The Breeders Release “Wait in the Car,” Announce 7″ Series
Winston Cook-Wilson // October 3, 2017
The Breeders have released their first new music in eight years: a new single called “Wait in the Car.” The band released the song–a typically energetic, wry, angular rocker–with an accompanying visual, which is a rapid-fire slideshow featuring bits of lyrics, abstract images, and distorted images of the band. The group teased the song and video, directed by Chris Bigg and Martin Andersen, with a short tweeted clip last week.
The Breeders posted on their website that the single will be released in 3 different 7″ versions, each with a different cover as its B-side. The first, featuring their take on Amon Düül II’s 1970 song “Arcangel Thunderbird, will be released for the band’s upcoming world tour beginning on October 10, and available only at their concerts. The next will feature a version of Devo’s “Gates of Steel” and be released in a limited run on October 27. Details about the release of the third 7″, featuring the Mike Nesmith song “Joanne,” have yet to be released.
The Breeders’ previous release was the 2009 EP Fate to Fatal. They last reunited in 2013 for a 20th anniversary tour. Listen to “Wait in the Car” below.
How the Breeders Finally Learned to Get Along By MELENA RYZIK
FEB. 22, 2018
There’s a reason the career-making lineup of the Breeders didn’t talk for over a decade. But no one quite remembers what it is. There was a fight, of course, between Kim Deal, the songwriter, singer and guitarist who co-founded the band, and the drummer, Jim Macpherson, sometime after Lollapalooza in 1994 — the year after the song “Cannonball” cemented their status as alt-rock heroes. Not long after their album “Last Splash” went platinum, he quit the band in a sudden huff. “I don’t even remember him quitting, I just came downstairs and his drums were gone,” she said. For 15 years, “Kim thought I hated her, and I thought she hated me,” Mr. Macpherson said.
He was sitting, looking over at her, in the Breeders tour bus before a gig last fall at the Bowery Ballroom. Twenty-five years after they broke out with “Last Splash,” that foursome — including Ms. Deal’s twin sister Kelley Deal on guitar and vocals, and Josephine Wiggs on bass — have reunited to record an album. They were together in the studio for the first time since the days of “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Alternative Nation,” an era when they so impressed Kurt Cobain, he had them open for Nirvana.
For “All Nerve,” due March 2 from 4AD — the label involved with all four of the band’s previous releases with various lineups from “Pod” in 1990 to its most recent record, “Mountain Battles” in 2008 — some things were the same, like Kim Deal’s songwriting and the reverb-laden peels of her guitar rubbing against her voice, muscular and sweet. The Breeders still recorded live to tape, an analog throwback. And, Kelley said, “We still butted heads. I could get mad at Kim. I could always get mad at Kim.”
What was new was how those fights were resolved — or really, that they were resolved at all. They “have to, otherwise we wouldn’t be here now,” Kelley, 56, said. Her bandmates, all in their 50s, nodded along beside her. Their album title’s dual meaning — bristling confidence, and exposed vulnerability — neatly sums up their creative state. In the bus they teased each other pointedly, but at the show their joy at playing together was palpable. There were no backing tracks or video screens to divert fans from the foursome pounding it out onstage. Kim blew an actual lifeguard whistle for “Cannonball,” and emerged grinning.
“I have seen her work with a lot of different lineups of the Breeders and with nobody else in the room at all,” the recording engineer Steve Albini, who worked on “All Nerve,” said in an email. “The one thing that remains constant is her absolute persistence in trying to achieve the sound in her head.” He recalled a track she sang through a guitar amp to match what she’d achieved in her basement rehearsal space. “She is always aiming for something, and it’s often something nobody but her would recognize. I’ve learned to trust her instincts.”
Kim cocreated the Breeders while she was the bassist for the Pixies, and their most infamous disintegration followed a rock ’n’ roll template: Kim struggled with substance abuse; Kelley drank, developed a heroin addiction and went to rehab. Ms. Wiggs moved on to other bands. The Deals did too, including several versions of the Breeders, which never achieved the acclaim of the “Last Splash” group.
So the other difference now is sobriety. After some relapses with opiates, Kelley has been clean for eight years, she said, and the partying that dogged other band members has subsided. Seeing Kim “descend into a kind of pop star abyss of drugs and unreliability at the height of her success was pretty depressing,” Mr. Albini wrote, “and that whole deal could have turned out almost infinitely worse, but she came back from the precipice, built a substantial body of work and is making some of her most stunning music right now in full maturity.”
