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Quasi Bring in Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker, Steven Malkmus for 'Battle Hymns' Compilation

We spoke to Janet Weiss about the record and the decision to donate all proceeds to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and 350.org.

by Alex Robert Ross
Jan 20 2017, 6:13pm

This morning, a music writer who I hold in high esteem wrote something extremely stupid about feeling guilt towards the inherent "escapism" of music. Fuck that. If you want to spend the next four years glazing over and drifting into a sloppy inertia, that's your call; but this isn't just about survival, it's about resistance and defiance. Standing up for civil rights and human rights is important now that a pussy-grabbing racist is assuming power. Standing up for art and beauty is important, too. They're inseparable.

This morning, Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes of Quasi released a compilation album called Battle Hymns. The duo act as a backing band on a number of the songs and contribute one track themselves, "Ballad of Donald Duck & Elmer Fudd." The record also features Weiss's Sleater-Kinney bandmates Carrie Brownstein (MEDS) and Corin Tucker (alongside Peter Buck in Filthy Friends). In fact, the 14-track album is a round-up of indie rock's guiding lights: Mary Timony (Helium, Ex Hex, Wild Flag), Steven Malkmus (Pavement), Doug Martsch (Built to Spill), and Kathy Foster (The Thermals). It's available to download on Quasi's website right now for a recommended donation of $20 with all proceeds being split equally between Planned Parenthood, The ACLU and 350.org.

We called Weiss, who's in Washington D.C. right now, to talk about the album and the role she sees music playing in the next four years.

Noisey: How did the compilation come about?
Janet Weiss: It just came about discussions between Sam and me about the state of our politics, discussing our heartbreak at the election, and the disbelief of the values and ideas of the values that are being supported by a large portion of the country. As musicians, that's where we have our voice. We wanted to rally people together and to use this as a way to strengthen our community and the bonds between us as musicians: sharpen our teeth, get some practice in speaking out. I think we're going to be doing a lot of that. But mostly trying to take a positive way of making people feel connected. We feel downtrodden, what we stand for is not important to a lot of people in the country. We want to stick together. We wanted to do something, say something, and get down to business, become more active.

And then the idea was that we wanted to involve our friends, people we know who are feeling the same way. We wanted to put it out on Inauguration Day, donating proceeds to organizations who are going to have their hands full over the next four years.

Was Quasi's role as a backing band planned from the start?
Yeah, because it had to be done so quickly, we wanted to give people the option of playing without getting the band together, talking to the label. We wanted to keep it uncomplicated. We offered our collaboration. But it turned out to be nearly the most rewarding thing about it.

Your music has never shied away from these conversations, particularly on a record like One Beat. How do you see rock music's role going forward with Trump as President.
I truly believe that the best music is expressive of the people who make it. Good music, when you know good music, you get a feeling of the people who make the music. There's no way of separating a people's experiences from the music. Music is so deep and so personal. Hopefully the music that is going to be made expresses the tension and uneasiness and also expresses this desire for community and connectedness and understanding. It's interesting, people comment on things like this, "I just want musicians to make the music, I don't want to think about politics." But someone who's said that is obviously not a musician. To be a musician is to be a person; to be a person is to experience life. These are all experiences that people are having.

What's the mood like in DC right now?
I'm here for the march tomorrow. Sleater-Kinney is playing a 20 minute set at a Planned Parenthood benefit tomorrow night. But I got here at midnight. I've been working on getting the comp out. The mood at the friend's house is disbelief and shock. My hope is that after the march tomorrow, we can turn that into a feeling of togetherness.

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