Wild Flag Chemistry Class
Published Sep 26, 2011Perhaps the most overused term to describe Wild Flag is "supergroup." It's a term that follows them around like a terrible stink. Featuring members of such celebrated bands as Sleater-Kinney, Helium and the Minders, they certainly seem like some indie rock geek went all Weird Science and concocted them with a Memotech MTX 512. Yet Wild Flag don't get why they're so super.
"It's not like we're Asia or the Traveling Wilburys," says singer/guitarist Mary Timony. "I think people just use that term differently now. Like Mister Heavenly are a supergroup."
Adds keyboardist Rebecca Cole, "I think the term supergroup is unfair to bands like the Traveling Wilburys or the Highwaymen. Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson together? That's a supergroup. I appreciate where it's coming from though, because it means people respect our past work. But I don't think of us as a supergroup. We don't align ourselves with Chickenfoot just yet."
Wild Flag were born out of some commissioned soundtrack work offered to singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss, some four years after they ended Sleater-Kinney. The two called in Cole and Timony, who had previously collaborated with Brownstein in the Spells. In no time, their experiment led to forming a full-time band they christened Wild Flag.
Cole says the fact that they were all previously in well-known indie bands was coincidental. "We're looking to create something new for ourselves and our listeners, and learn something about the world all around us," she explains. "We're really trying to get in there and figure stuff out. It's earnest, it's not a vanity project for any of us."
Each member found the opportunity to be a fresh, new start, despite the fact that Brownstein was both writing a book and starring in IFC's Portlandia, and Weiss was still keeping time for both Quasi and Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks. Timony, who had spent most of her career as the main songwriter found the collaborative nature of Wild Flag liberating.
"I did four solo records in the last ten years and I was really burnt out," admits Timony, who also moonlights in Soft Power with her boyfriend. "Having to pull a lot of weight and do everything wasn't where I was at anymore. I kept thinking to myself, 'Gosh, all I want to do is collaborate with other people.' Like, for the past two years I was thinking that, and then suddenly it was like, 'Oh, here's a band.' And it's great."
So is their self-titled debut album. Brimming with feverish urgency, playful hooks and each member's individual traits, it's a very familiar feeling album that only a band with the right chemistry could pull off. The best way to sum the album up is to paraphrase a popular Sleater-Kinney lyric: a whole lotta rock'n'roll fun, like a piece of art that everyone can touch.
Cole stresses that the goal was to make an album that was equally featuring all four of them together. "I don't think there is a Wild Flag song that can be played just by a singer with an acoustic in a coffee shop," she explains. "Our songs don't work that way and I like that. I'm pretty happy with the way the record sounds in the sense that we wanted to document something about our live shows, about our energy, a starting point. Hopefully we did that."