For the first time, a melody came to Kim in a dream. She said she woke with “a dude in my head, singing,” sounding like the synthy ‘80s hit “Tainted Love.” She lost the synth, and the dude, and it became the title track for “All Nerve,” which careens from plaintive to forceful over an insistent rhythm section. After the spacey explorations of “Mountain Battles,” this album is shorter, punchier. Kim didn’t have a grand explanation for the shift: “The fact that we’re playing, is where the meaning is,” she said. But reuniting post-drugs can also be fraught, said Patty Schemel, the drummer for Hole, who chronicled her own addiction and recovery in a recent memoir, “Hit So Hard” (Da Capo Press). “In my band, getting back into the same room, that old dynamic comes back,” Ms. Schemel said. Musically, too, crutches may remain. “Writing songs, if you’re hitting a wall and you’re not just finding it, getting high kind of helps, in your mind,” she said, “and so you want to fall back into those habits.”
In a second interview without Mr. Macpherson and Ms. Wiggs, the Deal sisters talked about their old ways. Hearing a song arrangement, “Sometimes I think, God, if I could just smoke a nice joint and listen to this, critically, I would be able to identify any inauthentic moments better,” Kelley said. “Then I sigh and think, I don’t know if that’s really true or not. Me wishing for an easier way to do something, doesn’t necessarily make something true.”
Kelley and Kim onstage in 2017. “I’m relearning working with people and being kind,” Kim said. “Every tour, it’s like, patience. Have patience.” CreditDavid Wolff-Patrick/Redferns, via Getty Images
Kim recalled making music, around 1999, after taking hallucinogenic mushrooms. “I was never a hallucinogen person,” she said, “but these mushrooms were incredible. And I have a tape of my art that I created and it’s like an hour, 90 minutes, of me going —” She made a low, indistinct moan. Took a breath. Continued low, indistinct moaning.
Kelley laughed and said, “See, if you give that to me, and I smoke a big fat joint —”
Kim finished her thought: “You tell me what the authentic part of it is.” She laughed. It sometimes takes the two of them to piece together one story from their heyday. “Opening the doors of perception,” with drugs, Kim said, “you can really only open the door once. It doesn’t need to keep getting reopened all the time. That was something that I realized.”
The “Last Splash” lineup reunited in 2013, on a 20th anniversary showcase for the album. The last time they’d toured, the Deals would be absent until moments before they were due onstage, Ms. Wiggs said, and would disappear again afterward. “It was pretty alienating,” she said. (She had enough downtime at Lollapalooza to learn how to six-pin juggle.)
With sober bandmates, performing “was so delightful, because they were so present, and they’re delightful people when they’re present,” Ms. Wiggs said. “It’s super fun to hang out with them.”
On their tour bus, they joked and marveled at the enthusiasm of their fans. “We were in D.C. last night,” Mr. Macpherson said. “It was a theater and nobody sat. I would’ve sat.”
The women in his band, in unison, pointed out the obvious: “You were sitting!”
The Deals and Mr. Macpherson live within a few miles of each other in Dayton, Ohio, their hometown; they get together to watch ballgames, and their state loyalty runs deep: on the bus, Kim wore socks emblazoned with a picture of Johnny Bench, the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer. Ms. Wiggs drove west from her home in Brooklyn for rehearsals in Kim’s basement. “All Nerve” was recorded nearby, in Dayton, Kentucky and at Mr. Albini’s studio in Chicago. (Their tour for it begins in Los Angeles in April.)
Even after all these years, there were revelations in how they did things: Kim’s recording process, “it’s not going to make sense to me,” her sister said. “Her process is her process, and I can either join her, or I can say ‘no, thank you,’ and split. That was huge for me, to understand all that.”
The twins started singing together as children; by 13, Kim had taught herself guitar on her father’s acoustic, and they turned up to harmonize at open mic nights. Kim always invited her sister to join her bands, but she always stayed the leader. “I really feel for Kim,” Kelley said. “She is the narrator of the story, she is the mouth, the frontperson for this whole thing.” She looked over at Kim. “It’s not a compliment or anything,” she said. “It just is a lot to do.”
