Carrie Brownstein

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Carrie Brownstein
Closeup image of Brownstein singing into a microphone
Carrie Brownstein at Coachella 2012, while performing with Wild Flag.
Born Carrie Rachel Grace Brownstein
(1974-09-27) September 27, 1974 (age 40)
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
Residence Portland, Oregon, U.S.[1]
Occupation Musician, writer, actress
Years active 1993–present
Style Alternative rock, indie rock, punk rock
Home town Redmond, Washington, U.S.

Carrie Rachel Grace Brownstein[2] (born September 27, 1974) is an American musician, writer, and actress. She first came to prominence as a member of the band Excuse 17, before forming the critically acclaimed trio Sleater-Kinney. During a long hiatus for Sleater-Kinney she formed the group Wild Flag.

During the same period of inactivity for Sleater-Kinney Brownstein wrote and appeared in a series of comedy sketches with Fred Armisen which was then developed into Emmy and Peabody Award-winning TV series Portlandia.

Early life[edit]

Brownstein was born in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of Jewish parents.[3] She was raised in Redmond, Washington.[4] Her mother was a homemaker and a teacher and her father was a corporate lawyer; her parents divorced when she was 14, and she was raised by her father.[5] Brownstein has a younger sister.

She attended Lake Washington High School before transferring to The Overlake School for her senior year.[6][7]

Brownstein began playing guitar at 15, and received lessons from Jeremy Enigk.[8] 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."[8]

After high school, Brownstein attended Western Washington University before transferring to The Evergreen State College, where she met fellow students Corin Tucker, Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, and Becca Albee. With Albee and CJ Phillips, she formed the band Excuse 17 that 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 Free to Fight split single with Cypher in the Snow.

In 1997, Brownstein graduated from The Evergreen State College with an emphasis on sociolinguistics,[9] and stayed in Olympia, Washington for three years before moving to Portland, Oregon.

Music career[edit]

Brownstein at Lollapalooza 2006.

Excuse 17[edit]

Main article: Excuse 17

While a student at The Evergreen State College Brownstein formed the Excuse 17 band with CJ Phillips and Becca Albee, one of the pioneering bands of the riot grrrl movement in the Olympia music scene that played an important role in Third-wave feminism.


Main article: Sleater-Kinney

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 during a trip to Australia in early 1994, where the couple were celebrating Tucker's graduation from Evergreen[10] (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 plans to play in the future.[11] On October 20, 2014, Brownstein announced on Twitter that Sleater-Kinney will be releasing a new album, No Cities to Love, on January 20, 2015, and will 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.[12]

Other work[edit]

Brownstein and former Helium guitarist/singer Mary Timony, recording as The Spells, released The Age of Backwards E.P. in 1999.

In summer 2009, Brownstein and Weiss worked together on songs (produced by Tucker Martine) for the soundtrack of the documentary film !Women Art Revolution by Lynn Hershman Leeson.[13]

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."[14][dated info] They released a self-titled album in September 2011.[15]

"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[16]

In 2011, they toured for a second time,[17] and played at CMJ Music Marathon.[18]


In 2006, Brownstein was the only woman to earn a spot in the Rolling Stone readers' list of the 25 "Most Underrated Guitarists of All-Time."[19]

Writing career[edit]

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.[20] Brownstein has also written a couple of music-related video game reviews for Slate.[21][22]

From November 2007 to May 2010, Brownstein wrote a blog for NPR Music called "Monitor Mix";[23] she returned for a final blog post in October, thanking her blog readers and declaring the blog "officially conclud[ed]."[16]

In March 2009, Brownstein 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";[24] The book, called The Sound of Where You Are,[25] is to be published by Ecco/HarperCollins.[16]

Acting career[edit]

Brownstein with Fred Armisen at the 2011 Peabody Awards. Brownstein and Armisen's series Portlandia earned the award for Broadway Video and IFC.

In 2007 Brownstein briefly worked at Portland ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, helping review applicants for their WK12 program of one-year internships.[26]

Brownstein has been an actress (what she calls a "mere hobby"),[27] with roles in the short film Fan Mail, the experimental feature Group, and the Miranda July film Getting Stronger Everyday. Brownstein and Fred Armisen published several video skits as part of a comedy duo called "ThunderAnt".[28] She also starred opposite James Mercer of The Shins in the 2009 independent film Some Days Are Better Than Others.[29]

After their ThunderAnt videos, Brownstein and Armisen developed Portlandia, a sketch comedy show shot on location in Portland, for the Independent Film Channel.[14][16][30] The two star in the series and write for it with Allison Silverman from The Colbert Report and Jonathan Krisel, a writer for Saturday Night Live.[31] The show, which features appearances of some of the characters from ThunderAnt, aired its premiere in January 2011.[32] It has been renewed for a third, fourth, and fifth season.[33]

Brownstein now plays the character of Syd on the TV series "Transparent", which debuted in 2014 and airs exclusively on Amazon.

Personal life[edit]

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).[34] After the article was out, she said: "I hadn't seen the article, and I got a phone call. My dad called me and was like, 'The Spin article's out. Um, do you want to let me know what's going on?' The ground was pulled out from underneath me... my dad did not know that Corin and I had ever dated, or that I even dated girls."

