Posted March 5, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment
 
 

Broken Water Releases ‘Wrought’

Over beers at Le Voyeur, Broken Water talks about Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, and Making Bros Cry



By Josh Wolf

The show ended with the guitar screaming face down in the drums. Jon Hanna left his guitar lying nervously on Kanako Pooknyw’s drum, while Pooknyw yelled improv into the microphone and clashed down upon her bellowing drums.

Hanna’s long grunge-blond hair veiled his ambivalent gaze as he walked away, abandoning the guitar with its strings buried in Pooknyw’s bass drum. The two musicians had known one another for 11 years, and this final act of the night—a chaotic exertion, a spontaneous release—had become a closing ritual for the two founding members of Broken Water. Eventually, Hanna shut off his guitar, and Pooknyw disappeared behind the black stage curtain at Obsidian Feb. 7. The packed room, filled with musicians, artists, and fans cheered; it was a typical Olympia night.

A few weeks after their show at Obsidian, I had a drink with Pooknyw and Hanna at Le Voyeur to talk about Broken Water, Olympia, and their upcoming full length album, Wrought.

Today, Broken Water is a staple Olympia band: formed in 2006, the band has toured the U.S. multiple times, completed countless west-coast tours, and put out seven releases. The band is gearing up for another West Coast tour this March, as well as a full U.S. tour over the summer. They’re also planning a two-month European tour this fall.

Broken Water’s upcoming album, Wrought, will be released digitally and on vinyl March 24 by Night-People Records—a small, but busy independent label run by Shawn Reed in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Wrought was recorded by the legendary Pacific Northwest sound engineer Steve Fisk at AVAST! Recording Co. in Seattle. Fisk, who worked with Nirvana, Soundgarden, Beat Happening, and many others, attended Evergreen in the ‘70s and was roommates with Peter Randlette who now teaches sound engineering classes at Evergreen.

Pookynw came to Olympia in 1994 to go to the Evergreen State College, but her academic career didn’t last long. “Why would you pay to go to school?” said Pookynw. “Smash the state, learn to skate.” While she wasn’t meant to be at Evergreen, she has been in Olympia ever since.

Pookynw spoke about Olympia in the mid-90s when the town’s music scene was at its peak. “Back when this town had tons of vibrant record labels, and everybody worked there, it was just a really different scene than it is now,” said Pookynw. Kill Rock Stars—the record label that released Elliott Smith, Bikini Kill, the Gossip, and Unwound—rented a space from Pookynw, and gave her free rein of the label’s discography. Pookynw remembers Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill frequenting Pookynw’s clothing shop, Dumpster Values.

There’s a unique openness and accessibility to Olympia’s music scene. Pookynw mentioned going to one of Sleater-Kinney’s first shows at the Midnight Sun. After the show, she went to talk to the band. “I went up to Carrie [Brownstein], and I was like, ‘Do you guys need a bass player? I totally want to play bass for you.’ And she got really offended! [laughs] But I guess it was kind of rude of me. I was like 19 and thought I was hot shit, so whatever.”

Like Pookynw, Hanna also planned to attend Evergreen, but dropped out within a year in 2001. Instead of studying, Hanna became a part of the Olympia music scene that he admired as a kid. “I grew up as a teenager listening to all the old Olympia bands on the East Coast. And moving out here, over the years, now I’m like, friends with Justin from Unwound, and Tobi from Bikini Kill. Billy [of Bikini Kill] was my roommate for a while. These were the people I grew up listening to when I was a kid. So, Olympia’s kind of special.”

While it’s no longer the mid-90s, with Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, and Beat Happening playing killer shows, Olympia’s scene is still tight-knit and strong. As I was sitting with Hanna and Pookynw at Le Voyeur, Adam Barnes of the punk band GAG stopped to talk to Pookynw about his show in Seattle with the Cro-Mags. A few minutes latter, Long Haired David, who founded Olympia’s first needle exchange, the Emma Goldman Youth and Homeless Outreach Project, came up to Pookynw with a ring and jokingly asked her to marry him. “I don’t believe in marriage. We’re doing an interview,” she said. “Well, can we go steady?” asked David. “Oh my god, no! I just feel extra lesbian right now,” said Pookynw.

There’s a light-hearted human quality to Broken Water’s presence. It’s not uncommon for the band to have to start a song a few times before finally getting it right, but Broken Water’s lack of precision ultimately adds to their passion. While they don’t always play every note perfectly—or intentionally—Broken Water thrives on the moment. If the show feels good, Hanna and Pooknyw will end their performance with a burst of improv that leaves the audience shocked and fulfilled.

Shocking the listener with a soothing catharsis seems to be Broken Water’s mission. When I asked Pookynw what she wants people to take away from the music, she told me about a man coming up to her in tears after a show in Vancouver, BC.

“He had gotten dumped like six weeks ago, it’d been a while, but he just started bawling. He was just shattered, and he couldn’t contain his emotions anymore. He was just wretched over in tears, and for the first time in his life he was just able to unleash that part of his emotional landscape…This bro dude with his baseball cap on backwards, and some baggy ass pants at our show, who totally stuck out at the weird ass old school gay bar we were at, was just so sad…That’s the kind of music we make—for bros to cry to. That’s all we want in this world. If all the bros in this world would just start crying, everything would be better.”