As a duo, they’re somewhere between petulant teens and too-smart adults who can’t help but (affectionately) bicker — like Lady Bird and her mom, Ms. Wiggs said at a Breeders event in January. Kim was so mouthy in the ‘90s, Kelley recalled, that she had to put gaffer’s tape over her face to remind her to rest her voice between gigs. She’s still liable to tear up performing “Drivin’ on 9,” the country-tinged ballad from “Last Splash.” “It’s just so beautiful,” Kim said.
Their music has won over another generation of fans. “When I was making my last album I was listening a lot to ‘Last Splash,’” said Courtney Barnett, the 30-year-old Australian indie rocker. “I liked that there’s a humor in there that doesn’t seem like totally obvious or up at the surface. And weird sounds that stick out on the album.” (The deadpan wit continues: On “Wait in the Car,” the ripping single off “All Nerve,” Kim sings, “I always struggle with the right word,” and then, to prove it, she meows.)
When Ms. Barnett and her band were passing through Ohio, the Breeders invited them to drop by a recording session, and added their background vocals to a track; the Deal sisters also sing on Ms. Barnett’s forthcoming record, “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” That’s Kim, adding the oohs-aahs to the feminist first single, “Nameless, Faceless.” To have the Deals’ voices supporting her, Ms. Barnett said, is an unexpected link to the artists that inspired her.
At the peak of alternative rock, that the Breeders were a female-led band “was important to me,” Ms. Schemel, of Hole, said. “I liked Kim because she just is what she is” — no artifice, onstage or off; she still dresses like a ‘90s skate punk. “She took control of what she wanted to put out and how she wanted to make it.”
For “All Nerve,” Kim took Mr. Macpherson to a show by Il Divo, the classical vocal group, because she wanted his drums to sound more orchestral. “It was a really big learning process for me, to try to capture what she had in her mind,” said Mr. Macpherson, who also played in Guided by Voices and still has his day job as a carpenter. He resisted at first. “But then I thought, you know, try it. Like Kelley said, I can leave or I can try it.”
Kim, too, is making an effort. “I’m relearning working with people and being kind,” she said. “Every tour, it’s like, (deep breath) patience. Have patience.”
The Breeders knew their chemistry was rare before, they said; it’s even more valuable today. “Having lost playing with these people once, and now having a chance to come back to it, I appreciate it more,” Ms. Wiggs said. Onstage, she finds herself locking into tempo with Mr. Macpherson, allowing the sisters to etch their own wild rhythm.
“Often I feel like, it’s right on the verge of falling apart, and then it doesn’t,” she said. “And there’s something super-exciting about that.”
The beloved Nineties alt-rock band is back with a great new album and a summer tour. But the road to their reunion wasn't easy
By Anna Hezel
"I hate the sun. I hate the beach. I don't lay out. I don't like to be hot," says Kim Deal dryly. The singer-guitarist and co-leader of the Breeders is sitting on a couch in a basement of her record label's Soho offices, having just flown up from Florida, where she spends the better part of each January. The annual ritual started as a family vacation, but as her parents have aged, it's turned into a solo retreat. "It's on Summerland Key and it's gorgeous," she says. "And I take my 4-track and my guitars and microphone stands and mics and all my cables. And then I just work."
Deal is in New York to promote the Breeders' new album, All Nerve, the band's first in 10 years. It's also the first recording in more than 20 years made by the Breeders lineup that recorded the 1993 alt-rock landmark Last Splash: Kim and her twin sister Kelley on guitars, Josephine Wiggs on bass and Jim MacPherson on drums. In April, the bandmates will head out to promote the new LP with a series of dates that will take them through the summer. Considering their chaotic history, it's a small miracle they're here together at all.
All Nerve combines the surfy shudder and offhand energy of Last Splashwith a vulnerability that can be heard on more recent albums like 2002's Title TK and 2008's Mountain Battles. The most powerful moments on All Nerve – songs like "Walking With a Killer" and "Blues at the Acropolis" – have a quiet sense of isolation that's uncharacteristically personal coming from Deal, an alt-rock icon rarely known for being overly introspective.
When I ask Kim how she would describe the new album, she responds tersely, "Guitar rock. With drums." Kelley Deal is only slightly more philosophical: "To me it's bass, drums, guitar and vocals, you know? But at a certain time as things come around and re-come around, that can be a very fresh sound."
