Stephen Malkmus: My Life in 15 Songs

The former Pavement frontman and current leader of the Jicks looks back on a quarter-century of indie-rock genius

"Summer Babe"

Single, 1991; Slanted and Enchanted, 1992

"Summer Babe" is the start of Pavement front-loading their albums with the catchiest song first. Shots fired by Pavement! It's just three chords, if you can call them that, so musically, it's all about what you can wrestle from those chords. How far can you go? The lyrics are kinda silly. It mentions "Ice Ice Baby." There's some imagery from Stockton, California, where we recorded it, mixed in with a cryptic story about a girl and a guy. I don't think it makes all that much sense, but it's got some cool imagery.

I was living in Hoboken or Jersey City when I wrote it. I said, "I'm not gonna mess around with this noisy art thing. I'm going to make some real songs that people remember." So I had "Summer Babe," and I played it for Kannberg. One thing I can say that's good about Scott — I can say many things, but one thing specifically — is you know when he likes something. I remember showing it to him, and he’s like, "Yeah, that's good, dude, you gotta do that one."