The Breeders' Kelley Deal Teases New Music: "We're Turning Another Corner"

The Breeders
The Breeders Photo by Marisa Gesualdi
click to enlarge The Breeders - PHOTO BY MARISA GESUALDI
The Breeders
Photo by Marisa Gesualdi
What were the odds that one of the most distinctive voices in rock history had a twin who was her musical equal? When Kim Deal, the bassist of the Pixies and lead singer of one of the band's most beloved songs, "Gigantic," came out with her own project, the Breeders, fans were stunned to learn she had an identical twin, Kelley Deal. Upon the release of the sisters' fantastic first collaboration, 1993's Last Splash, alternative-rock fans the world over were treated to twin harmonies.

As teenagers, the Deal sisters sang Hank Williams songs at truck stops in Ohio, but while Kim was building a reputation with the Pixies, Kelley was working as a program analyst for a defense contractor. Revisionist history would have you figuring the Pixies were huge when they formed and that Kelley must have been confused for her sister all the time. But Kelley Deal says the truth played out differently.

"The Pixies weren't that big, maybe in England," she recalls. "Here, they would only play them on college radio. The music that was big then was Paula Abdul and Poison. The music that blew up back then had nothing to do with the music we wanted to make."

But something funny happened: After Last Splash, the Breeders blew up. The album sold a million copies. Their singles "Cannonball" and "Divine Hammer" were everywhere. And the band supported the two most '90s musical events possible: opening for Nirvana's In Utero arena tour and playing Lollapalooza.

"Music changed," Kelley remembers. "Mainstream radio changed with the whole Seattle grunge thing. The idea that 'Cannonball' could be a single people heard wasn't planned."

But after that success, fans were bitterly disappointed when no follow-up album materialized. "If you ask all four of us why we broke up, each of us would have a different answer," Kelley says, emphasizing her drinking and drugging wasn't the reason for the split. "We worked ourselves too hard. We toured for two years straight. We should have taken six months off."
Instead, the four members went their separate ways. Kelley put out two excellent albums as the Kelley Deal 6000 (which she hopes to re-release on vinyl), while sister Kim put out a solo record as the Amps. In 2002, the Deal sisters resurrected the Breeders and released two more records with a new lineup. But the Last Splash Breeders with bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim Macpherson didn't reunite until 2012.

"We wanted to acknowledge that so many people still love that record 20 years later," Kelley Deal says. "People cover 'Invisible Man,' and Urban Outfitters sells the record. The four of us wanted to celebrate the record and give it a birthday."

The quartet had so much fun performing the album front-to-back at concerts — with the first Breeders record, Pod, serving as their encore — they decided to reunite for good. They went back into the studio and this year released to great acclaim the album All Nerve. "People say the new one is like Pod meets Last Splash. It has an interconnectiveness between those two records. It's not like this is our Americana record or our hip-hop record. We're staying with art rock."

The Breeders' current tour, making its way to the Fillmore Miami Beach, will have plenty of their new songs along with selections from Last Splash and Pod, plus one song each from their lesser-known albums: Title TK and Mountain Battles. Kelley Deal has kept busy the past few years with a solo project as R. Ring and producing an album by the Detroit rock band Protomartyr, but she says she feels the musical magic strongest when she's playing with the Breeders.

"At sound check, we were kicking together a new song," she teases. "I don't want to say anything about it. But it's awesome and has me excited we're turning another corner."

The Breeders.
8 p.m. Friday, October 19, at Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; Tickets cost $31.50 to $45 via
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David Rolland is a freelance music writer for Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland