December 13th, 2011
04:15 PM ET

Soundcheck: 'Portlandia' star and her Wild Flag band members

Carrie Brownstein has been plenty busy, between working on a book and her sketch comedy TV show with Fred Armisen, "Portlandia," but she's also back to touring and recording with Wild Flag.

Wild Flag is a Frankenstein monster (in a good way), made up from parts of the Minders (Rebecca Cole), Helium (Mary Timony) and Sleater-Kinney (Brownstein and drummer Janet Weiss).

On paper, the disparate sounds of these bands wouldn't seem ideal for melding, but on their debut album they emerge with a sound that manages to evoke their past projects while also remaining cohesive. They bring an energy to their live performances that evinces a hunger one might not expect from performers as accomplished as they already are.

Though Sleater-Kinney and Helium toured together in the '90s, Weiss says that Wild Flag was not a project long in the works. It sprang from music that Brownstein was asked to compose for a film about feminist art called "Women Art Revolution."

Only after tossing around some "ditties" did the musicians start to think that maybe it would be a full-fledged new band.

CNN talked to Wild Flag before a recent concert at Athens, Georgia's 40 Watt club. The following is an edited version of  the interview.

CNN: Mary Timony, do you write songs any differently for Wild Flag than you did in previous bands or as a solo artist?

Mary Timony: Yeah, the songs are totally different from anything I've been involved in. The way it works is one of us will bring in chords and a melody or just an idea, and we all work on it together. It's totally collaborative, and we've also written songs actually in the practice space. Just like, "let's find some notes that work, let's write a song," and just do it. We just jam it out… For the ideas that I've been thinking of I really try to think of stuff that's going to be exciting for everybody and I don't know, something that will work. It's hard, it's fun, it's a fun process.

Janet Weiss: I feel like as we've developed we've sort of learned how to play together better, and how to write together in a more cohesive way. The songs start to sound like us, the four of us, instead of like individuals, which has been pretty exciting.

CNN: Carrie, you were a music critic for NPR - do you think that is an advantage for you going back to music, or a disadvantage?

Carrie Brownstein: That's just who I am. I mean, that critic in my head is never turned off. So that existed when I was in Sleater-Kinney too. I just didn't have an outlet for it, but I keep it pretty separate. It's definitely not an advantage. I don't know, I don't understand the question.

CNN: Well it could be good in the sense of maybe you wrote about things that you hadn't thought about in music before that you can incorporate into your own output, but it could also be bad in the sense that it could create baggage like, "I wrote X about X band and now I can't turn around and do the same thing."

Brownstein: If anything, I think writing about music has made me love contemporary music a lot because I just love where things are right now and am excited to be part of that.

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