Twenty years ago this month, the "classic" Breeders line-up played their final show. The intervening years saw the band reconfigured in various arrangements, but none harnessed the Kim and Kelley Deal-helmed magic of Last Splash or yielded a platinum hit like "Cannonball." After a spate of Last Splash anniversary events and reissues, the foursome happened into something like a proper reunion and emerged from Kim Deal's Dayton, Ohio basement with their first new songs since 1993. Before heading back out on tour, Kim and Kelley spoke to Rolling Stone about their new tunes, feminist awakenings and what it means to be "lamped."
The band's back together. What have you been doing?
Kim Deal: Just doing the same thing – playing. We just got back from shows in December and since then [bassist] Josephine [Wiggs] has been coming out to Dayton from Brooklyn, as she did back in the day, and we have been working on new stuff. Neutral Milk Hotel are playing the Hollywood Bowl and asked us to open. We were going out to play these shows and we thought, "Why don't we play these songs on our way out so they are good and ready when we go to record."
When you did the Last Splash shows, did you think this would be the by-product?
Kim: No idea we would do that at all. Kelley was on the couch last spring and she said in a year it will be the 20th anniversary for Last Splash, and she wondered if those guys would do shows with us. We got together and played, and it was so fun. We added one song from my 7-inch series, "Walking With a Killer," and it sounded good. Then we were like "We should record something new!" I had some songs, we worked on those, they are sounding good. Josephine has a song and that's been sounding good.
What's changed in the 20 years since this line-up was last writing together?
Kim: It's kind of weird – not a lot has changed, in a way. I am totally different. The idea that I am in a basement playing, practicing with people – that is the same. The who and how has changed, but it does feel different. A year ago, I was doing interviews for an Irish gig, and this girl asked me if I was a feminist and I said "Oh, I don't know too much about feminism." Then I saw [Kathleen Hanna documentary] The Punk Singer, and after I saw that I thought, "I have to call myself a feminist, just to make it completely obvious."
During Riot Grrrl I felt so far apart from that. I didn't understand it, actually. Here's what I realized: They had a room full of girls. And I was never in a room full of girls. I didn't know girls that would do anything like this. That's not how I was raised. I was a little too old. They were young enough that they had girls that wanted to come to the front, that wanted to play. I never had that. Which is a really cool thing they had. I didn't realize that's what it was about. You get a room full of girls and then you have to do something.
Would playing music have been different for you if you had those rooms full of girls?
Kim: It would have been good to be in a room full of girls doing anything interesting. At the same time, I am kind of glad I didn't. There is something – it was nice to have a bunch of guys who didn't like anything – so you are doing [music] for yourself. I think that that's been really instructive. I am going to pass you to Kelley.
Is there anything else different about playing together now?
Kelley: It's kind of embarrassing to admit that, after being in the basement, we went though a song twice and I thought, "I feel like no time has passed at all." Is everything actually the same? Have we been in a wormhole of some sort? I would love to say that "Oh, Jim is a Buddhist now and he's practiced these amazingly complex whatever, and Josphine has done these scales and oh." But no! Everyone is the fucking same! And it's bizarre. And a little bit embarrassing.
Kim: I am going through something in the basement. Kelley is into social media – or whatever – maybe she can explain it. [To Kelley] Yes, I'm talking about you. We are at practice in the basement, and I say something to Kelley and she's looking at her phone: She's texting, typing, emailing, YouTubing? I don't know. I took this big lamp and put it between me and Kelley so I do not have to look at her during practice anymore. So, it's called "being lamped" – that's with her and Josephine call it. I will pass the phone to her so she can tell you about being lamped.
What are you doing on your phone that's so important?
Kelley: Listen, you do not want to get in the middle of this [laughs].
Tell me about the new songs, the one you like the best.
One of our new songs, Kim came up with a working title – I was very excited about it – "Skinhead Number 2." Like at the end of the movie, end of the credits, they have "Man of the Street Number 1," "Skinhead Number 1," Skinhead Number 2." I really liked that title, the uniform of non-conformity, this posing and posturing, and then I just identified as Skinhead Number 2. I liked that title and then I said something today and she says i dunno if thats going to be it. Kim can explain herself, I will pass it back.
Kim: I think she's mad at me. There's one called "All Nerve" I like. "Launched." "Simone."
How many songs do you have together?
Kim: Right now, five that we can play, three sound really good. One sounds OK and the other we could play if we had a gun to our heads. There are other ones we have not worked on, really pretty ones. We will play the new songs and then probably record them back in Chicago with Albini again.
What do you want this record to be like?
Kim: I don't know if I think like that. I don't want it to sound like it was recorded on and mixed in a laptop. We're just guitar, bass and drums. It's an old fashioned outfit. It's just a matter of getting good songs together and recording them. I don't know how to do it any other way.