decade-long wait, devotees of the trailblazing rock band are being inspired all over again
This article is from 2015.
After winning over the mainstream media in the early Nineties, feminist-punk trailblazers Sleater-Kinney left their fans hungry for more. After a decade-long wait their devotees are inspired all over again, finds Nicola Meighan
Yes, of course it was thrilling when David Bowie dropped an album out of nowhere. And granted, Aphex Twin delighted with his blimps and his cryptic new LP campaign. But Sleater-Kinney knocked these dudes for six when they hid a brand new single – their first for a decade – in plain sight last year. The 7” white-label was entitled 'Bury Our Friends', and it arrived (to mass excitement) as part of a box set, Start Together, which chronicled the band's discography to date.
Start Together served two vital purposes. First, it amassed Sleater-Kinney's seven excellent albums and reminded us how, and why, the feminist punks from Olympia, Washington became one of our most acclaimed and influential bands. They kicked off as a queercore / riot grrrl rammy in 1994 (founders Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker played in Excuse 17 and Heavens to Betsy respectively), and were joined soon thereafter by drummer Janet Weiss (Quasi). They'd go on to floor the mainstream media: Rolling Stone deemed them 'the best American punk band ever'; Time magazine proclaimed them 'America's greatest rock band'.
Second, the box set's inclusion of 'Bury Our Friends' heralded the end of the band's nigh-on ten-year hiatus. The single was a searing, riled teaser for their vociferous new album, No Cities to Love, which has just been released to righteous praise: Sleater-Kinney sound as angry and urgent – and relevant – as they ever did.
Their feminist DIY ideology casts long shadows, too: Sleater-Kinney were a leading force behind global femme-pop hoopla Ladyfest, whose first grassroots venture outside the US was in Glasgow, in 2001. Its last Glasgow bash, in 2013, staged the likes of Ela Orleans, Hector Bizerk and Glasgow-London tropical-punk duo Sacred Paws, who issue a terrific, kaleidoscopic new EP via Mogwai's Rock Action label on Mon 16 Mar.
'Playing Ladyfest was great fun,' recalls Sacred Paws' drummer / vocalist Eilidh Rogers, also of Golden Grrrls, 'And it's really important. Most DIY feminist promoters are underground and it takes time to get to know these scenes – Ladyfest is an accessible concept for people and it represents something bigger. Anything that encourages more women to make music is a great thing.'
Sleater-Kinney's music also impacted on Rogers' sound. 'I love Janet Weiss' drumming, she's incredible!' she says. Her bandmate, guitarist / vocalist Rachel Aggs, also of Golden Grrrls and Trash Kit, nods. 'I love Sleater Kinney – I really like how there's no bass and two guitars weave these lines together that always keep you on your toes, keep you moving,' she offers. 'I also love Mary Timony [Autoclave, Helium, Wild Flag with Brownstein and Weiss] – I think she's an incredible guitarist.' Indeed, Aggs has yet to hear the new Sleater-Kinney album on account of Timony's genius. 'I'm too busy listening to Ex Hex on repeat!'
Ex Hex and Sleater-Kinney have their roots in the 90s riot grrrl movement, but while the term has become enduring shorthand for DIY feminist punk, it's problematic, too: not least because the teenagers who launched these bands are now women, while acts like Sacred Paws and Trash Kit are doing their own things, their own way. 'To me, riot grrrl was inspiring but also frustrating,' says Aggs. 'As a teenager, I always thought, “Why am I just sat here reading about this? I should be doing it!” Riot grrrl encouraged me to make music. But with Sacred Paws it's not supposed to be political, we're a pop band and our gender shouldn't limit us in any way or define what we do.'
'So the fact that people are still talking about [riot grrrl] when I'm a fully-grown person playing gigs and releasing records makes me feel like we didn't change anything.’ The revolution is far from done. Still, as Sleater-Kinney holler in 'Bury Our Friends' – 'We're wild and we're weary but we won't give in'.
Sleater-Kinney play ABC, Glasgow, Wed 25 Mar; Sacred Paws' EP is out Mon 16 Mar, they play Glasgow on Thu 26 Mar, and as part of Counterflows, Glasgow, Fri 3–Sun 5 Apr.