All Wave Grrls
Top 90s alt-rock act The Breeders
are back with a new album and philosophy. Dan Grunebaum takes
|Kim and Kelly Deal and
the new and improved Breeders
There was a time after the implosion of grunge when The Breeders
were going to save rock. Kim Dealleader of the group
along with twin sister Kellyhadnt even blinked
at the demise of her innovative indie-rock band The Pixies
in 1990, but had gone on to form an even more influential
band that would eventually sell millions of records, tour
with Nirvana, and provide alternative rock with its most successful
woman-fronted act. But all too soon, amid Kims reported
studio obsessiveness and Kellys run-in with the law
over drugs in 1995, the game was up.
Fast-forward eight years. Its early February 2003,
and Kim and Kelly Deal are on the phone from their hometown
of Dayton, Ohio, sounding as if doing an interview with a
faceless Tokyo music hack were the most fun theyd had
since Lollapalooza. Passing the phone back and forth, they
giggle about the worst interviews theyve done.
Heres my German interview story, Kim laughs.
This is what he tells me: Your last record is
shit: Please explain, she says in her best German
One wonders that the interviewer in question has the nerve
to say this to rocks most prominent sisters, and even
more, that he misjudges their comeback album, last springs
Title TK (4AD).
For Title TK is a great album, the kind that grows on you
with repeated listening. Debuting only at 130 in the Billboard
charts, its subtle shades have been lost on a generation attuned
to the simpler sounds of teen-rockers like Avril Lavigne.
Butback with alternative rock producer-extraordinaire
Steve AlbiniThe Breeders have turned out a work that
is as catchy and crunchy as Pod, but also intimate and expressive,
tinged with a bittersweet wisdom gained through experience.
Kims sweet, little-girl voice lilting out impressionistic
lyrics and Kellys insistent guitar strumming and periodic
storms of feedback reestablish The Breeders as one of a few
select alt-rock elder stateswomen in an era dominated by a
new wave of bratty garage rockers.
But dont make a big deal out of the new album, and
by all means, dont say the word comeback. Well
its not like Id been in a cave for ten years,
rebuffs Kelly, getting back on the line. Kim has been
out doing stuff. Ive been out doing stuff. So it wasnt
that dramatic. I kind of wish it wasit would make a
But things have changed a lot in the intervening years, right?
The return of pop, Napster, nu metal, teen-rock
the music scene completely different from when The Breeders
were alt-rock leaders in the 1990s? If youre looking
at ten years ago, it doesnt seem that different,
continues Kelly in a similar defiant vein. It seems
kind of the same, because ten years ago Paula Abdul was on
the radio, and now its Britney Spears. So whats
Whats new, actually, are The Breeders themselves. Theyve
got three new band members, recruited from veteran Los Angeles
punk act Fear. These improved Breeders came about not in LA,
though, but in New York, where in the winter of 2000 Kim met
guitarist Richard Presley (a distant relative of Elvis) and
bassist Mando Lopez, later filling out the lineup with Jose
Medeles on drums.
Sensing instantly that these were brilliant and confident
men capable of playing anything, writes Albini in an
online introduction, she invited them to play informally
that evening with her. In a move that makes leap of
faith sound timid, she decided that night to move to
East Los Angeles, where the band resides, and began playing
in earnest with them as a new incarnation of The Breeders.
Despite the long layoff, re-forming wasnt as difficult
as it may seem. Its weird, says Kelly. People
ask if the transition was smooth, and it makes me think, Jeez,
Ive never thought about that. So it must mean that the
transition was smooth. It could have been more difficult,
but it wasnt.
The recording sessions for Title TK marked the birth of The
Breeders All Wave philosophy, an all-analog
approach to recording that arose out of bad experiences with
the now pervasive Pro Tools digital recording software. Instead
of sampling the band, the engineer will create a sound using
Pro Tools, a brand new sound, so all the music is coming from
him and his computer, Kelly protests.
The only thing thats natural is the vocals, and
even thats pitch-shifted up and down. I think thats
not a good thing. You can tell its digitally created.
You can hear its been corrected. I want to hear the
drummer slow down at the end of a track because hes
tired. I want to hear the vocalist whos been screaming
their ass off. I want to hear their voice get hoarse. I like
that in music. I like emotionand the other stuff doesnt
And how does it feel to be getting back to touring, and playing
in front of audiences half their age? Once again, Kelly downplays
the significance. You know, in 1994 I was 30, so I was
already older than everyone in the club anyways, she
recounts. So now guess what: Im older than everybody
else in the club. So whats new? It kind of works out
good actually. If Id been really young19 or 20and
the audience had been my peer group, and I could see how I
was aging while the audience stayed young, it might have been
And are her heroin and alcohol dependencies truly behind
her? I still have the rock and roll unmanageability,
I just dont have the drugs and alcohol, Kelly
says emphatically, noting that attitudes are changing regarding
the sex, drugs n rock n roll lifestyle.
There are still people out there going full on, but
its different with each band. A lot of older bands are
still partying hard, but a lot of younger ones are sober.
Theres a lot more awareness about it. I didnt
even know what sobriety meant when I was younger, but I think
a lot of people nowadays do.
The Breeders play Club Quattro on
March 7. See listings for details.