Queens of Noise: Wild Flag at Black Cat

March 9, 2011


For a band only a handful of people have actually heard, Wild Flag is doing pretty well. Without so much as a 7-inch available, the post-punk quartet have sold out shows all over the West Coast and set off a major blog buzz.

On the Wild Flag Facebook page, fans desperately scrounge for tickets. One woman is plotting her hitchhiking route across Florida to get to a show.

You’d think the Portland, Ore./D.C. outfit was some kind of supergroup — one featuring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, two ex-members of Riot-Grrrl legend Sleater-Kinney, and one of D.C.’s best-loved guitarists, Mary Timony.

“Let’s not water down what ‘super’ means by applying it to us,” protests Brownstein. “Asia, the Traveling Wilburys: That’s a supergroup. We’re just some people in a band.”

The last time Brownstein played in D.C., it was 2006, at a sold-out 9:30 Club for Sleater-Kinney’s farewell show. Since then, Sleater-Kinney fans have had a new solo release and tour from ex-S-K guitarist and vocalist Corin Tucker to fill the void. Wild Flag, meanwhile, has been cloaked in a bit more mystery for anyone who hasn’t managed to get a ticket to the band’s initial slate of West Coast dates. Last Friday, NPR posted an exclusive stream of “Glass Tambourine,” a harmony-driven rocker penned by Timony that will be the B-side of a rabidly anticipated 7-inch set to drop on April 16. Until then, that’s the only place to hear Wild Flag outside of a stage.

This isn’t clever viral marketing, Brownstein says. Wild Flag might be made up of legitimate rock stars, but it’s still a band just starting out. “We’re not purposely trying to be mysterious,” the singer says. “Just because we have a lot of experience playing doesn’t mean we have a lot of experience playing with each other. We want to put out a record that has an energy to it, not a tentative record that sounds like us trying to figure out how to be a band.”

The group recorded the two 7-inch tracks back in January, with Spoon frontman Britt Daniel handling production. The vinyl will be available only at live shows before April 16 but will be available online — and digitally — through Merge Records after that date. Wild Flag will head into the studio in April to record its debut full-length album with producer Chris Woodhouse after wrapping up 12 East Coast tour dates, which will offer some needed practice time. Being a bi-coastal band — Timony lives in D.C., the rest of the band in Portland — means most of their musical growth happens in front of an audience. This is a change for the classically trained Timony, whose solo material and work with bands like Helium has been more recording-driven.

“I’m not really a live performer,” says Timony, who recorded with Brownstein in 2000 with the short-lived Spells. “If there’s a band whose record I like, I want to see them live, not the other way around. But that’s what this band focuses on. And that’s great for me, because all of them are great live performers and I feel like I’m getting better at that.”

The Black Cat is the largest club Wild Flag will play at on the East Coast, a step up from a cramped bar in Washington state Timony recalls as one of their first gigs.

“It had this tiny stage, made for two people to play acoustic guitar. [Keyboardist Rebecca Cole] had to set up in the middle of the floor,” she says. “The bar also allowed dogs, so there were all these dogs at the show.”

That’s right: Everybody and their dog wants to see Wild Flag.

“I think the dogs enjoyed the show,” Timony muses. “They didn’t really say much about it.”

The Corin Tucker Band
Ex-Sleater-Kinney guitarist and vocalist Corin Tucker released her first solo disc in October and played a hard-rocking show at the Black Cat in November. “Corin is one of my best friends,” Brownstein says. “I am really proud of her. I could never make a solo record, and I think it’s a total act of bravery. Corin’s a rocker at heart. She loves pretty songs and quiet songs, and likes writing them. But when she gets onstage, she wants to rock.”

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; with the Aquarium; Thu., 8 p.m., $13; 202-667-7960. (U St.-Cardozo)

Photo by John Clark

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Shauna Miller | March 9, 2011