Do You Love Me Now?

October 17, 2018
by
6 mins read

When The Breeders released their single “Cannonball” in the summer of 1993, the band volleyed the song into a whirling vortex of then-“alternative rock” that was propulsed by groups as radically disparate as slurch-kings TAD and twee, flannel-chewers Toad the Wet Sprocket. “Cannonball” and the album that spawned it, Last Splash, made a bull’s-eye hit to the charts both in the States and abroad. The Breeders became MTV darlings and rightful high points in the era when a still-surprising amount of underground bands had to be lifted up to the table to sign contracts for major labels during the post-Nirvana feeding frenzy.

Even though Last Splash went on to hit platinum status, The Breeders weren’t grunge-rock-sweepstakes winners. Kim Deal and Tanya Donnelly originally formed the band in 1989 as a kind of mutual escape hatch from their respective bands, The Pixies and Throwing Muses. A few years later, The Breeders lineup that created Last Splash–Kim Deal (lead vocals/guitar), twin sister Kelley Deal (lead guitar/vocals), Josephine Wiggs (bass/vocals) and Jim Macpherson (drums)–formed The Breeders’ sound into a sharp and singular force.

Much has been written (frankly, too goddamned much) about the ’90s rock “sound” of loud/soft dynamics, but The Breeders’ sound and Kim Deal’s songwriting preceded and surpassed that era. The Breeders’ sound is weirdly angular–cutting, even–and intimate. An acoustic guitar thrumming is overtaken by a sporadic blast of guitar freakage. Tight, trebly bass riffs and rolling drum pummels are offset by a recording of a tube amp whistling out the last throes of a death rattle.

The Breeders have survived some biggies: creative twin sisters avoiding Sororicide, addiction and post-Last Splash personnel changes. Perhaps just as important, The Breeders have avoided becoming ’90s Rock Signifiers, a music era they helped alter, codify and influence.

The Last Splash (arguably classic) lineup is now touring in support of the latest effort, All Nerve. The album is an 11-track collection of songs that stick to the band’s effective approach of toggling styles, flickering from the ethereal “Blues at the Acropolis” to the crunchy thwack of “Wait in the Car.” Interestingly, All Nerve has one cover–a version of “Archangels Thunderbird,” a 1970 song by German LSD-rock-masters Amon Düül II. Fittingly, in The Breeders’ capable hands, “Archangels” sounds like a Breeders tune.

If nothing else, their cover of that Krautrock classic reveals another facet of The Breeders’ skills at merging into different music streams, while displaying a rather on-point taste in good, obscure shit.

Folio Weekly spoke with Kelley Deal when the tour stopped in Austin. We spoke about the band’s reunion, the new release and a halçyon time when Jacksonville once again showed its ass to visiting musicians.

 

Folio Weekly: In 2012, the Last Splashband lineup reunited for its 20th anniversary. On some level, do you feel that tour was a kind of test for this lineup, to see if you could still make new music together?

Kelley Deal: No, we didn’t. We had no concept of anything other than doing the Last Splash album in concert. Since that’s what people now do, we were very excited, and never had done “the album” from the time when the needle drops to the end of the last song. You know, songs like “Mad Lucas.” Who’s going to sit around and listen that live? [Laughs.] So we were really excited to present that as a fully formed thing. And back then, and I’m sure it is now, but the sequence of the songs was such a big deal because it was a narrative, an epic, a journey that you went on. It was really fun to appreciate that and acknowledge the fact that “This song comes after this song. And there’s a reason.” One thing we found out, though, is that as we were doing this, we had the best time. When we played together, we realized there’s something special about these four people. We did a video interview last week at Austin City Limits music festival. We sat down and a guy starts asking questions–the poor guy can’t even ask a thing because we go off the rails and just start laughing. And Josephine is so weird and Jim is so funny and Kim just keeps stirring the pot. That’s the thing we’ve realized: We have a great time together. And we play really well together and really get along. We remembered why we did this in the first place.

Listening toAll Nerve,this lineup’s sound is so intact, style-wise; in the ’90s, you seemed indifferent to what was happening. You seem just as indifferent to what’s happening now. Is that the band’s usual state or do you try to keep trends out?

Right. Yeah, I don’t know if any of us could do that seriously. We would never let each other fall into that. We’d just roll our eyes. There’s a big difference between this group of musicians and the later musicians Kim had in the band. But I never heard [former band members] Mando [Lopez] or Jose [Medeles] say “no” to Kim, in terms of a part. I mean, they certainly came up with parts for a song: “How about this or this?” But they’d never say, “Nah, that’s no good. You could do better,” or question or challenge Kim. But Josephine does. I do, because I’m her sister, but that doesn’t really count because we like to argue. [Laughs.] But Josephine will say [delivered with an impressive British affectation], “But really? Does it have to go to ‘C’?” She’ll push back whether Kim likes it or not. And I think there’s something very important about that. If Kim Deal were in your band, would you tell her how to write a song?

 

No.[Laughs.] Many of the new songs, like “Nervous Mary,” have a quality at I think The Breeders have always excelled: writing short songs that leave you wanting more; you want to hear an extra 20 seconds of the song as it ends. It’s like ’60s UK singles. Late-era Yardbirds did this well. But your songs are too weird to simply be “singles.” Do you deliberately work on that kind of editing?

Thank you. [Laughs.] Funny you mention that song, because it has three more minutes of music, no vocals, doing really weird stuff. Josephine has those tracks. She did a remix on it and I think we might release that as a weird, different version. It’s these weird rhythmic guitar things with the bass and drums doing weird stuff. But I really thank you and I can hear that sometimes as well in our music.

 

I was happy to see you featured on the YouTube series Rig Rundown, where you talked about your guitars and gear. I think you have an interesting take on guitar textures. You’ve been performing with Kim since you were in your teens–is it important for you to be recognized for your lead guitar work?

Thank you. You know, I only started playing guitar in my late 20s and it’s still so new to me. If I want to write, I’ll go either to some weird synth, or just vocals or a violin, oddly enough. I like the violin–it has different kinds of strings tuned differently. When I write, I’ll go to something that has more of a vocal quality. I’m not a natural guitarist. Every note I’m playing is there on purpose because I’m doing the best I can. [Laughs.]

 

The last time The Breeders played here was November 1993, opening for Nirvana. Come opened the show and played, with no trouble or issues, but during your set, some grunge-rock assholes were throwing shoes and shit up onstage. Kurt Cobain even walked out and told the crowd to “keep your shoes on.” Understandably, The Breeders stormed off. How can we make amends to you?

Oh, I remember that! It was a great show; it was a f**kin’ fantastic show! So, yeah, we just want people to come to the show and be nice.

 

And, for chrissakes, keep our shoes on.

Yeah! [Laughs.] Keep your shoes on!

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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