WITH LITTLE FANFARE, Wild Flag seemed to emerge fully formed. The "supergroup" boasted a lineup that, unlike other supergroups, really did seem super: Helium's Mary Timony, the Minders' Rebecca Cole, and former Sleater-Kinney members Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss. Last September, they announced their existence without any advance buzz or murmur, brandishing a clutch of tour dates and news of an album on the way. That its members had numerous other commitments—Brownstein's Portlandia and Weiss' Quasi among them—made their entry into the world that much more miraculous.
It quickly became evident that Wild Flag was no part-time goof or indulgent friend-jam sesh. Their first few live dates were dazzling, with the band's interplay impressively tight. And for good reason: Not only had Brownstein and Weiss played together in Sleater-Kinney for many years, but Brownstein and Timony also had a group together called the Spells, and Weiss and Cole were both members of the Shadow Mortons. Furthermore, the four had convened to work on the score for the 2010 documentary !Women Art Revolution.
"I think the important thing to take away from that collaboration," says Weiss of the documentary soundtrack, "is that we worked together so quickly and it was so much fun, and there was a sense of being prolific that I think we were all craving. Obviously, Carrie and I hadn't played together in years, and I think that collaboration just reminded me of the ease with which we play together and write together—our unspoken language that we have that makes things click. It allows you to take music to the next level when you have that."
Wild Flag's first, self-titled full-length is fluid, jangly, and absolutely great—both sweetly laidback and tightly heavy when it's required to be. It's the kind of record that makes you wish intelligent people were still allowed to use the word "groovy." Wild Flag upholds the impressively rich history of each of the group's members, but it also contains a deep appreciation for rock 'n' roll history—there's punk's franticness, power pop's interlocking chordal architecture, a hint of classic rock's grandiosity. There's even room for an epic facemelter in the near-seven-minute "Racehorse." There isn't a song that you don't feel the urge to sway to.
It was important at the start to let Wild Flag accumulate its own momentum, Weiss says. "In a lot of ways, when you have your first band with your first record, that's the one and only chance you have to sneak up on people and truly surprise them. And we didn't want to spoil that for ourselves.
"At the beginning, we wanted to be able to play shows and not have people know everything about us, or have heard our songs and know what we're going to wear and what the set list is going to be," Weiss continues. "We wanted to be able to sort of sneak into those first shows. We were just trying to figure out who we were as a band and what this thing was going to be—because we didn't know for sure either. We were surprising ourselves at the same time. There was a sense of exploration right at the beginning that was really important for us, and really important for the eventual identity of the band, which is still changing—although it's become a little bit clearer at this point."