Ohio’s Breeders, Guitar Player proclaimed, “create one of the most wonderfully unpredictable sounds in rock.” The band was born from the ashes of two seminal alternative rock bands, The Pixies and Throwing Muses. After various personnel changes, the band had a mainstream hit with “Cannonball,” a rambunctious blast of the group’s off-kilter rock sensibility, in 1993. Yet the group soon seemed to split off in different directions, with singer-guitarist sisters Kim and Kelley Deal pursuing different projects and the latter hampered by drug problems. Yet the band continued to occupy an important place in the hearts of alternative rock fans, as indicated by the excitement surrounding rumors of a new album and tour planned for 1997.
The identical twin Deals grew up in Huber Heights, a suburban community near Dayton. Their father was a physicist who worked at nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and they grew up adoring hard rock by the likes of Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Even so, they would one day form an acoustic duo and perform country songs at truckstops. The strong bond between the
Members include Kim Deal , guitar, vocals; Kelley Deal (joined c. 1992), guitar, vocals; Tanya Donnelly (left c. 1992), guitar, vocals; Jim MacPher-son (joined c. 1993), drums; Britt Walford (aka “Shannon Doughton” and “Mike Hunt”; left c. 1993), drums; Josephine Wiggs , bass, vocals.
Band formed c. 1989, Dayton, OH; released debut album, Pod, on 4AD label, 1990; contributed song to No Alternative benefit compilation, 1993; appeared on Lollapalooza tour, 1994; Kelley Deal arrested for heroin possession, 1994; Kim Deal released album Pacer with band the Amps, appeared on Sonic Youth album Washing Machine and produced material by band Guided by Voices, 1995; Wiggs formed band the Josephine Wiggs Experience, c. 1995 and released album, Bon Bon Lifestyle, 1996; Kelley Deal released album Go to the Sugar Altar with band the Kelley Deal 5000, 1996; band alleged to be planning new record and tour, 1997.
Awards: Gold record for Last Splash, 1994; Single of the Year honors from both NME and Melody Maker magazines for “Cannonball,” 1993.
Addresses: Record company —Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019. Website— http://www.elektra.com/alternative_club/breeders/.
sisters was established at an early age; when asked by Entertainment Weekly about “the best birthday present [she] ever received,” Kim replied, “Kelley.” The two failed to live up to the alternative-rock stereotype of tortured adolescence, as well. “Yeah, we were popular girls,” Kelley quipped in Spin. “We got good grades and played sports. You got a problem with that?” Kim attended seven colleges, including Ohio State University, but never graduated from any of them. During the late 1980s, she hooked up with the alternative rock band the Pixies, playing bass and singing backups; over the course of several albums, however, the band recorded only a couple of her songs.
In 1989, she formed the Breeders with Tanya Donnelly—herself a second banana in the similarly influential Throwing Muses—as a side project. Bassist Josephine Wiggs was drafted into the group, as much for her attitude as her chops. “I just thought she was cool,” Kim told Michael Azerrad of Rolling Stone. “She looked like [TV horror-movie hostess] Vampira.” With drummer Britt Walford, skinsman for the band Slint, operating under the pseudonym Shannon Doughton, the Breeders ventured into the studio to record an album with esteemed producer Steve Albini. The result was 1990’s Pod, which Azerrad called “starkly beautiful” and Alternative Press eventually included in its “Top 99 of ’85-’95.”
After being fired from the Pixies in 1992, Kim focused her energy on the Breeders. She brought Kelley into the band despite the latter’s lack of musical experience. “I couldn’t make chords,” Kelley recalled in Guitar Player. The Breeders released another record, the EP Safari, before undergoing more personnel changes. Donnelly left to form her own band, Belly, and Walford—who had moved on to a salacious new pseudonym, Mike Hunt— was replaced by Jim MacPherson. “I grew up with three sisters,” the new drummer pointed out in Request, “so joining this band wasn’t that big an adjustment for me.”
The Breeders made their first definitive statement with the 1993 album Last Splash. Co-produced by Kim and engineer Mark Freegard, the album most clearly defined the band’s oddball sensibility. Reviewer Ned Rust of Rolling Stone praised the record’s “fresh and vital sounds,” which “are not those of painstaking musical craftspeople but the raw progeny of an unabashed, unconventional creativity.” Melding noisy but joyful guitar rock, pop melodies, surf music, country and a variety of other styles, Last Splash caught the alternative audience’s imagination. This was helped in large part by the video for the first single, the irrepressible and strange rocker “Cannonball,” which was directed by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Spike Jonze; the latter would eventually become one of the hottest names in rock video.
The success of the album led to an appearance on the heralded alternative rock festival Lollapalooza and a European tour with the band Luscious Jackson, among other adventures. Wiggs and Luscious Jackson drummer Kate Schellenbach eventually became romantically involved. Kim, meanwhile, began a seemingly permanent engagement to Spin writer and musician Jim Greer, who played bass for a while in the Ohio band Guided By Voices, for whom Deal did some producing. The Breeders also covered some GBV songs on an EP release.
