When Sleater-Kinney visited New Zealand in 2002, the first place they found themselves was sitting in a paddock with a bunch of friendly cows. "It was the most surreal jet lag experience ever," laughs singer and guitarist Corin Tucker.

Next Friday the Portland-based three piece will dish up a surreal trip of their own to a paddock full of punters at the Big Day Out (Green Stage, 2.40pm).

Tucker, along with band mates Carrie Brownstein (guitar/vocals) and Janet Weiss (drums), played two sell-out shows here last time. And Tucker loved it so much that she's bringing her husband and young son, Marshall, back for a holiday this time round.

During their 10-year career, Sleater-Kinney have released seven albums, including the 1995 self-titled debut, the excellent Call the Doctor (1996), and 2000's good time rock'n'roll treat, All Hands On the Bad One.

But The Woods - their latest album and arguably best - is the band's most inventive and sonically noisy offering yet. At times, songs like discordant nursery rhyme, The Fox, and the raging Rollercoaster, almost fall apart in spectacular fashion. They don't but it makes for some great listening.

The Woods was produced by Mercury Rev's Dave Fridmann ("He pushes things into the red," laughs Tucker) and took a lot longer to record than their previous albums. There was the small matter of the band changing from long time record label, Kill Rock Stars, to Seattle-based Sub Pop.

"But it was more about us taking longer. Writing things, and experimenting with things, and just really wanting to break out and to push our skill levels musically took more time. I played a lot of things I didn't think I could play on this record," she laughs.

"It was definitely a different process from when you first join a band, and everyone knows each other really well, and you just make things up. It was almost like a happy accident on some of our first records. Now it's more like a full-on collaborative experience.

"Music is a really strong path for me," she says. "For some reason it's a way of expressing myself. I'll start thinking things when I'm singing that I didn't even know were in me. It's such an intense emotional expression that things come out that would not come out in everyday life. And some of that stuff comes out on this record. I don't think the lyrics are as political as the last record [One Beat (2002)] but ... it's a more subtle record about the despair and desperation in our country right now."

This resolute musical attitude, backed up by relentless touring and quality live shows, has earned Sleater-Kinney huge respect and a loyal fan base. "By having high standards and taking the time to make really good records, I think hopefully people look forward to them coming out. And even with the huge commercialisation of the music industry I think we've been able to reach people with just the good quality of music that we have."

Although, she sniggers, "Sometimes I think we sell more magazines than we do records."

She's right. Because of the band's all-girl line up, their staunch political statements, and rants about rock'n'roll's male hierarchy, among other things, they get a lot of media attention for things other than music.

But, says Tucker, she'd also like to get played on the radio more. "It's not something that keeps us from doing things how we do them. But it is a drag that the channels for getting people to listen to music is so locked into this huge commercialisation game.

"Making a lot of money was never the goal of this band - it's about the music we make. But I think we feel fortunate to have done as well as we have."


WHO: Sleater-Kinney, from Portland, Oregon, US

WHEN: Green Stage, 2.40pm _ 3.20pm

LINE-UP: Corin Tucker (guitars/vocals); Carrie Brownstein (guitars/vocals), and Janet Weiss (drums/vocals)

BEST ALBUMS: Sleater-Kinney (1995); Call the Doctor (1996), All Hands On the Bad One (2000); The Woods (2005)