At first, Corin Tucker wasn’t so sure. The guitarist/vocalist with riot-grrrl greats Sleater-Kinney (and a “huge” R.E.M. fan) had lent her vocals to an album R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was working on. But actually forming a band with him was another story.
“The first record, we hardly knew each other,” Tucker says of “Invitation,” the debut album from their jointly led supergroup Filthy Friends. “I sang on Peter’s solo album and he [said], ‘Let’s make a record together.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ We took a leap of faith that we could collaborate together and we feel like we pulled it off.”
That “leap of faith” has now yielded two solid politically charged albums of jangly and glammy rock songs with a bit of a ’70s vibe. The second, “Emerald Valley,” arrives May 3 through Olympia’s Kill Rock Stars. Filthy Friends, rounded out by Kurt Bloch (of the Fastbacks), Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows) and Linda Pitmon (The Baseball Project), kick off a tour in support of the new record May 9 at Neumos.
Tucker’s initial hesitation was overcome by her desire to push herself as a songwriter — albeit one who became a leading voice in Northwest rock during Sleater-Kinney’s late-’90s ascent — by working with an artist she’s long admired. She holds up the sauntering “Pipeline” as an example of a song requiring a different “sensibility and approach” than her past work. “It’s a total mood piece,” Tucker says. “It’s very restrained, so that’s different than I’ve sung to and written to.”
Indeed, much of “Emerald Valley” feels more subdued compared with her punkier work with Sleater-Kinney, save for rough-and-tumble midtempo wailer “Last Chance County.” An album highlight, the song looks at an economically depressed Northwest town through the lens of a 1980s bus window, inspired by her route to work as a teenager. While other tracks like “November Man” and “Angels” condemn our commander in chief and family-separating immigration policies, the album — which based its title off the nickname of Tucker’s hometown, Eugene — tackles some of the Northwest’s most persistent issues.
The country-rocking title track and mournful closing ballad “Hey Lacey” perhaps capture the record’s mood and spirit best, with the region’s changing climate and population heavily on Tucker’s mind. (Much of the record was made as wildfires raged through the Northwest.) “I feel a little bit like the Lorax getting on my stump and saying, as we have this influx of new people and as we’re growing and changing, we need to have a conversation about: Are we taking care of the land? Are we being fair to the people that are here?” Tucker says.
Elsewhere, Tucker touches on gentrification (“One Flew East”), forest preservation (“The Elliott”) and the wealth gap (“Last Chance County”) with a lyrical directness that more often than not works in her favor.
“I just don’t feel like being subtle right now,” Tucker says. “It’s not a time to be subtle or obscure and I don’t really think I’ve ever been a writer that writes that way, anyway. … I wanted my voice to be heard.”
In a way, Filthy Friends’ upcoming Seattle show feels like a makeup date after the band was forced to cancel a Seattle gig last year while McCaughey was recovering from a stroke. McCaughey has since resumed playing with his various projects and Tucker reports he’s doing well.
Beyond touring with Filthy Friends, Tucker and her Sleater-Kinney mates hope to release, later this year, a studio follow-up to their 2015 comeback album “No Cities to Love.” In January, indie-rock Twitter lost its collective mind when Sleater-Kinney revealed it’s been working with acclaimed art-rocker St. Vincent, a friend of the band, as producer.
“We were turning different ideas around in terms of how we were going to do the next Sleater-Kinney record, and I think [she] offered — ‘Oh, if you guys want me to help you with that, I could do that,’ ” Tucker says. “It was very casual. We went in very low stakes, very casual and just tried it out. She did a great job.”
Filthy Friends with Eyelids, 8 p.m. Thursday, May 9; Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $20, 21-plus; 206-709-9442, neumos.com