Kelley Deal, meanwhile, got hooked on heroin; in 1995, she was arrested for accepting a parcel that contained the drug. “She has no life right now,” Kim lamented in a Spin interview, “she has heroin.” Kelley’s difficulties— following on the heels of several other high-profile addictions and overdoses in the rock world—got substantial media attention, but Kim emphasized the personal cost. “You don’t know what it feels like,” she asserted, “it’s so horrible to have to watch your twin sister, your best friend in the whole world, lose her self-worth, lose her self-esteem, lose all sense of who she is, lose everything. It’s the worst f—ing feeling in the world.” During the unfolding of this crisis the Breeders were, of necessity, put on hold.
Kim released an album, Pacer, in 1995 under the name the Amps; her touring lineup for the group included MacPherson, guitarist Nathan Farley and bassist Luis Lerma. “When I first wanted to do the album, it was going to be a solo album,” she told John Chandler of the Rocket. “I was going to play all the instruments. I recorded six songs in my basement on a four-track [tape machine]. That’s a new thing. I’d never started a record that way before. I’d learned to play the drums recently and really had fun with it.” She added that her sister had taken to calling her “The Artist Formerly Known as Kim,” in a joking reference to the moniker-shifting pop star Prince.
Wiggs, newly ensconced in New York, formed her own side project, the Josephine Wiggs Experience, and released an album on Grand Royal, Luscious Jackson’s label. Kelley eventually entered a rehab program in Minnesota, played in an ad hoc ensemble that featured metal bad boySebastian Bach, and released an album on her own in 1996 as the Kelley Deal 6000. The record, Go to the Sugar Altar, earned some fine reviews; Entertainment Weekly deemed it “an uneven effort, but in the best sense: Kelley takes chances musically and lyrically, and comes up with something raw, off-kilter, and unexpected. Nothing saccharine about it.”
What did leave an unpleasant flavor in fans’ mouths, however, was the uncertain future of the Breeders. Where they only on hiatus, or had they broken up without a formal declaration? Rumors of a new EP and album and a pair of concerts were reported at the end of 1996 by Addicted to Noise, but the lineup for the two Northern California shows in question led ATN reporter Gil Kaufman to wonder,” is it the Breeders if Kelley’s not there?
Sure, we guess. But is it the Breeders if Josephine Wiggs isn’t there either? Um, maybe. But is it the Breeders if, it’s, uh, the Amps?” Kim’s pronouncements on the subject were vague, at best. Asked by Tweak if there would ever be another Breeders album, she replied, “If none of us are in jail we’re going to do one soon, yeah.” Whatever the eventual outcome, the Breeders had already made a huge splash in the crowded pool of alternative rock.
Pod, 4AD/Rough Trade, 1990.
Safari (EP), 4AD/Elektra, 1992.
Last Splash (includes “Cannonball”), 4AD/Elektra, 1993.
“Iris (Live),” No Alternative, Arista, 1993.
“Head to Toe” b/w “Shocker in Gloomtown” and “The Freed Pig,” 4AD/Elektra, 1994.
As The Amps
Pacer, 4AD/Elektra, 1995.
As Kelley Deal 6000
Go to the Sugar Altar, Justice Records, 1996.
As Josephine Wiggs Experience
Bon Bon Lifestyle, Grand Royal, 1996.
Addicted to Noise, December 23, 1996.
Entertainment Weekly, October 1, 1993; July 12, 1996.
Guitar Player, November 1993.
Request, October 1993.
Rocket, April 24, 1996; July 10, 1996.
Rolling Stone, October 14, 1993; October 28, 1993; January 26, 1995; June 1, 1995.
Spin, September 1993; December 1993; March 1994;
Additional information was provided by the Elektra Records web page on the Breeders.
"The Breeders." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/breeders
"The Breeders." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/breeders
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Formed: 1990, Boston, Massachusetts
Members: Kim Deal, guitar, vocals (born Dayton, Ohio, 10 June 1961); Kelley Deal, guitar, vocals (born Dayton, Ohio, 10 June 1961); Mando Lopez, bass; Jose Medeles, drums; Richard Presley, guitar. Former members: Tanya Donelly (born Newport, Rhode Island, 14 July 1966); Shannon Doughton, drums (born Britt Walford, Louisville, Kentucky); Nate Farley, guitar (born Dayton, Ohio, 13 May 1971); James Macpherson, drums (born Dayton, Ohio, 23 June 1966); Josephine Wiggs, bass (born Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England, 26 February 1965).
Best-selling album since 1990: Last Splash (1993)
Hit songs since 1990: "Cannonball," "Divine Hammer"
Formed out of mutual frustration by two members of leading alternative rock bands of the late 1980s, the Breeders were an erratic, but popular band that never quite lived up to the initial promise of its 1993 hit, "Cannonball." Led by the ex-Pixies bassist Kim Deal, the band crafted a distinctive combination of dissonance and finely honed rock songs, but personal problems and a severe case of writer's block crippled the group for nearly a decade following their most popular release.
Identical twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal grew up in Dayton, Ohio, near Wright Patterson Air Force base, where their father worked as a physicist. In addition to their love for classic rock groups such as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, the twins were popular athletes at their high school. Kim attended seven different colleges before dropping out to join the Boston alternative music stars the Pixies in the late 1980s.
