Carrie Rachel Brownstein (born September 27, 1974) is an American musician, actress, writer, director, and comedian. She first came to prominence as a member of the band Excuse 17 before forming the rock trio Sleater-Kinney. During a long hiatus from Sleater-Kinney, she formed the group Wild Flag. During this period, Brownstein wrote and appeared in a series of comedy sketches alongside Saturday Night Live alumnus Fred Armisen which were developed into the satirical comedy TV series Portlandia. The series went on to win Emmy and Peabody Awards. Sleater-Kinney eventually reunited; as of 2015 Brownstein was touring with the band as well as in support of her new memoir.
Brownstein was born in Seattle, Washington, and was raised in Redmond, Washington. Her mother was a housewife and a teacher, and her father was a corporate lawyer. They divorced when Carrie was 14, and she was raised by her father. Brownstein has a younger sister. Her family is Jewish.
Brownstein began playing guitar at 15 and received lessons from Jeremy Enigk. She later said: "He lived in the neighborhood next to mine, so I would just walk my guitar over to his house. He showed me a couple of open chords and I just took it from there. I'd gone through so many phases as a kid with my interests that my parents put their foot down with guitar. So [the instrument] ended up being the [first] thing that I had to save up my own money for – and maybe that was the whole reason that I actually stuck with it."
After high school, Brownstein attended Western Washington University before transferring to The Evergreen State College. In 1997, Brownstein graduated from Evergreen with an emphasis on sociolinguistics, and stayed in Olympia, Washington for three years before moving to Portland, Oregon.
While attending Evergreen, Brownstein met fellow students Corin Tucker, Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Becca Albee. With Albee and CJ Phillips, she formed the band Excuse 17, one of the pioneering bands of the riot grrrl movement in the Olympia music scene that played an important role in third-wave feminism. Excuse 17 often toured with Tucker's band Heavens to Betsy. The two bands contributed to the Free to Fight compilation. With Tucker, she formed the band Sleater-Kinney as a side project and later released the split single Free to Fight with Cypher in the Snow.
After both Excuse 17 and Heavens to Betsy split up, Sleater-Kinney became Brownstein and Tucker's main focus. They recorded their first self-titled album in early 1994 during a trip to Australia, where the pair were celebrating Tucker's graduation from Evergreen (Brownstein still had three years of college left). It was released the following spring. They recorded and toured with different drummers, until Janet Weiss joined the band in 1996. Following their eponymous debut, they released six more studio albums before going on indefinite hiatus in 2006. In a 2012 interview with DIY magazine, Brownstein said that Sleater-Kinney still planned to play in the future. On October 20, 2014, Brownstein announced on Twitter that Sleater-Kinney would be releasing a new album, No Cities to Love, on January 20, 2015, and would tour in early 2015. At the same time the announcement was made, they released the video for the first single from the album. The single, "Bury Our Friends", was also made available as a free MP3 download.
Critics Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau deemed the band one of the essential rock groups of the early 2000s; In 2015, Stereogum Chief Editor Tom Breihan called them the greatest rock band of the past two decades.
In September 2010, Brownstein revealed her latest project was the band Wild Flag, with Janet Weiss, Mary Timony, and Rebecca Cole, formerly of The Minders; according to Brownstein, about a year earlier "I started to need music again, and so I called on my friends and we joined as a band. Chemistry cannot be manufactured or forced, so Wild Flag was not a sure thing, it was a 'maybe, a 'possibility.' But after a handful of practice sessions, spread out over a period of months, I think we all realized that we could be greater than the sum of our parts."[needs update] They released a self-titled album in September 2011.
Music has always been my constant, my salvation. It's cliché to write that, but it's true. From dancing around to Michael Jackson and Madonna as a kid to having my mind blown by the first sounds of punk and indie rock, to getting to play my own songs and have people listen, music is what got me through. Over the years, music put a weapon in my hand and words in my mouth, it backed me up and shielded me, it shook me and scared me and showed me the way; music opened me up to living and being and feeling.
—Brownstein in October 2010
Brownstein began a career as a writer before Sleater-Kinney broke up. She interviewed Eddie Vedder, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Karen O, and Cheryl Hines for The Believer magazine. Brownstein has also written a couple of music-related video game reviews for Slate.
From November 2007 to May 2010, Brownstein wrote a blog for NPR Music called "Monitor Mix"; she returned for a final blog post in October, thanking her blog readers and declaring the blog "officially conclud[ed]."
