Spinning Platters Interview: Corin Tucker & Peter Buck of Filthy Friends

by Dakin Hardwick on September 4, 2017

You have 15 minutes in a room with two of your idols to ask them whatever you want. Here’s how that goes…

Photo taken at The Independent in SF on 8.29.17

R.E.M. changed my life. If it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have found rock ‘n’ roll. At least they were my gateway band, the band that introduced me to punk, folk, power pop, and even hip hop. Sleater-Kinney are a band I found in high school, and they quickly became my favorite band. Little did I expect that cofounder Corin Tucker would form a band with R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck many years later. That band is Filthy Friends, and they recently released a fantastic record. We had the opportunity to chat with them just before they played the Independent. I tried not to geek out too much.

Spinning Platters: Also, I am nervous because two of my childhood idols are right in front of me, so … .

Peter Buck: That just makes me feel so old.

Corin Tucker: <laughs>

SP: All right, so before anything else, how does this relate to super-Earth?

CT: Same band, different —

PB: This is a comeback tour.

CT: Yeah. We broke up. We got back together.

SP: Okay. Well what’s with the name change? Why did Filthy Friends feel … more right?

CT: Um, there was actually another super-Earth…

SP: Oh!

CT: They wrote to us and were like, “Hey man, we had the name first. Could you please change yours?” And so we did. Well, we were like — we didn’t know what we were doing. We were just getting a project together and stuff, and so, yeah. Then we went through 100 other names and 500 other names. <laughs>

SP: Filthy Friends is a fun concept. What were others you rejected?

CT: Oh my God. There were a ton. There was like —

PB: I’ve blocked a lot of them out from my mind.

CT: Yeah, there was like — I wanna say they were like, earthy … .

PB: I think there was, you know, wasn’t, um — what’s my publishing company called?

CT: Wormwood Starsong?

PB: Well that’s Wormwood Star, or something. That’s my publishing company.

SP: That’s a good name.

PB: Wormwood Starsong is, if you read the Bible, you know. Wormwood Star, may be metaphoric. It’s a star that brings evil to the world, could be a demon. It’s the Bible so who knows? Wormwood — it’s a poison, so it’s obviously of English derivation. It’s an English spelling. I don’t know why I named my publishing company that.

SP: Well, evil makes sense to publishing. I don’t know.

PB: It is kind of evil, isn’t it? <laughs>

SP: Despierta. That’s an old song, if I remember right.

CT: Yeah, well, we kind of started working on the songs in like 2012–2013, and that was one of the first ones that we were working on. It was way before Trump announced he was running for election. It was more about — just talking about kind of the balance of power in the United States and how the demographics I think are changing that. … Some people are really uncomfortable with that, and I think we’re kind of witnessing this giant power struggle that’s happening right now, you know? I mean, it’s gotten — it’s really gotten ugly, I think.

SP: Is there a specific Senator that you were thinking, or is it a general —

CT:  No, it was like a general idea of, you know, just like how long are we going to acquiesce to having so many white men in charge? Like, why is that still happening? Why is it so incredibly not diverse in terms of who’s ruling our political class, you know? Like I just — it’s just frustrating to see so many people — and especially with Trump, you know? Like, so many women voted for him, and it’s just incredibly frustrating that the status quo has just been, like, fucking internalized so deeply, you know? I hope that younger people will really fucking vote in 2018 and really start thinking about how we can diversify politics and make it more truly representational.

SP: I concur. I was freaked out when I saw there was a movement to repeal the women’s right to vote ahead of the election.

PB: The whole thing’s confusing. I mean, when I was a kid, the Equal Rights Amendment could not get passed, even though every single person in congress, ostensibly, is married to a woman, because there aren’t any gay people in congress in those days, and just think no equality for your wife, how weird is that? Who thinks that is a good thing? I just, it still — it never passed. It just still blows my mind. I was like 15, I was like, “I can’t believe this.”

SP: Actually, on the topic, R.E.M. were touring during a past anti-fascist movement, in the ‘80s. How does it feel being on the road now versus then?

PB: Well, you know, there are two different worlds we live in. There’s the world that we wander around in. There’s Portland and up and down the West Coast. That’s a way different world than when you drive cross-country. You drive through the Midwest, you know. If I didn’t pay attention to what’s happening — my world hasn’t changed. I’m a white guy, you know? I’ve seen worse stuff in Portland. I think a lot of us were really shocked at how, honestly, how fucking backwards the rest of the country was. I mean, you know, Trump is probably the least Christian person that’s run, as far as the ideals that a Christian is supposed to — the words of Christ. Which no Christian actually follows. But he’s just the antithesis of that, so somehow, all these people are just going, “Yeah that’s fine. That’s pretty much close enough for me.” And then again, you know, I lived through Nixon and Reagan, and you know — the hell with it. I can deal with all this.