Feeling underappreciated in their respective bands, Deal and Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donelly joined forces in 1990 to form the Breeders. Taking their name—a slang term used by homosexuals to describe heterosexual parents—from a group formed by the Deal sisters in their youth, the two recruited bass player Josephine Wiggs of England's Perfect Disaster to record their debut album, Pod (1990), during a Pixies tour of England.
See-sawing between the ponderously slow, thick sound of songs such as "Glorious" and the frantic, throbbing punk rock of "Doe," the album is a showcase both for Deal's wounded, angelic vocals and Wiggs's prominent, thrumming bass lines. Slint drummer Britt Walford played drums under the pseudonym Shannon Doughton on the album, which was recorded by the renowned alternative rock producer Steve Albini. Bringing with her the patented Pixies's sound—a chaotic swirl of noise that often gelled into curiously off-kilter, catchy pop rock songs—Deal was clearly the creative force of the group. Deal was fired from the Pixies in 1992, allowing her to focus all her energies on the Breeders.
Pod earned the Breeders a loyal group of fans. To satisfy them and tide them over until the Breeders's next full-length album, 4AD/Elektra released a four-song mini-album, Safari, in 1992. It features a more melodic but still bottom-end-heavy sound, especially on a cover of the Who's "So Sad About Us." The untrained musician Kelley Deal joined the group for the recording of Safari, playing guitar and doubling the vocals of sister Kim; she replaced Donelly, who quit the group to form her more pop-oriented group, Belly. Jim Macpherson was added as the band's drummer.
The Breeders played their first major concerts in 1992, opening for Nirvana on a European tour, which was followed by the sessions for their second album, Last Splash. Released in the summer of 1993, the album thrust the group into a surprisingly bright mainstream spotlight courtesy of the breezy pop hit "Cannonball," for which a whimsical video was created by Spike Jonze, then on the brink of renown as a video and film director.
A perfectly crafted blend of funk-inspired bass, jazzy drumming, and repetitive, distorted guitar lines, "Cannonball" layered the noisy rock sound of the Pixies with a relentless pop sensibility and Kim Deal's compelling vocals. An amalgamation of nonsense syllables and oblique lyrics ("Spitting in a wishing well / Blown to hell / Crash, I'm the last splash / I know you, little libertine"), the song secured sales of 1 million for the album and a slot on the 1994 alternative rock festival, Lollapalooza. Alternating between feedback-drench surf-inspired rock ("No Aloha," "Invisible Man"), abstract, noisy punk songs ("Roi," "S.O.S.") and plodding, dark ballads ("Do You Love Me Now?"), Last Splash signaled the rise of a new, powerful female voice in rock.
Unfortunately, the sudden success and nonstop touring and promotion took its toll on the group. The Breeders went on hiatus in late 1994, and Kelley Deal was arrested for drug possession in early 1995; she was sent to court-mandated drug rehabilitation. Kim Deal began work on a solo album, but eventually recruited Macpherson, guitarist Nathan Farley, and bassist Luis Lerma for her short-lived side project, the Amps. The group's only album, Pacer (1995), is a more aggressive, distorted take on the Breeders's sound, though with traces of the surf and punk music that inspired the latter.
A Failed Attempt to Regain the Spotlight
Following rehab, Kelley Deal self-released an album from her new band, the Kelley Deal 6000, Go to the Sugar Altar (1996), a wide-ranging collection of shambling punk songs in a Breeders vein, with several addressing the horrors of addiction. Wiggs departed from the dormant group in 1996 to form her own band, the Josephine Wiggs Experience, followed by Macpherson.
Afflicted with writer's block and stymied in an abortive attempt to record a new Breeders's album in the late 1990s, Kim Deal retreated from the spotlight to concentrate on learning how to play drums. In 1998, rejoined by Kelley, the group recorded a cover of the 3 Degrees's "Collage" for The Mod Squad soundtrack, signaling the rebirth of the band. The entire lineup changed once again before a third album was finally delivered in 2002. Bassist Mando Lopez, guitarist Richard Presley, and drummer Jose Medeles joined the Deals on Title TK.
Though eagerly anticipated, the album failed to live up to fans' expectations. Downbeat and mostly mid-tempo, Title TK goes for low-key introspection ("London Song," "Off You"), adding touches of droning farfisa organ and off-kilter drumming on tracks such as "The She." The shambling "Too Alive" and "Put on a Side" feel like unfinished, impromptu garage recordings, whereas the sprightly "Son of Three," with its grinding guitars, insistent beat, and the Deals' intertwined vocals, is one of the few tracks to recapture the band's former glory.
The Breeders's initial success and promise fell victim to personal problems and creative indolence, transforming the uniquely talented Deal sisters into one of the strangest punk one-hit wonders in rock history.
Pod (4AD/Rough Trade, 1990); Safari (4AD/Elektra, 1992); Last Splash (4AD/Elektra, 1993); Live in Stockholm (Breeders Digest, 1994); Title TK (Elektra, 2002).
"Breeders, The." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/breeders
"Breeders, The." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved February 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/breeders