Interview: Carrie Brownstein on Portlandia

carriebrownsteinportlandiaWhat’s the best thing you’ve ever gotten at Powells? The best thing you’ve found at the Bins?
I have a lot of great early editions of like Alexander Pope and James Baldwin books from there, a lot of beautiful hardcover books that line my bookshelf. I think we bought some of the early feminist bookstore clothes at the Bins. I’ve gotten some beautiful Christmas sweaters there too, giant red holiday sweaters where someone has managed to depict a fireplace and a snowman all through knitting.

What’s the best Goodwill in Portland?
I like the Goodwill out on 82nd the best, the one on the way headed south to Clackamas.

What are your favorite places to get food?
New Seasons Market is pretty phenomenal, even though it’s expensive. I love Screen Door, Pok Pok. There’s a new place called Killer Burger that opened by my house that I love. I love the Laurelhurst Market. It is so hard to not eat well; it’s become ridiculous how many good restaurants there are.

Riot Grrrl has been given a great deal of attention and consideration in the last year: Sara Marcus published a book, Kathleen Hanna is making an archive at NYU, the Raincoats performed at MOMA, Tavi Gevinson is talking about girl bands and zines on her blog. How do all those conversations sound to you?
I think I feel the same way about it that I did when one of my guitarists went into the Experience Music Project museum, where there’s this strange disconnect between experiences and the way experience is codified. The minute something becomes historical or documented for the ages, you automatically feel a distance from it, especially if you were part of it. Which is ironic because I think if you weren’t a part of it, those codifications make you feel closer to it. But if you were a part of it, you’re suddenly asked to experience something in a very highly intellectualized way. I think it was NYLON that did a Riot Grrrl fashion thing, and it was so strange to see these thrift store fashions that people were making based probably on financial status and not necessarily aesthetic intentions become iconic. At the same time it’s exciting to have a sense of legitimacy for something that at the time was very misunderstood. It’s exciting to see young women discover it for the first time and embrace it and make it their own.

In some way you and Fred are some of the first people telling the story of Portland, like NYLON and EMP are trying to tell the story of Riot Grrrl, with the show. How did you approach that task in a way that felt okay?
Any time you tell a story, it’s just one story. We have an awareness of that, and I think we have an awareness that Portland is merely the context in which we’re creating. Especially with comedy, you want a stepping-off point, but you want to reach a level of transcendence and absurdity, hopefully. So even though we’re starting with specificity, we’re going someplace outlandish and strange. You have to keep that sense of freedom in mind. It’s not a documentary. We’re trying to do something creative and create a version of Portland, a romanticized, idealized, bizarro version of Portland. It’s not a hyperrealist portrayal.

How’s playing with Wild Flag going?
It feels awesome to be working on the songs. There were many years after Sleater-Kinney broke up that I had no interest in playing music, so to have a sense of urgency and to want to play it is to me a huge blessing. I don’t like art that doesn’t come from a place of urgency or daring, I wouldn’t want to play music unless I wanted to. It feels amazing to be in that place with three other people that feel the same way. We’re going on a tour in March and an album will come out in the fall.

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POSTED January 19, 2011 12:00PM IN ART+CULTURE INTERVIEWS Comments (1) TAGS: , , , , ,




  1. Michael S. says:

    Great interview, thank you. But one thing, Ms. Brownstein’s new band is called Wild Flag, not White Flag, fyi.