Interview: Wild Flag

Wild Flag - Photo by John Clark

Wild Flag - Photo by John Clark

The roster of a band like Wild Flag is one that is certain to turn heads. Consisting of riot grrrl veterans Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney, Excuse 17) on guitar, Rebecca Cole (the Minders) on keyboards, Mary Timony (Helium, Autoclave) on guitar, and Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks) on drums, it doesn’t matter so much as to why these four joined forces. It just makes sense.

But although the quartet has already been labeled as a supergroup, don’t judge them based on their respective pasts. To entirely dimiss their respective backgrounds would be ignorant, yet this amalgamation of seasoned indie rockers can’t be blamed for wanting to be taken at face value.

And to their advantage, that’s exactly how the music of Wild Flag begs to be experienced. Undeniable are the hints of past partnerships running through the undercurrent of the band, as well as the fact that each member possesses her own distinct corporeality of sound, but that’s where it ends. Certainly, the combined musical histories of the four could spell conflict or disaster just as easily as they could point to commercial success, but what Wild Flag has landed on is somewhere in-between refreshingly distant and overwhelmingly familiar.

“Artistic collaborations are challenging,” Weiss said, speaking both in general and about Wild Flag in particular. “If they were easy all of the time, they wouldn’t be as rewarding. There is a lot to argue about and a lot to laugh about. [But] there isn’t so much room in rock music for perfectionism; you have to pick your battles.”

One place where wars can spring up is in the studio. But while some bands go into a recording session having an unclear image of what they ultimately want, this wasn’t the case for Wild Flag. After ironing out an initially hesitant approach to playing together, the four pursued the album knowing exactly what the intended sound was, as well as what was required to achieve it.

“We have all made enough recordings to know what we want. Getting four people to agree on anything is not so easy,” Weiss explained. “[But we knew that] we wanted to work with Chris Woodhouse, and we were looking for a fairly inexpensive room, not too fancy, where we could record live and to two-inch tape.”

The result of the process was a live recording (minus the vocals) of 10 songs, done at The Hangar, an old-warehouse-turned-recording-studio located in Sacramento, the capital city of California.

“The response to the album, from what I can tell, has been very enthusiastic. People seem excited to hear it,” Weiss said, before offering her own opinion. “I am happy with it. It sounds like a first record: simple and straightforward and energetic.”

With a full-length to show, Wild Flag has been on the road since its September release, with a European tour currently underway. Tomorrow night’s Berlin show marks the end of this leg. Although the members have visit separately and played in Berlin with other bands, it will be Wild Flag’s first time in the city.

“When I was young, I saw the Wim Wenders movie, ‘Wings of Desire,’ and it made Berlin look like a beautiful place. Before that, I thought of the wall, and of war, and of bombs going off in the streets,” Weiss said, recalling her past and present impressions of the city. “I have been there several times now, usually and unfortunately in the winter. It gets very cold, but is an incredible and bold city.”

After Europe, the next destination on the map is Australia, followed by more North American dates, including summer festivals. As for a follow-up, not even the ladies themselves know what can be expected.

“We are still a new band. We’ve got only ten or so recorded songs under our belt, and people, including us, are still getting to know who we are and what to expect from Wild Flag,” Weiss said. “[So] I can’t imagine going in an entirely different direction just yet, because it’s not entirely clear what direction we are currently going in. We have written a handful of new songs [and] the goal is to make them good.”

Wild Flag plays tomorrow night at Lido in Berlin. The show begins at 21.00.

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