"I think it's as much to do with the way we deliver the message," says drummer Janet Weiss, quoted in this article. "We're maybe a little bit more wild, more reluctant to play things by the book." Sleater-Kinney emerged from the indie music scene in Olympia, Washington, and stayed indie throughout their 11-year career as a band. "It was strange, even in that little indie-rock world, where everything's supposed to be cool and liberated, someone had their guard up because we're an all-woman band."
Though they have resisted being labeled as just a riot grrrl band, a feminist band, or a women's band, Sleater-Kinney's calling card is a conscious pride in who they are: indie, feminist punks who turned down plenty of big label offers in their day. They are fine with being riot grrrls, they're just not fine with being depicted as mere riot grrrls. And they're fine with getting attention, as long as it doesn't take away from their artistic integrity.
"It's important to us to be successful at our music," says Weiss. "We're ambitious people and want people to hear our music. But all the accoutrements are not that appealing." The accoutrements? All the superficiality, commercialism, and sexism of the mainstream rock industry--an industry thoroughly mocked by a decent number of Sleater-Kinney songs and intelligently picked over by Sleater-Kinney's members in countless interviews.
Dig Me Out was released on Kill Rock Stars, an indie label whose name should indicate its politics. On Kill Rock Stars, the band kept releasing critically acclaimed albums, and kept turning down offers from bigger labels. "I've never seen a band go from selling 10,000 to 20,000 records to selling 100,000 without freaking out about the attention," Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon told Spin in 2004. After Dig Me Out was released, "Sleater-Kinney were more critically acclaimed than anybody besides Radiohead, so the nature of the attention put them on the spot."
Even though they were on the spot, especially after the popularity of Dig Me Out the band stuck together and stuck to their punk, indie guns. And the critics loved that, too: "Nobody has ever traveled this far using the punk-rock map, and sometimes it's a lonely place to be," Rob Sheffield gushed in Rolling Stone. Another critic called them "one of the decade's staunchest proponents of punk's do-it-yourself ethic… They've proven that you can sell lots of records without buying into the rock star myth."
Or, as Weiss put it, "We're not rich, but we're still doing it!"
As media savvy riot grrrls, Sleater-Kinney always knew they would have to push against a lot of contradiction in order to get the attention they desired as a band. They merely planned around the obstacles, rejected lots of record deals, and kept making good music. "If Tucker is appalled by the politics of the rock-and-roll star system, she's driven by the ambition to get what she has to say across," said the Boston Phoenix in 1996. "Too many rock critics have dismissed riot grrrl because it hasn't made a commercial impact (as if the charts were all that mattered), but much of the greatest rock and roll hasn't made that kind of impact. To wonder whether riot grrrl will reach the masses or whether Sleater-Kinney are rock and roll's future is not the point. This is: for anyone with the ears to hear, they are its present."