Most people are lucky to land one dream job in a lifetime; Carrie Brownstein’s ticked off at least three. She’s been a resident shredder in seminal riot-grrrl bands — from raw, punky Excuse 17 to urgent, angular Sleater-Kinney (famously called “the best band in the world” by formidable rock critic Greil Marcus) to, most recently, the indie supergroup Wild Flag. She was the writer behind NPR’s Monitor Mix column, where she forged an addictive, unpretentious style of music writing that eschewed both the easy snark of Pitchfork and the speed-addled self-referentia of Lester Bangs and his legion of imitators. And, she’s the writer and performer behind Portlandia, now in its fourth season and still lovingly skewering twee urbanity in all its provenance-demanding preciousness.
Interviewing Brownstein was a palm-sweatingly intimidating experience for me: It’s not every day you meet someone you’ve loved for nearly 20 years, whose music you yelped and air-guitared, who projects a primal power onstage that you dreamed of embodying someday (she wasn’t considered the greatest guitar player of her era for nothing). In person, Brownstein is commanding in a completely different way. For starters, she’s quiet — in complete defiance of her kick-drum-climbing musical persona. Second, she’s not just smart; she’s that devastating combination of erudite and deeply perceptive, speaking in thoughtful paragraphs instead of sound bites. And, she’s funny as hell — often slyly, and a few beats before anyone else in the room realizes it. I consider it the most brag-worthy honor that Carrie Brownstein ever-so-gently mocked my nervous use of the word “bifurcated” in her presence.
This article was written by Leeann Duggan, who is the Style Features Editor for Refinery29.com