SP: That makes me feel kinda good, hearing that. On that note, you guys started this tour right when so many things happened. How do you deal with political world anxiety when you’re on the road?

PB: For me it’s no different than every day anxiety. Everything makes me nervous, and then you just, you know? Deal with it.

CT: I think actually, being on the road, for me, is less stressful in some ways, because you have so many other things to think about, I don’t have any time to worry about the stuff that’s going on, you know? And plus, playing a show is like the best therapy ever. … I’ve always been really calm on tour, for the most part, because I enjoy all the different jobs you have to do — and playing the show and then traveling the next day. You don’t really have any time to worry about things, you know?

SP: Kinda nice, actually. Well, that’s the heavy stuff out of the way. So, you can say no to this question if you want, because I’m sure you’re heard it a million times before, but has there ever been any interest in a Heavens to Betsy reunion, is that something that’s ever come up?

CT: Um, there was maybe some talk of it when like our first record had like a 20-year anniversary, or something, but no. It hasn’t really ever come up, in terms of resurrecting the band.

SP: Yeah? I’m surprised by that.

CT: But, you know, there’s this movie that came out really recently called Izzy Gets The Fuck Across Town, an alternative movie in L.A., and they took a Heavens to Betsy song and changed the arrangement in the movie. It’s incredible. It’s really good. Um, so the two actresses, kinda famous actresses, Mackenzie (Davis) and, this other one, Carrie (Coon). They sing it and play it, and they do this duo vocal arrangement, and it’s really good.

SP: That’s cool! What song did they do?

CT: Axemen.

SP: That’s something I will look for later.

CT: Yeah, it’s really good. I haven’t seen the film because we were going to Norway, but I saw the scene, and I was like, wow. It turned out really good.

SP: Both of you come from bands that mean a whole lot to a lot of people, what does it feel like when you encounter a fan that’s like, your music changed my life. Like, such-and-such song, made things better for me in an intense period. How does that feel?

CT: I think that, you know, it’s such a deep compliment for a writer, that you create something and it had an impact on someone. Like, that’s kinda what you go through all the bullshit for? You know? And, it’s so much more meaningful than being popular, where it doesn’t really have any real resonance for people, and I think that those are kind of the things that you’re truly hoping for when you write something, is that it will have some kind of impact on someone?

SP: That’s awesome. I’m not gonna name my two for you guys, so … .

<Peter and Corin laugh>

SP: Actually, I will. So, “Finest Worksong.”

PB: Oh yeah.

SP: And, it’s actually a hard one for me, your music, because you’ve meant so much to me for so many different periods of time. But I would say, probably either “Step Aside,” or, I’m spacing on this. <singing> I had a feeling I heard your name the other day.

CT: Oh, “Quarter to Three”?

SP: No, it’s a Call the Doctor song.

CT: Oh, uh, “Good Things”?

SP: “Good Things,” yes. “Good Things” is the only song of yours that I’ve cried at live.

CT: Okay … .

SP: Sorry. Okay. Getting that out of the way.

CT: <laughs>

SP: Sleater-Kinney covered “Rock Lobster.” Corin Tucker Band would do “Cool” by Pylon.  You’re in a band with this gentleman right here. What is it about Athens, Georgia, that means so much to you?

CT: <laughs> Um, I was mildly obsessed with Athens when I was in high school, and might have watched that movie Athens, GA: Inside/Out, like, 30 times. I just really, really, really loved all the music coming out of there, and I loved the people, and what they were doing, and the passion they had for it. Like it really seemed like they were doing what they wanted to do. They were great at it. They wanted to change the world, and like, there was no ambiguity. Like they all just seemed like they were exactly who they wanted to be, and as a kid, growing up in the ‘80s, like the culture was repulsive to me in so many different ways. … I was just like, “I wanna meet those people. I want to see how they’re doing that.” And I needed to go, and study it for myself, to figure out, like, how are they doing this, and so I went there. Tracy and I, from Heavens to Betsy, like I dragged her. I went to Athens. It was crazy — I was only 17. She must have been 16. Like we’re lucky we didn’t die or whatever.

But, um, we met these really nice people, this band, Earthworms, that were from there. They like — they never got popular. They weren’t the greatest band in the world, but they were just the nicest people. They just hung out with us, and we kind of talked to them about being in a band, and I just was gathering information in my head, and then — we went back to Eugene, and I went to college, and I was just like, okay. We’re gonna start a band.

SP: That’s awesome. So Athens, Georgia, is what made this happen.

CT: I think so, yeah.

SP: Huh. I like the full circle of it. Awesome.

Filthy Friends Self Titled Debut Record is out NOW on Kill Rock Stars. They have a handful of East Coast Tour Dates left on this run, and hopefully they will be back on the road soon!

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