In 2006, The New York Times described Brownstein as "openly gay".[35] In a November 2010 interview for Willamette Week, she laid to rest questions about her sexual identity, stating that she definitely 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.’”[36]

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."[37] 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."[38] Brownstein currently lives in Portland, Oregon.[1]


Year Title Role Notes
2001 Getting Stronger Every Day Various Short film
2002 Group Grace
2009 Light Tiger Eye Woman Short film
2010 Some Days Are Better Than Others Katrina
2011-present Portlandia Various characters Also co-creator, co-executive producer and writer
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)
Nominated—Writers Guild of America Award for Comedy/Variety (including talk) series (2014)
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-present Transparent Syd Feldman Recurring character
2015 Carol Genevieve Cantrell Completed[39]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Works written by Brownstein, Carrie Rachel". ASCAP. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Meet Carrie Brownstein: A Triple Threat". Jewish Women's Archive. March 28, 2013. Retrieved November 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Interview: Carrie Brownstein on Portlandia". January 19, 2011. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  5. ^ de Barros, Paul (March 3, 2012). "Carrie Brownstein: the Northwest's funny girl". Seattle Times. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  6. ^ de Barros, Paul (March 4, 2012), "Cover story—Full Frontal Fun: Watching Carrie Brownstein in 'Portlandia,' we have to laugh at ourselves", Pacific Northwest magazine (Seattle Times): 9 
  7. ^ Matsul, =Marc (December 17, 2002). "Eastside spotlight: Overlake School". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Levin, Hannah (May 2005). "Rock of the Decade". The Stranger. Sleater-Kinney.Net. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved January 12, 2011. 
  9. ^ Julianne Shepherd (August 28, 2006). "Get Up". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  10. ^ Eat 'em And Smile - Spin Magazine by Caryn Ganz, June 2005 from Sleater-Kinney.Net
  11. ^ "Carrie Brownstein: Sleater-Kinney ‘Will Just Start Playing Music Again’". Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  12. ^ [1] Rolling Stone: Sleater-Kinney Reform, Share Powerful New Song, "Bury Our Friends"
  13. ^ "Carrie Brownstein Talks Sleater-Kinney, Acting, Writing, and More." Pitchfork, March 25, 2010.
  14. ^ a b "Carrie Brownstein: 'I Have A New Band'". All Songs Considered blog. National Public Radio. September 22, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Wild Flag’s Debut Album in Stores". Merge Records blog. September 14, 2011. Retrieved September 19, 2011. 
  16. ^ a b c d "A Final Word From Carrie Brownstein". Monitor Mix (blog). National Public Radio. October 6, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  17. ^ Weil, Elizabeth (December 29, 2011). "Carrie Brownstein, Riot Grrrnup". The New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2012. 
  18. ^ Caramanica, Jon (October 19, 2011). "Wild Flag Is What Passes for an Inspirational Supergroup at CMJ". The New York Times. Retrieved January 1, 2012. 
  19. ^ The Twenty-Five Most Underrated Guitarists Rolling
  20. ^ Contributors: Carrie Brownstein from the The Believer magazine website
  21. ^ Rock Band vs. Real Band, a November 27, 2007 review for Slate
  22. ^ Wii Will Rock You!, a November 19, 2008 review for Slate
  23. ^ Welcome to Monitor Mix from the NPR Music website
  24. ^ Matthew Thornton (March 16, 2009). "Book Deals: Week of 3/16/09". Book News. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  25. ^ "The Sound of Where You Are". Monitor Mix (blog). National Public Radio. December 17, 2007. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  26. ^ 12.4 Candidates Arrive, a February 26, 2007 blog post from the Wieden+Kennedy blog
  27. ^ Carrie Brownstein Talks Spells, Book, Sleater-Kinney a November 2008 article from Pitchfork Media
  28. ^ "Thunderant". Thunderant. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  29. ^ Some Days Are Better Than Others from the Internet Movie Database
  30. ^
  31. ^ "SNL Fans Prepare for 'Portlandia'". IFC Channel. August 6, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  32. ^ "Before There Was 'Portlandia', There Was 'Thunderant'". IFC Channel. October 7, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010. 
  33. ^ "IFC Unveils 2012-13 Programming Slate". Deadline Hollywood. March 20, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2012. 
  34. ^ Sleater-Kinney Last Show from Under the Radar[dead link]
  35. ^ Sleater-Kinney May, or May Not, Be Bidding New York Farewell, an August 4, 2006 article by Jon Pareles for The New York Times
  36. ^ Mock Star a November 3, 2010 article by Aaron Mesh for Willamette Week
  37. ^ Portlandia’s Comedy Chemistry, a January 9, 2012 Elle article. Retrieved on September 14, 2012.
  38. ^ Fred Armisen: Transcript from WNYC's Here's the Thing. Retrieved on September 14, 2012.
  39. ^ "Todd Haynes Discusses ‘Safe,’ Letting Go of the Past, Working With Julianne Moore, and ‘Carol’". 15 December 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 

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