There's no getting around the whole supergroup thing with Wild Flag. You don't want to bring it up, but you can't really talk about the band without getting into the four members' pasts and how awesome it is that they're all getting together for this new project.
This summit of some of indie rock's most kick-ass women — Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, the Minders' Rebecca Cole, and Helium's Mary Timony — could easily have turned into Sleater-Kinney minus singer Corin Tucker, since Brownstein's distinctive vocals and guitar slashing, as well as Weiss' solid drum fills, anchored one of the Pacific Northwest's best indie bands.
But singer and guitarist Timony adds another level of guitar fury to Wild Flag that twists many of the songs on their excellent self-titled debut album into glistering, propulsive bundles of energy that often go beyond Sleater-Kinney's femme-punk workouts. Whether or not it was their intention, Wild Flag flip the concept of both girl groups and supergroups.
"It's different than any other band I've been in, where the songwriter brings the song," says Cole, who plays keyboards and, like all the ladies, sings. "We all work together here. You want your bandmates to be honest with you — 'Rebecca, that song kinda sounds like Rick Springfield' — but it can be sad. 'Oh, I just wrote a Rick Springfield riff.' But I'm glad they're hearing things I'm not."
Buzz has been building for Wild Flag since early this year, when the band hit the road — including a stop at South by Southwest — to test out its songs. By the time they stepped into the studio, things had been hammered out and nailed down to the point where the album could pretty much be recorded with minimal overdubs. "I enjoy the process of giving a song life by playing it live over and over before we commit it to record," says Cole. "It's hard to see what sticks when you're in a little eight-by-eight practice space."
It helps that all four women played major parts in their former bands (in addition to their main groups, they individually have ties to Quasi, Bright Eyes, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks too). Wild Flag pull from all of their experiences — from songwriting to recording to compiling set lists. They've all been through this before.
So, you see, there's really no way around the Wild Flag-are-a-supergroup issue. But Cole insists that Wild Flag differ from other supergroups, from Blind Faith to the Traveling Wilburys, because they plan to stick around a while. It's everyone's new full-time gig. "We all put a lot of effort into this," she says. "The idea is not a one-off record. This isn't a side project for any of us."