The Breeders Dish Straight Talk on Playing New Music in the Shadow of Hit Record
Has it really been 20 years since the Breeders pushed aside grunge with Last Splash, powered by the fuzz-fueled late-summer charmer "Cannonball"? Actually, it's 21 years now, as the band spent most of the anniversary year on tour playing the album in its entirety. With all that behind them, the -- the version of the band that created that platinum-selling masterpiece -- is ready to hit the road with some new songs.
"It was the first time that lineup had gotten together since the original tour. We had so much fun doing it that we really wanted to be able to carry on playing shows," says bassist Josephine Wiggs during a phone call from her Brooklyn home. "Because [that tour] was an album performance, we played everywhere we could play, and because we had no new material, everything eventually came to an end. I think that inspired us to write some new material so we could tour again."
Almost as soon as the tour ended in late 2013, the band -- guitarist/vocalist Kim Deal, guitarist Kelley Deal, drummer Jim McPherson, and Wiggs -- began meeting once a month in Kim Deal's Dayton, Ohio, studio to hash out new material. Given that this is the band that generated Last Splash, the Breeders' bestselling album, expectations of the new music run high. Wiggs, however, whether purposefully or not, won't tip her hand about the new music except to say the quartet is just "knocking around some ideas" right now.
"At this stage, it's kind of hard to answer because the songs are developing. There's a continuity and sensibility in putting something together and what you want different instrumentation to do and how you want the rhythm section to perform to free up other people," she says without really saying anything. "When I think about what happened with Last Splash, a lot had to do with the studio. A lot of things that made each song so individual only came together when we actually went into the studio . . . But we're not at that stage yet with these songs. We're just approaching it."
Is this album the band might have made had everyone not parted ways following that initial tour? Wiggs again is vague on her answer, but she does admit she's often pondered what could have been had the band stayed the course.
"I often think about it. I often wonder what would have happened if we had carried on and made more music together," she says. "At the same time, I also know that at that time, that's how the stars were aligned. There were so many different factors involved. But it's interesting to think about it."
Wiggs did confirm that the new material will be the focus of the band's current concert run. The present plan is to use Breeders fans as guinea pigs as the band builds upon what's already been more or less hashed out. The Breeders did as much with Last Splash, working out the kinks before laying songs to tape.
Tracks from Last Splash and possibly the debut EP, Pod, will fill out the set, and while Wiggs says she thoroughly enjoyed playing the same songs in the same order night after night, a new tour with new songs means new challenges.
"Where are we going to put 'Cannonball'?" she says with a laugh. "That will be fun because in doing the album, 'Cannonball' was always the second song in the set, which is kind of interesting place for it . . . Now, the whole set is up for grabs."
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