"SO?" Kelley Deal asks me. "What have you been up to since the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy?"
I just admitted to the Breeders guitarist that the last time I saw the band was in April 1993, on a bill that included the Disposable Heroes, Nirvana, and L7. She's having fun with me, of course. Actually, our entire conversation sort of goes like that—there are moments I'm not sure who's interviewing whom.
Deal is in good spirits, as are the Breeders. The band is still in full tour mode with the Last Splash lineup I saw 21 years ago that includes—of course—Kelley's twin sis, guitarist and former Pixie Kim Deal, drummer Jim Macpherson, and bassist Josephine Wiggs. But more important, Kelley says the Breeders will likely cut some demos this year in Kim's studio—"16-track, reel-to-reel, definitely analog."
"It reminds me of what hard work it is," Kelley says of recording. "The Breeders sound like we just get together and make goofy music. It's more thought out. You don't just come in and start winging stuff."
The band's two best records—their 1990 debut Pod and 1993's Last Splash—are anything but "goofy." Pod was dark and icy and weird, while Last Splash introduced hooks to the noise. Last year, the Breeders toured for the 20th anniversary reissue of that album, which made them household names in the Alternative Nation on the strength of the flawless single "Cannonball."
The recent tour was significant for Kelley, who experienced life on the road with her friends and bandmates sober and rejuvenated. "A lot of things I don't remember because I was too inebriated," she says. "This last tour opened my eyes to them as people."
While the Breeders are taking up the bulk of her time, Kelley—who's lived in her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, since returning in 2001—has been making music under the name R. Ring, which follows a history of projects like the excellent Kelley Deal 6000 and the cult-fave one-off the Last Hard Men, which also featured Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and then-Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach. ("Sebastian's voice was incredible. We wanted to use it as a force of good, not evil," Kelley half-jokes.)
Of course, things are different now. The world really has changed since the utopic '90s—but Kelley's approach to music hasn't. "When I play and write and perform, it really has nothing to do with any outside audience," she says. "Whatever gives me a transcendent moment and makes time stand still—I don't want to accept anything less."
That right there should be enough to get people excited for new Breeders music. This goofy little band is more important than any of the members will likely admit. Understandably, Kelley says it's hard to be introspective. When a magazine like NME ranks the Breeders as one of the great indie-rock bands, she says, "That could be argued by anyone, including me."
One thing she is certain of: Whether it's the Breeders or some other project, we're likely going to be dealing with the Deals for some time to come (and I promise Kelley not to wait 21 years between shows).
"I get asked, 'Do you think you and your sister will be playing music together 'til you die?' Well, yeah!" Kelly says. "And it'll be just as weird and interesting and great."