Q&A With The Breeders

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Don’t let the news of a $450 deluxe Pixies boxed set get you down; for $3.96, you can get the Breeders‘ new four-song EP, Fate To Fatal, at iTunes. These days, Kim and Kelley Deal seem to be all about forging ahead: The Breeders are performing at and curating the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Minehead, England, on May 15-17 (Bon Iver, Gang Of Four and Heartless Bastards are among their hand-picked lineup). And Fate To Fatal is self-released, not only digitally but physically for Record Store Day on vinyl in a limited edition of 1,000 with hand-screened artwork by the Deals. Among the EP’s songs are “The Last Time” (featuring guest vocalist Mark Lanegan) and “Chances Are” (a Bob Marley And The Wailers cover recorded with Steve Albini); stream the title track below. In what’s become a MAGNET tradition of unpredictable interviews with the Deal sisters, Kim and Kelley hold forth on roller derby, Glenn Danzig and their newfound productivity.

“Fate To Fatal”:

MAGNET: Could you talk a little bit about how the songs for the EP came together?  Each of the song files I downloaded has a different album attachment: “After Albini,” “Demo,” and then one track seems to have been labeled with a lot of Japanese characters.
Kelley Deal: It’s interesting because the file names say something about Albini. They came from us, right? Does one of them have Japanese characters?

Yeah, the title track, actually.
Kim refers to that one as “Hi-chi-hi-yaw! Hi-yaw!” Kim’s computer got stuck in Japanland somehow, and she just defaults to Japanese now. But yeah, we had released Mountain Battles last spring and, as one does, we kept writing. We were on tour and, we thought it would be cool to do “Fate To Fatal” at a place called Fortress in London at the end of the tour. It’s this really nice analog studio. We were going through England and thought we would do it before we flew home. And then, we had a month break and started writing and demoing in the basement. Once we found out that we were going to do ATP, we thought, “Gee, we should put a single together.’ We had two songs, but then we had three songs, then we had four! We just wanted to get new music out there so we could play new songs live. Then it all just made sense to get it out on Record Store Day. That seemed nice—there wasn’t a master plan, really. Because that would be incredible.

Two releases from you guys in two years is kind of a big deal.
I know! It’s astonishing, isn’t it?

A little bit!
I think it’s great! I’m excited to do ATP. We’ve got really good bands playing, and we want to play the new songs.

Fate To Fatal is a relatively lo-fi effort for you guys. Don’t take this the wrong way, but “Montcalm” in particular sounds like something out of the bedroom.
Yeah, no shit! It was done on a four-track. We did the mastering at Bob Weston’s in Chicago. I remember him calling and saying, “’Montcalm’ has got a lot of tape hiss there, but it’s not a good tape hiss. I could fix that and reduce that.” At first I was like, “No! We don’t need to do that,” but then I heard that and it was like, “Damn, yeah you do that. Do whatever you need to do. The tape hiss is louder than the recording.”

You guys are in Dayton right now. Do you find it easier to write there?
You know, I really think it depends on what’s going on in your life. Right now Kim is living with my mom and dad, and my mom—she has Alzheimer’s, you know. It’s getting worse, and there’s this new hump she’s over. She pointed at me and said to my dad, “Did you know that she’s mine?” She’s asking my dad if he knows this, and he nods. She needs more care, and I find that when your personal life like that gets more busy, that’s when writing is hard. Doesn’t matter if you’re in L.A. or Dayton. Contemplative writing is harder; it’s harder to concentrate when you feel overextended personally. It doesn’t matter where you are, what matters is what’s happening in your world.

How involved was Steve Albini with the EP?
Kim and I drove up to Chicago on some horrible wintry day in Chicago. The drive up there is so bad. It’s like the director’s cut in a horror movie, Kim says. It’s always either raining for five hours straight or something. We went up there and we cut “Chances Are” with Steve. He was working on some Shellac stuff at the time.

How do you feel like these new songs sit next to previous recordings?
I’d say, snugly. Between things. How does it fit? Snugly. It’s not like we’re vibing out our funk/psychedelic side or something. You know, part of me is sort of ashamed, well not ashamed, but, “Well, it’s just the same-old, same-old. Sorry.” Kim thinks it would be weird if I had a good answer for this question.

Why is that?
She says she likes my answer just fine. Snugly.

