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For Carrie Brownstein, Music Fandom Started At The Record Store

Carrie Brownstein performs at Riot Fest on Sept. 2, 2016, in Denver, Colo.
Thomas Cooper
Getty Images
Carrie Brownstein performs at Riot Fest on Sept. 2, 2016, in Denver, Colo.

Carrie Brownstein has made a name for herself as creator and star of Portlandia and as one-third of the beloved riot grrl band Sleater-Kinney, whose seminal album Dig Me Out recently turned 20. But before all that, Brownstein was just another music fan — and as she tells NPR, her local record store, Rubato Records, was the site of an awakening.

As record shop owners and fans celebrate Record Store Day, Brownstein shares some of the defining moments of her early life as a music lover, including how she first felt the pull of vinyl records. Read highlights below and hear more at the audio link.

Interview Highlights

On discovering vinyl

In the center of the store are two rows of vinyl, and that became this light in the middle of the room that I gravitated towards. I just remember that feeling when you first put your fingertips on the top of the vinyl ... it feels almost like typing, because you have all 10 fingers moving across this stack of records. I just spent about two hours literally looking at every single record they had in that store. I felt like I had discovered a treasure chest, and I dove in.

On the advent of CDs

[They're] so ugly, but at the time they sort of signaled the future. And people just sort of picked them like berries — people were just pulling them off the racks. Everyone was sort of forgetting about their vinyl and they wanted to get everything digital, so you had people just getting like, "Ah, I'm gonna get all my favorite Grateful Dead records on CD now." So people were just walking around the store with these precarious towers of CDs in their arms.

On being both fan and performer

I don't think I realized right away that I was switching from being a fan into being a performer. I've always tried to maintain that duality, because I think fandom is a way of being porous and curious, but it did feel like a step forward. It's almost like you're kind of going from someone that sees yourself in black and white to someone that's starting to see themselves in color. You start to build up to having a body and a voice that you believe in, and I think that was what it was more so than, "OK, well now I've switched over," 'cause I don't think I ever quite want to switch over. I just want to be able to dance between the two.

Web intern Jake Witz and web editor Rachel Horn contributed to this story.

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Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi is a host and reporter for Planet Money, telling stories that creatively explore and explain the workings of the global economy. He's a sucker for a good supply chain mystery — from toilet paper to foster puppies to specialty pastas. He's drawn to tales of unintended consequences, like the time a well-intentioned chemistry professor unwittingly helped unleash a global market for synthetic drugs, or what happened when the U.S. Patent Office started granting patents on human genes. And he's always on the lookout for economic principles at work in unexpected places, like the tactics comedians use to protect their intellectual property (a.k.a. jokes).