As a Pixies and Breeders nut from the old-school, I never pass up a chance to rap with Kim Deal. She just finished touring with The Breeders and is hitting the road soon with the Pixies, who I will also interview for Rolling Stone this month. It’s a feast of rock riches, I tell you. My recent chat with The Breeders sets the table.
Next year, indie lifers the Breeders celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Steve Albini–produced debut album, “Pod.” But don’t expect to catch Breeders frontwoman Kim Deal making a big production out of it.
“Which anniversary is it? 20th?” she asks by phone, before heading out to an August tour behind the band’s latest release, an EP called “Fate to Fatal.” “That’s crazy weird.”
“Crazy weird” pretty much describes the Breeders, whose multifaceted songcraft has run the gamut from carousel surf to dreamy pop to feedback epics and beyond. It also describes the lovable Deal sisters—Kim’s twin, Kelley, has been with the band intermittently since their 1993 crossover hit, “Last Splash.” Both are excited for the August tour, on which they’ll throw shout-outs to the local roller-derby clubs that have promoted their shows.
We caught up with the Deals to talk about the tour, as well as Bob Marley, Jessica Simpson, the digital-analog divide and the end of the music industry as we know it.
Next year is the 20th anniversary of “Pod.”
Kim: Which anniversary is it? 20th? Wow, weird! That’s crazy weird.
Kim: Yeah, it started so casually. We didn’t have any grand major plan. But we always thought it was something that would be different than what we played with other people. I remember we recorded “Pod” in Scotland, and our drummer was Slint’s Britt Walford, who was 18. He passed out at a pub down the road, and was brought back by two huge Scots with ash syrup all over his face. If you’re an 18-year-old and pass out at the pub in Scotland, you get the ash treatment.
So I hear that local roller derby clubs are promoting your tour in their cities, and showing up to rock out at the shows.
Kelley: Ooh! We have a friend named Amy that we met in 1994 at Lollapalooza in Chicago, who was once this little blonde girl that hitchhiked from St. Louis to see us. We’ve kept in touch with her over the years, and now she’s with the Arch Rival Roller Girls in St Louis, who were in the video for “Fate to Fatal.” We also once did this benefit in Cincinnati, and some girls from the local derby were there. And when I was writing my knitting book, “Bags That Rock,” I went to Minnesota to judge a craft contest, and one of the winners was a roller girl. So the universe has been telling us to do this. We quickly put a shout-out to leagues in the cities we’re visiting, asking roller girls to hand out fliers and see our shows.
The Breeders have always covered kick-ass tunes. “Pod” had the Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and “Fate to Fatal” has Bob Marley’s “Chances Are.”
Kelley: That was weird. It’s an old Marley tune from the doo-wop days, and it had the most beautiful lyrics.
Kim: I just love that song; I’d listen to it on a mixtape and rewind it over and over again. But when I listened to it recently, I realized that he’s just talking about a poker game. I instilled all this love and emotion into it, but he’s just talking about poker.
Is there a plan to follow up the “Fate to Fatal” EP with a full-length next year?
Kelley: I don’t know about a full-length. That depends on how much touring we do, and how much Kim tours with the Pixies [who are touring this fall. We don’t know if we’ll have enough time to get together, so the time-frame is everything, We know there will be new music, but we’re not sure yet what form it will take.
Are you still sticking with your “All-Wave” analog philosophy, which forbids computers, Auto-Tuning, and other digital studio crutches?
Kim: Well, it used to be a philosophy, but now I just ignore it. Dude, it seems that I’ve been fighting and struggling against this forever. In 1999, digital recording blazed through studios like crack blazed through cities in 1986. It burned out studios until they were shells. It was hard times: People refused to record to tape.
Kelley: It’s different now.
Kim: Everything old is new again.
Kelley: On the EP, we have tracks that were done on everything from Pro Tools to a Tascam four-track. [Screaming Trees vocalist] Mark Lanegan emailed us his vocal track and we imported it into Pro Tools. But I wouldn’t want to do that again. We didn’t get to hang out and have me say, “Mark, you’re creepy!”
How has digital technology changed the industry in general, in the two decades since the Breeders arrived?
Kim: It’s a management industry now. I don’t really consider Beyoncé and U2 part of the music industry; they’re part of the entertainment industry. They’re cross-selling other items. Kid Rock has beer. Beyoncé has a clothing line. I saw Jessica Simpson on “The View” awhile back, and she said that she was extremely grateful that her clothing line is doing well enough to help her make music.
Kelley: It’s not that music has no value; it’s just less precious than before, when you’d save your money and wait to go out and get a record. Now people get it for free and off of blogs, so there’s less onus put upon each track for it to speak and say everything you’ve ever wanted to say. We still have some of that older mentality, where each song counts, but eventually the idea will be, “OK, let’s just put it out, it’s free.”
Kim: It’s not really free to make; it’s free to get.