How often are you two asked about your own work dynamic?
I think people are interested, and you know that band the National? They have those two twin brothers, and I’m fascinated with it. And I’m a twin! So I know … Or like the Davies brothers in the Kinks. They’re not twins, but they’re brothers. I wish that Kim and I could actually get into fights onstage. That would be awesome. But sometimes Kim will explain something using words that aren’t music words. She’ll explain something in terms of a mood and she’ll be using shortcut words and I’ll totally get what she means.

The way your vocal harmonies in particular has always been striking.
Like the Everly Brothers. Hey, I have to pass you to Kim.

Kim Deal: [in British accent] Hello, how are you?

Great. I was just asking Kelley about your work dynamic. What kind of effect do you think it might have on other musicians you play with?
Hm. Don’t know. Pass. What else you got? Did you know that ATP just sold out? Did you know that we’re playing and curating it? We just found out that it sold out this morning. That’s good news, right?

Yeah, it is. Are you planning on recording another full-length?
Don’t know. I got a couple of songs downstairs. But eh. One of them’s all right. Kelley likes it, but I feel like it’s silly.

What’s it sound like?
Stuff. Stuff and things.

Yeah?
Yeah.

How often are you writing these days?
You know, I feel like I’m really shining in the manufacturing process. It was really fun making the vinyl and getting the master tapes to Bob Weston, then having him send the acetate out to Jersey for the positive stamper and to make what they call the “mother.” Which I actually think, maybe because the guy said “Jersey” and “mother” at the same time I feel like the Misfits guy—Name. Name. Name.—what’s the guy’s name? What’s the fucker’s name? Short guy. Raging, raging, steroids. D. What the fuck is that guy’s name?

Glenn Danzig.
Danzig! I feel like I have put together the song “Mother,” because he’s from Jersey and has a song named “Mother,” I feel like I’ve forever connected this guy who made our positive stamper and the mother at Master Metalworks. It’s cemented in a brain-diseased way that song, “Mother,” to my manufacturing process.
Kelley: That would be a great name for a company.
Kim: Oh yeah, that would be a great name for a manufacturing company. Mother Records! Yeeeoo!
Kelley: Yo!
Kim: But anyway, the mother came from Jersey and then went to Texas, and that’s where they did the stamping. And that’s where they stamped out the vinyl. And that was really fun to do. You see? I really love manufacturing so I have been doing that. I ordered 1,000 (copies) because that’s where the price was lower.

Do you like that song? “Mother”?
Kim: Muuuu-thuh. I mean, what’s not to like? You know, there might be people who listen to it and they get goosebumps and it changes their lives. Yeah, but to me, is he singing about his mother or is he singing about the mother that makes records? They have to do the mother all the time and they have to do it in Jersey! That’s what I’m saying! I feel like that song is actually about making records! Muuuuu-thuh.

You cracked the code.
I know. Oh, hey, Kelley wants to know if you’ve seen the (“Fate To Fatal”) video.

I have not.
Kelley did it. I was thinking, “Hey, we don’t have a record company, but the vinyl is coming. Now, if someone wanted to hear the song … ” I YouTube stuff. So if someone wanted to YouTube something, they have to have a visual. I thought maybe there could be images or texts. Kelley said she would drive out to St. Louis with the camera and film our roller-derby friends. You know how St. Louis has the arch?

Sure.
Well, the name of the roller-derby team is Arch Rivals. Kelley went to the skate-orium and filmed our friends’ team. It just came online today. It’s really cute. Kelley did a really good job. What are you doing today, David? What do you have planned after this interview?

I’ve got an LSAT class tonight.
What else?

Well, my girlfriend and I kinda broke up this morning, so that’s happening.
Oh my God. How did that go down?

That’s a long story. I’m not sure we’ve got time.
Was it that she got bored with you so she’s being really demanding and acting like there is some confusing thing and you’re not getting it so she’s creating a problem? Or are you actually dumping her by being obtuse?

It’s more of a break. But we’ve going through a rough patch if you want to call it that.
Yeah, I know rough patches. For sure.

It’s been going on for a while, and we thought we needed to clear our heads for a bit. It was amicable but still shitty.
Really. Do you think she has her eye on someone else?

I think we have communication problems.
And it’s overcast in New York today, huh? It sounds so depressing. What’s the thing that’s soothing you the most?

This interview.
This interview. It helps to talk, doesn’t it?

It does.
Talk to mother! Do you like the Danzig song?

I do.
He does! You can’t not like it, you know? That guy’s crazy!

—David Bevan

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