19 July, 2016
Hunger makes me a modern girl : a memoir by Carrie Brownstein
The focus of Hunger makes me a modern girl is mainly a Sleater-Kinney retrospective, with chapters dedicated to each of their albums. Although we learn about Brownstein’s formative years (as the only child of loving but dysfunctional parents) we get more of an insight into her band’s dynamics rather than her family’s.
Interestingly, she only fleetingly mentions Portlandia, the television show she codeveloped, writes and acts in, and for which she is probably the most famous. However; her book has many funny Portlandia-type moments in it. In the same way she gently mocks Portland hipsters, she also skewers the scene in Olympia, the Pacific-Northwest college town where Sleater-Kinney (S.K.) and Riot Grrrl originated and also the birthplace of Riot Grrrl. She describes its relentlessly ‘right on’ milieu with everyone calling out perceived “sexist/racist/transphobic/classist and whateverist behaviour”. Nevertheless; she was greatly inspired by the environment’s punk D-I-Y ethos, and anger and rebellion against mainstream patriarchal norms.
Brownstein is open about the fact that musically, it was uncool to be seen as ‘selling out’ and that as a band, they consciously sabotaged efforts that would have made them more successful. She says they purposefully made their music more discordant to be less ‘radio friendly’ and she recounts the time she turned up and hour and a half late for a crucial signing meeting between S.K. and a major music label.
I found a lot of parallels with Kim Gordon’s memoir Girl in a band (the title of which, was her most loathed interview question: "what's it like to be a...?"). Brownstein also expresses frustration with a sexist music press for focusing on S.K. as a ‘girl band’ and recounts incidents such as dealing with patronising male sound engineers. A great anecdote about the sorts of obstacles they faced as female musicians was when a security guard mistook them for groupies and tried to turn them away from their own gig. “We’re not here to fuck the band”, says Brownstein “we are the band".
Title: Hunger makes me a modern girl : a memoir
Author: Carrie Brownstein
Recommended by Karen I, Devonport Library
Karen I likes reading memoirs and biographies about people with interesting and unusual lives, because she spends a lot of time reading and doesn't get out much.