In March 2009, Brownstein was contracted to write a book to "describe the dramatically changing dynamic between music fan and performer, from the birth of the iPod and the death of the record store to the emergence of the 'you be the star' culture of American Idol and the ensuing dilution of rock mystique"; The book, called The Sound of Where You Are, was planned to be published by Ecco/HarperCollins. In an April 2012 interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Brownstein said she was no longer working on the book.
Brownstein has acted (what she calls a "mere hobby") in the short film Fan Mail, the experimental feature Group, and the Miranda July film Getting Stronger Every Day. Brownstein and Fred Armisen published several video skits as part of a comedy duo called "ThunderAnt". She also starred opposite James Mercer of The Shins in the 2010 independent film Some Days Are Better Than Others. The film had its world premiere at SXSW on March 13, 2010.
After their ThunderAnt videos, Brownstein and Armisen developed Portlandia, a sketch comedy show shot on location in Portland, for the Independent Film Channel. The two starred in the series and wrote for it with Allison Silverman from The Colbert Report and Jonathan Krisel, a writer for Saturday Night Live. The show, which featured appearances of some of the characters from ThunderAnt, premiered in January 2011. The series received positive feedback and concluded after its eighth season.
In 2015, Brownstein portrayed Genevieve Cantrell in the Todd Haynes film Carol, based on Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt. However, the majority of her scenes were cut due to the film's length. The film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17, 2015. It began a limited release on November 20, 2015.
Brownstein was outed as bisexual to her family and the world by Spin when she was 21 years old. The article discussed the fact that she had dated bandmate Corin Tucker in the beginning of Sleater-Kinney (the song "One More Hour" is about their breakup).
In 2006, The New York Times described Brownstein as "openly gay". In a November 2010 interview for Willamette Week, she stated that she identifies as bisexual. She says, "It's weird, because no one's actually ever asked me. People just always assume, like, you're this or that. It's like, 'OK. I'm bisexual. Just ask.'" In a 2020 article, The Los Angeles Times noted that Brownstein and Annie Clark (who performs as St. Vincent) "dated years ago."
Since working together on ThunderAnt, Brownstein and Fred Armisen developed what Brownstein has called "one of the most intimate, functional, romantic, but nonsexual relationships [they have] ever had." According to Armisen, their relationship is "all of the things that I've ever wanted, you know, aside from like the physical stuff, but the intimacy that I have with her is like no other."
|2001||Getting Stronger Every Day||Various||Short film|
|2003||Fan Mail||Jo||Short film|
|2009||Light Tiger Eye||Woman||Short film|
|2010||Some Days Are Better Than Others||Katrina|
|2011–2018||Portlandia||Various characters||77 episodes; also co-creator, co-executive producer, writer and director|
Peabody Award (2012)
Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy/Variety (including talk) series (2013)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series (2012–14; 2016)
Nominated—Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy/Variety (including talk) series (2014)
Nominated—Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2015)
|2012||Vancouvria||Photo extra||Episode: "Big City Survival Class"|
|2012||The Simpsons||Emily (voice)||Episode: "The Day the Earth Stood Cool"|
|2012||Saturday Night Live||Cameo as herself||Episode: "Martin Short/Paul McCartney", "What Up with That?" sketch|
|2013||Saturday Night Live||Cameo as herself||Episode: "Ben Affleck/Kanye West", "It's a Lovely Day" sketch|
|2014–2015||Transparent||Syd Feldman||Recurring character|
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (2015)
|2015||Man Seeking Woman||Doctor at Chill Acres||Episode: "Branzino"|
|2015||Archer||Doctor Sklodowska (voice)||Episodes: "Drastic Voyage: Part 1" and "Drastic Voyage: Part 2"|
|2016||Saturday Night Live||Cameo as herself||Episode: "Fred Armisen/Courtney Barnett", "The Harkin Brothers" sketch|
|2016||The Realest Real||Short film; director and writer|
|2017||Curb Your Enthusiasm||Mara||Episode: "Foisted!"|
|2018||Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot||Suzanne|
|2018||The Oath||Alice Button|
|2019||Mrs. Fletcher||-||Director: "Parents' Weekend", "Invisible Fence"|
|2019||Shrill||-||Director: "Date", "Ribs", "Will"|
|2020||The Nowhere Inn||Herself|
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