Carrie Brownstein, From Sleater-Kinney to NPR to Movie Star

Carrie Brownstein, From Sleater-Kinney to NPR to Movie Star (photo)

Posted by on

Carrie Brownstein ought to write a movie about rock and roll. She’s played guitar for the eminent rock band Sleater-Kinney. She has a music blog on NPR.org called Monitor Mix, and has also written for Slate and the Believer. And she’s acting in her first feature-length film, “Some Days Are Better Than Others,” which premiered Sunday here at SXSW. In the film, directed by Matt McCormick, she stars alongside fellow Portland musician James Mercer, formerly of the Shins and currently of Broken Bells, this year’s featured band at SXSW. Her double duties at this year’s fest — as an actor and as a curator for NPR’s showcase — have her feeling invigorated. Over the phone from a hotel room in Austin, Carrie recounted Sunday’s cringing movie-viewing experience, broke down her transition from musician to writer, and hinted at a Sleater-Kinney reunion as but one of her near future musical endeavors.

“Some Days Are Better Than Others” premiered Sunday. How was the reception?

I think it was good. It’s really hard for me to be objective about the film. I spent a lot of time with my head in my hands and my fingers in my ears, trying not to hear my voice. So I’ve only seen certain parts of the movie. I felt like at the end of the screening it was just like I was taking my first breath.

I’ve seen the trailer. Everybody in it looks pretty sad and adrift. What’s the storyline?

It is a story of sad and adrift people. But it’s also a lot about — whether it’s people or objects or cities — things that are no longer needed or wanted. There was a lot of sadness and embarrassment the very beautiful summer of 2008, having to cry for many months as my character.

03172010_somedays2.jpgTell me about your character.

I play Katrina. She’s probably in her late 20s. She lives in Portland. She recently was broken up with by her boyfriend, who she caught cheating, so she feels discarded in that way. What she wants more than anything, in this highly voyeuristic society, is a witness to her pain. She feels like the way that her sadness can be validated is if she can somehow get on some sort of reality TV show — like any kind of reality TV validates all sorts of ridiculous emotions, and heightens them — so even though she’s sort of the smarter, creative, kind of quirky person and sees through reality TV, all of a sudden, she becomes obsessed with that as a stage for her sadness.

How does James intertwine with your character?

He plays my roommate, and another lost soul, who’s living the prolonged adolescence typical to cities like Austin and definitely Portland, where you can carve out an existence that has nothing to do with adulthood. But then, of course, that becomes its own form of alienation after awhile.

Are you ready to act again if the opportunity comes up?

I think so. I do these comedy shorts with Fred Armisen from “Saturday Night Live,” and I think I might prefer the more kind of nimble and spontaneous nature of 1) doing shorts and 2) doing improvisation. It mirrors my approach to music a lot more.

You had not one but four stories in the “Best Music Writing” anthology that Greil Marcus put together. How’d you transition so smoothly from playing music to writing about it?

I think a common thread in my life before I was in a band and when I was young was that writing always was something that was important to me. I’m a huge reader. And during my time in Sleater-Kinney, I was always the one asked to provide the added commentary or analysis. Occasionally, publications would ask me to write something, like a tour diary, and that led to essays. When the band ended, I felt like I wanted to pursue that more wholeheartedly. It might from the outside seem like the band ended and then I picked up a pen and started writing for NPR, but it’s something that I’ve worked on for a lot of years.

03172010_carriebrownstein.jpgAre you missing playing music?

I am. And I just started a new band after taking many much-needed years off from playing. I can’t really talk about it that much, but we have seven songs, and there are four of us, and we’re based in Portland — but not all of our members live there.

Can you give me any clues?

I can tell you that Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney is also in it.

I’ve been listening to Janet’s new Quasi album nonstop.

Oh my God, that Quasi album is unbelievable. It just comes through like a chainsaw. Every other album is just being totally chopped down right now.

When am I going to get to hear a new Sleater-Kinney album?

Well, Janet, Corin and I are still great friends. And we will probably do something. It’s so intense, that band.

People love that band.

We spent 11 years committed to that band, heart and soul. To get back into it we have to be in that place where we can immerse ourselves fully. I think it will happen. We have to loop around, and we’re at the far end of the circle, away from the band, but I think we will come back and revisit it. And hopefully that record will be sometime in the next five years.

[Additional photo: Brownstein and Janet Weiss during a show on the One Beat tour]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

Posted by on

Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

Posted by on
GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.