Corin Tucker has one of the most recognizable wails in rock. As the primary singer for Sleater-Kinney—the Portland-via-Olympia trio that critic Greil Marcus named “America’s best rock band” in a 2001 piece for Time magazine—Tucker has a bluesy, unhinged howl that was the one constant in the band’s evolution from scrappy, feminist punks to producing the monstrous riffs and classic-rock moves of swan song The Woods. But since Sleater-Kinney went on indefinite hiatus in 2006, Tucker’s vocals have found a new forum—yelling at her son Marshall’s soccer games.
“Just last week he came home and was actually upset that the team lost,” Tucker says from the sidelines of a recent practice at Northeast Portland’s Da Vinci Middle School. “I was like, ‘This is so cool, I can get into it.’”
For the past four years, Tucker has been more of a soccer mom than a riot grrrl. After Sleater-Kinney’s split, the 37-year-old focused on being a stay-at-home mother for Marshall and her 2-year-old daughter, Glory, rarely picking up a guitar or even feeling the need to write new music. In fact, it took a little prying to get her started—first, a benefit for Reading Frenzy in early 2009, and then the backing of Kill Rock Stars (Sleater-Kinney’s longtime record label), which approached her after the show to gauge her interest in making a record.
“I knew I wanted to make music again, but the logistics of it are challenging,” Tucker says. “I missed playing music, but I didn’t miss taking my kids on the road trying to support my life as a musician. It’s hard to have a career and be a parent.”
You can hear that struggle all over 1,000 Years, Tucker’s debut full-length. The record opens with the title track, a slow-burning acoustic number that sounds miles away from Sleater-Kinney’s bombast. “My own family/ Didn’t know me anymore,” Tucker sings, her voice huskier and fuller after her years away from rock. “Who is that zombie/ That is wearing mama’s clothes?”
It’s easily Tucker’s most personal record, with long-distance love letters to her husband (“Half a World Away,” “It’s Always Summer,”), a story about an unemployed couple (“Thrift Store Coats”) and, surprisingly, two songs written for the Twilight: New Moon movie that were rejected by the film’s producers. It’s the first time she’s ever written on her own; Sleater-Kinney compositions were penned with guitarist and co-vocalist Carrie Brownstein. Tucker’s collaborators on 1,000 Years, Seth Lorinczi and Julianna Bright of the Golden Bears, and Sara Lund of Unwound, all contributed heavily to the arrangements, but the songs themselves were written by Tucker, many on acoustic guitar for the first time.
“I had to shop around to find an acoustic guitar that I could actually play and handle,” Tucker says about the parlor-sized Larrivee she used to write new songs with. “I treated myself, because sometimes you have to push yourself into doing something—by telling people you are going to make a record, or buying a guitar you can’t really afford.”
Despite her new purchase, 1,000 Years is not a bare-bones acoustic album. Yes, there are violins and cellos and brushed drums, but many of the best tracks hark back to Tucker’s finest moments. Tucker’s wail is all over the first single, “Doubt,” and the hard-charging, almost punkish “Riley” wouldn’t sound out of place on any of Sleater-Kinney’s records. Tucker credits Lorinczi with helping to flesh out tracks that were “not quite there,” and Lund’s clattering percussion helped turn “Half a World Away” from a sad, quiet lament into the band’s favorite song on the record—and one of its most punk.
“I knew if I was going to do a solo project, it had to be different,” Tucker says as practice ends. “But it’s hard to leave what you love. I just bought my son that first Operation Ivy record—he’ll never listen to any of my stuff ’cause he’s like, ‘Yuck, mom’s music!’”
SEE IT: The Corin Tucker Band plays Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Aladdin Theater. 8:30 pm. $16 advance, $18 day of show.