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Carrie Brownstein Is Back in Portland, and She’s Watching You Quarantine

What does a creative polymath do when stuck with a bunch of extra time on her hands? Pick up on old habits—namely, observing Portlanders in their natural habitat.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

Carrie Brownstein swears she didn't hoard toilet paper.

She totally could have, too. Coming back to the states in early March following a European tour with her band, Sleater-Kinney, the singer, guitarist, actress and writer got a preview of what was heading America's way, giving her a jump on the frenzied panic buying that soon followed, but she insists she stuck mostly to dry goods.

So, what does a creative polymath do when stuck with a bunch of extra time on her hands?

Well, not much, really. Like a lot of people, Brownstein, who moved back to Portland from Los Angeles last summer, hasn't been nearly as productive in quarantine as she hoped. She's occasionally working on a screenplay, and helped developed an environmentalist website, The Green New Real. Mostly, though, she's been baking banana bread, cleaning out junk drawers and going on hikes with her dog, Cricket.

In truth, Brownstein likely needed the break. Almost a year ago, her longtime bandmate, drummer Janet Weiss, quit Sleater-Kinney just before the start of the promotional cycle for the band's second album since its 2015 reunion, The Center Won't Hold—a situation Brownstein is still reticent to discuss. She was supposed to go on the road with Wilco this summer, but that's obviously off.

Related: On Their New Album, Sleater-Kinney Faces Political Turmoil and Intraband Uncertainty.

Left without many obligations, Brownstein has picked back up on an old hobby: observing Portlanders in their natural habitat.

"We're a bunch of rule-followers," she says. "But the thing that I really noticed is front porch and front yard hangs. Especially early on, when there was this sense of loneliness and isolation and we weren't sure when we were going to have access to people, I just really started noticing people would put the chairs as close to the front grass strip as possible, just for that little ounce of communication, that little hello."

WW caught up with Brownstein to talk about what she finds funny about Portland in a pandemic, the impact of coronavirus on music culture, and where Sleater-Kinney goes from here.

See more Distant Voices interviews here.