This "classic" version of the Breeders first came together in 1992 shortly after the breakup of Kim's first band, indie-rock icons the Pixies. After releasing a debut LP, Pod, and a quick follow-up EP, Safari, the Breeders broke out unexpectedly with Last Splash and its MTV hit "Cannonball." They played the mainstage at Lollapalooza, and Pixies/Breeders superfan Kurt Cobain brought them on tour as an opening act.
But the band also had a unique gift for self-sabotage. The Breeders were affectionately nicknamed "the Bangles from hell," with the Deal sisters at the surly center of the band's drama. Journalists excited by the story of an ex-Pixie suddenly enjoying mainstream popularity eagerly showed up for interviews to find their subjects stoned, hungover, aggressively unresponsive or some combination of all three. At times, it seemed their main reaction to success was bored disinterest. It's telling that, when prompted, the first Cobain memory that comes to Kim's mind isn't some glass-clinking rock-star moment but a random 1992 studio hang where she spilled Mountain Dew on a recording console owned by iconic avant-garde composer Philip Glass. "Can you fucking imagine?" she says, still horrified. The original run of the Kim-Kelley-Wiggs-MacPherson incarnation of the Breeders ended before they could even make a follow-up to Last Splash.
These days, that desultory image couldn't be further from reality. "Josephine had a good way of describing it," says Kelley. "She felt like she really would have liked to have worked on that album – what we would come up with after Last Splash. She thought it would've been great to make an album that sounded like a cross-section of Pod and Last Splash. And she feels like this album has done that."
The path to this full-scale reunion began in 2013, when they all reluctantly came together for a tour to coincide with a 20th-anniversary deluxe reissue of Last Splash. By then, Kim hadn't had a drink in more than a decade and Kelley was out the other side of heroin addiction. MacPherson was a dad living in Dayton, Ohio, and gainfully employed as a carpenter. Shocked by how easy it felt to be together again, they decided to get in the studio for the incident-free sessions that produced All Nerve. The bandmates were back out on the road this past fall – a highlight was a day off in Syracuse, New York, where they had no responsibilities beyond catching up on laundry. "We saw a movie," says Kelley. "We went to the mall and saw Thor."
As they travel, Wiggs is collecting photos of some of the best (and worst) venue showers they’ve encountered and is compiling a memoir about the tour. "You have a different perspective when you're a bit older," she says. "You're kind of aware of the fact that things don't last forever. Even the uncomfortable parts are only for a few weeks, and then there will be a different thing that's uncomfortable."
"Showering in all the venues is a real challenge," adds MacPherson, "especially when you have to hold the handheld shower. I'm sure 20 years ago it wasn't that big an issue.” They still have their arguments. According to Kim, at one soundcheck Kelley got mad enough at her sister that she put down her guitar and walked out of the venue as Kim yelled, "I'm sorry!" after her. But for the most part, these musicians, who are all in their fifties, have mellowed and learned to get along. When they're not on the road, Kelley and Kim FaceTime each other almost every day, to chat, play each other bits of songs or just watch the news together.
Kim, who built a rep in the Nineties as a bit of a pot-stirrer, speaks warmly about her bandmates. One of her favorite songs on All Nerve is "Metagoth," written by Wiggs, who also plays lead guitar on the track. In the studio, Kim was happy to step out of the spotlight and pick up a bass. "Me and Jim like playing together," she says. "Bass and drums have a different sort of relationship with each other than guitar."
Kim’s entire worldview seems filtered through her associations with music gear and production equipment. She speaks fondly of the sense of omnipotence she felt recording the first few Breeders albums. "I thought it was funny," she says, "like standing at the board and switching things on and off to sound like it's been produced – like the hand of God."
After Deal quit smoking years ago, her voice got a little more pure, but she knows it won't last forever. "When the vacuum tube is about ready to go and it's sputtering and sputtering, I think a guitar amplifier sounds so good. My voice will one day soon sound like the voice of a dying amp."
Now, as the Breeders head out for their spring tour, it’s highly likely they'll cross paths with some of their Nineties alt-rock peers, what with everyone from Guided by Voices to Belly either still going strong or making a timely comeback. I ask the band members if they feel like the current wave of Nineties nostalgia has any effect on how people might approach their music. "For me, that was the last great era of rock music before things changed," says Wiggs. "I think there was a real shift. I really think that the early Nineties was a bit of a watershed moment."
Kim is a little more ambivalent. "I think it's already been played out a little bit," she says. "I'd love to get popular again if that's what's happening. Are we popular again?"