Kathleen Hanna hits personal notes on Julie Ruin album

The indie punk band plays songs from ‘Hit Reset’ on its summer tour, which comes to the Marble Bar in Detroit on Friday.

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Kathleen Hanna, an icon for feminism and independent punk rock since the 1990s, has always used personal experiences in her music. Her latest record with her band the Julie Ruin, however, may be the most real she’s ever gotten behind the mic.

On the band’s new album “Hit Reset,” released last week, Hanna says she focused a lot on the lyrics, but at the same time found herself singing about things she didn’t purposefully set out to write about.

“I did try to work really hard on the lyrics, but also there was a time period where I didn’t know what a lot of the lyrics were and they were just coming out unconsciously like a little spitter spatter at a time,” she says. “And I’d be like, oh (expletive)... this is about my dad.”

She recalls things her father did when she was younger that make her angry as a grown woman. “I want to tell those details,” she says, recalling the time her father wore an apron with a derogatory word for a woman on it to cook dinner. And there was the time, after her parents divorced, when he picked her up in his car with a bumper sticker that said “ex-wife in trunk.”

“I had to act like it was funny so we could go on our one trip a year together,” she said. “We’re driving around in a car that says my mom’s dead in the back. I don’t understand.”

The new album also has the anthemic, empowering songs that one would expect from a Kathleen Hanna project. (She’s best known as lead singer of ’90s punk band Bikini Kill and dance punk band Le Tigre.) On the track “I Decide” Hanna shouts over a driving rock beat about having autonomy and choices.

Hanna says part of the excitement surrounding the Julie Ruin’s new record has been generated by their new record label, Hardly Art. The Seattle-based label was founded nearly a decade ago by Sub Pop Records, and includes rising indie rock bands like Tacocat, Shannon and the Clams and Detroit’s Protomartyr.

“They’re just on it,” Hanna says of the label. With previous releases, the five-member, Brooklyn-based band was promoting and producing everything themselves and it cut into the creative process.

With the new label, she says: “They’re in it to win it and we haven’t had that because we (had) been doing everything ourselves and I think it took away from the songwriting process. We had a booking agent, but that was it ... so it’s nice to feel like we have this backing of this label and we like the bands on the label, so we’re starting to form a little mini-community.”

Hanna has been a name in indie and punk rock music for decades, and she still stays true to a do-it-yourself ethic. When the Julie Ruin hits the road Thursday — it plays at the Marble Bar in Detroit on Friday — the band will be traveling in a van, not a tour bus. She says she still gets nervous talking to other musicians, too.

“A lot of times you see a band and I’m like I don’t know what to say to them ... like that guy, something Sturgill,” she says, referring to alt-country songwriter Sturgill Simpson. “I am so in love with that guy’s voice.”


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Twitter: @melodybaetens

The Julie


9 p.m. Fri.

Marble Bar

1501 Holden, Detroit

(313) 338-3674

$16 in advance,

$18 day of