'We don't always get along': Kim Deal opens up about life in The Breeders in 2018
“Sometimes I look at her and I just want to take a knife and gouge her eyeballs,” Kim Deal says of her sister Kelley. “But then at other times, she says something and I think, 'Wow, that was really cool'.”
Deal is acutely aware that the somewhat tumultuous history of her and her sister’s band The Breeders is infamous. So, now that the band’s classic mid-90s line up is back together, she doesn’t try to shy away from it.
“I think we're all pretty vulnerable with each other,” she considers, speaking with Double J’s Karen Leng. “We say things that are difficult to each other sometimes and we say them because... I don't know why, we just do.”
The band split up at the height of their powers in 1995, following on from the release of their classic second album Last Splash. Inter-band tensions, drugs, and a heavy workload had taken their toll, and the band just didn’t get along.
“We don't always get along now, either. Which is kinda cool,” Deal says. “I think it's sort of key.
“Even just today, Kelley and Josephine [Wiggs, bassist] were over and I had to apologise for getting snarky. Of course, I'm thinking, 'Dumb bitches!' but obviously that's not a good thing to do. So, I apologised.”
I think maybe I should have taken a break and waited for Kelley and Josephine to get their heads together.Kim Deal — Double J, 2018
The Last Splash line up of The Breeders reunited in 2012 – the Deal sisters had reformed with a different line up a decade earlier – played a bunch of shows all across the world, and eventually bunkered down and got to work on a new record, All Nerve.
Why did The Breeders split in the first place? It depends on who you ask.
“We each have our own stories about how it ended and why,” Deal says.
“Josephine says it's like the Kurosawa movie Rashomon, where the gist of the movie is that each character tells their side of the story.
“She thinks that we tell our sides of the story, how it came that we quit working together and what happened. And we're all heroes in our own story.”
And while Deal doesn’t express much regret about what transpired, hindsight has her thinking she could have been more considerate of how the rest of her band was handling the band’s immense workload at the time.
“The thing I would change after Last Splash is that, I didn't want to break. Me and Jim kept wanting to go,” she says. “I think maybe I should have taken a break and waited for Kelley and Josephine to get their heads together.
“Me and Jim kept going, we did The Amps afterwards. I didn't even think about it at the time, but I shouldn't have done that. I should have just rested too.”
While a lot has changed since the band made Last Splash 25 years ago, a lot has stayed the same as well.
“Jim has the same drums as he had in the Last Splash rehearsals and writing,” Deal says. “Kelley and I have the same amps and the same guitars as Last Splash rehearsals and writing.
“And it's the same PA!”
That PA – which lives under Deal’s house, where The Breeders write and rehearse – harkens back to the Deal sisters’ earliest forays into performance, where they’d sing Hank Williams, Captain and Tennille and John Denver songs at truck stops and weddings.
We say things that are difficult to each other sometimes. I don't know why, we just do.Kim Deal — Double J, 2018
“When we were like 20, we got this PA,” Deal reflects. “We used to take it around and use my granddaddy’s toilet seat to hold the PA. We'd go to places and a lot of times they wouldn't have a PA.
“It would be me and Kelley – I'd have my acoustic and be sitting on a chair, Kelley would be standing next to me and harmonising – we'd bring our own microphones and stands and bring our own PA and we'd sing for the diners and the beer drinkers.”
Decades later and the Deal sisters continue to make brilliant music together. All Nerve, the first Breeders record in a decade, is a strong reminder of the timelessness of this band’s slacker indie rock.
Deal is still finding new ways of writing songs and new inspirations. The album’s title track, one of many highlights, marked the first time a song had ever come to her in a dream.
“Back in the day I read that [Throwing Muses frontwoman] Kristin Hersh dreamt her songs,” Deal says. “I always used to think, 'Well that's nice, isn't it?'. It never happened to me.
“But this one song, ‘All Nerve’, I woke up and the first verse was in my head. And there was a dude singing it. It was like a fey band from the 80s in London, like Soft Cell or something. It sounded really good in my head.”
Reflecting on her large, high-quality body of work, Deal often finds surprises in the way
“I'll look at lyrics from like ten years ago and go, 'Oh my god, that is so crazy. That's exactly what I think'. But I have no memory of thinking about that being there at the time,” she says.
“It's weird, sometimes whether I have successfully communicated what I was thinking about saying has nothing to do with whether the song is good or not. But I can still like the song. Then there's the other songs where, I don't like them that much, but they're exactly what I was trying to say.”
Whatever she’s trying to say on any given record, we can only hope she continues saying it, without hesitation.
All Nerve is out now.