From high school quad performances to tours that took them all over the world and back, Brett Anderson was on the front line for it all. She lived the dream and loved every minute of it. These days, Brett Anderson is still pursuing her musical passions with her new band The Stripminers as well as attending Stanford University where she is majoring in psychology. I was absolutely ecstatic when Brett agreed to take some time out of her very busy schedule to do an interview with me.
Brett, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. Thanks for having me, Don. What made you decided to go back to school?
We were all just kind of looking around for other stuff to do and I just started taking classes at the community college. We always said we were going to go back to school once our tour was over. It took about four years to do my first two years [laughs]. We all went to a semester of college before we went on our first tour because we figured that the odds of it working out were pretty low.
Does it blow your mind to think that album was released 15 years ago? The whole thing about people worrying about getting old and people really identifying with a certain age is so ridiculous to me. Our age is constantly changing at every instant. I feel sort of both ways. Sometimes I feel like when I was younger, I was super excited to grow up and be an adult but now, as an adult, you can be a kid if you want to be and just tap into that. I grew up in America. I had big dreams. We all had really big dreams for The Donnas and I think we did a lot of amazing stuff.
I could see us having gone a lot farther but there was just a combination of a lot of things working against us.
When we released our 2nd album on Atlantic, it shipped on a Tuesday and Tuesday around 10am they started coming back because they were defective.
I think well did everything that we could. We all agreed to make this our number one and only thing. We put everything aside for this.
It was like you were the female Poison! Instead of writing songs about empowerment, we just sort of took on the role and made music like the bands we liked. Some were female, some were not.
Do you feel the same way? I pretty much said that I would sing anything and just let it all fall to the wayside. The Donnas were said to be recording a new album but then all of the sudden there was radio silence.
Yeah, actually, we were pretty far into the next record and that was another batch of themes and a departure from what we had done before which was really cool. Early in our career, everything had a momentum and it just got to this point where that momentum, while it was self fueled, things just seemed to be spaced further apart. Do you ever at times think that maybe you guys were a bit early in the game? I do feel like that when we started in , there were a ton of girl bands.
At the time I was listening to a lot of PJ Harvey so the making of that record. Oh that is so cool. I was so excited for that song because it felt like a totally different side that I was able to come from.
One thing I did on that record was in order to get down what you wanted to hear on a recording you have to kind of exaggerate a little bit. I never really did that before. In the studio I would usually sing exactly what I wanted to sing exactly how I wanted to hear it but in playback it would always be a little bit less.
Then I realized, you have to go a little bit overboard. People have known this for years but I was just figuring it. We would always do a safe take and then I do progressively crazier and crazier takes until I got to the point where it was just too much and not working. It was always about finding that limit.
You should put those out! It was just ridiculous. It was cool because I just felt a bit more confident and had so much support from the band. I was able to just go overboard with them and not worry about what they were going to think about it.
We all just had a common goal and that was to find the limit. How do those rank? We were such goons too on the back cover of that one by the lockers [laughs]. They all kind of converge at that point for me. That one was more Ramones like. We were doing both bands at the same time so that album merged the two bands. Skintight and Turn That was an interesting transition because that was the Lookout Records years. Those albums became a cohesive sound. It was so tight and it really sounded like a band that had cut their teeth on the road.
We had toured a ton by then and kind of worked out a lot of the kinks by then. I love that record. From the album cover to the videos it was all just super fun to make. We kind of had a narrative going on with that album and that was really fun. Closure is a strange thing.
Do reunion tours give people closure [laughs]? Does it give people closure or is it the opening of a new door? This is a significantly different thing that what you did with the Donnas. Was this another side of you that you just felt like you needed to artistically do? It was all pretty organic the way it evolved. I just ran into a friend from San Francisco at a coffee shop in LA and he told me that he needed a female voice on a recording with this band that he was working with.
It was really fun. I sang on two songs and they were making a video so I was in the video with them. We ended up just sending each other songs back and forth and then went into the studio for three days and cut the first Stripminers record.
No, those were different sessions. Was this a natural progression into this dark, rootsy kind of psych country stuff? Well, we changed the way we wrote songs for this record. Paul and I would always send ideas back and forth to each other but for this one, we actually did a lot of writing in the studio. I have a big book of lyrics that I can flip through so we would started putting parts together and then we would put them to a melody and then I would just sing on it. With us all in the same room, there was a more creative momentum.
Even on the first record, there was a kind of folky feeling but there was a dark turn to it. Yeah, actually, I like to sift for gold with lyrics. How is the creative process in the Stripminers different from The Donnas? In the Donnas were just such old friends so we would get together and have snacks and just write songs. Talk about it being a long time ago. What are my chances of seeing a Stripminers show here?
Everyone is so busy with other projects. Atlanta would be one of the places that I would want to go. I never had that moment [laughs]. In fact, I remember writing in my journal when I was a kid the two things I never wanted to be was a hairdresser or a singer [laughs].
It just seemed ridiculously hard and ridiculously exposed. I do have a big mouth and a big voice with a lot to say so it turned out to be a really good job for that. I honestly never felt like I was a good singer but one thing I really did begin to enjoy further down the line was doing harmonies with my own recordings.
Tragic, dark, a little bit of jazz, a little bit like a soundtrack vibe because I really love how music adds to picture. That will be coming out soon. I was watching Orange is the New Black and that Regina Spektor song made me jealous for a second because I wanted us to do that.
I thought it was cool that she did that and it kind of sets the tone for that show. I mean, where are people getting their music from today? TV right now is like the new radio and music supervisors are going to great lengths to find things that fit really well and that are even obscure. That, to me, is a really exciting area. I also feel that Stripminers would be really good for soundtrack stuff too.