The Breeders will probably always live in the Pixies' shadow, but that doesn't bother founder Kim Deal. While she was contributing to one of the most influential alt-rock groups of the 20th century with her bass-guitar duties and occasional singing, Deal was simultaneously carving out another identity as frontwoman for The Breeders. Anchored by her and twin sister, Kelley (with a revolving cast of other members), the group rose to prominence in '90s on the back of "Cannonball," an unexpected hit from 1993's Last Splash. A long period of inactivity followed: The band returned with 2002's Title TK and followed it up with last year's Mountain Battles, their final album for 4AD. Now free agents, The Breeders have self-released a new EP, Fate To Fatal, and headed back out on the road to celebrate their new freedom. Ahead of the band's show Friday night at The Black Cat, Kim Deal talked to The A.V. Club about holding the keys to their own destiny, being sampled by The Prodigy, and the songs they never want to play again.
The A.V. Club: What's surprised you most about the whole self-releasing process?
Kim Deal: I’ve been on 4AD since the ‘80s, so I’ve never actually tried to walk through vinyl. I mean, Breeders have done 7-inches, the fan club did it, but we didn’t call for the manufacturing for that. This is the first time I’ve called. It was very—it didn’t seem like a big fucking deal. I honestly thought that there would be a bigger a line for getting vinyl pressed, that’s all.
AVC: You mentioned that you're going on tour behind an EP simply because you like touring. Why does it still get you fired up?
KD: It’s weird. We were asked to curate All Tomorrow’s Parties, and to be good curators it seemed like we should release a single. We had a couple of cool songs, and we were rehearsing them at sound check all through Australia, because we were doing club shows. So when we got to London, we recorded the song that we had been working on, and it sounded good. It took a day to record, day and a half, and then a night to mix. But most of that’s setting up drums anyway and getting our gear in. Then we had some more songs. We ended up driving to [producer Steve] Albini’s. It’s like five hours. I live in Dayton, Ohio. The whole thing started because we were actually playing a show.
AVC: The press release for this tour says you guys are making a point to play songs you haven't in years. Why the return to older material?
KD: Because Kelley wanted to. She said, "I want to play some shit that we haven’t played in a long time. I’m sick of our setlist." So we’re playing “Hoverin',” which we haven’t in a long time. “Flipside,” “The She,” “I Am Decided” which I don’t know if we’ve ever played live. ["I Am Decided" was originally by another Deal side project, The Amps. —ed.]
AVC: Anything you’re not looking forward to playing?
KD: Any of the new stuff? “Little Fury,” sometimes I just feel like I’m sometimes, blah, blah, blah, blah.
AVC: Do you think a single like “Cannonball” could get on to mainstream rock radio today?
KD: “Cannonball” really wasn’t built for rock radio, so that’s a weird thing, but, you know, I don’t know. I have no idea. I have no idea what gets on the radio and how it gets on. I’ve never actually made a song for radio before. It started out with me, I was borrowing my brother’s harmonica microphone and screaming at a Marshall amplifier. [Adopts grandma voice] Back in those days you just didn’t do that to get on the radio, son! [Laughs.] People enjoyed it and so that’s great.
AVC: Speaking of Last Splash, what are some of the unexpected benefits of being sampled by The Prodigy?
KD: It did really well, and since I own, like, a quarter of the song, it felt like, "Wow, it’s like, gosh, where’s this money coming from?" You can barely hear the sample in the first place. It's so hidden you can’t even tell where it’s coming from, but it’s from “S.O.S.”
Wars had already been fought and lost by bands like De La Soul, so it was a big deal that if you sampled a certain number of seconds and whatnot. They would stop your release and shit, and managers and record companies wouldn’t touch it. It was before shit like Girl Talk and crap like that. I mean, music’s free now anyway—it doesn’t even matter. But this was actually cutting into people’s money, so managers and record labels wouldn’t even touch anything if a sample wasn’t cleared. So you always had to clear a sample. So they sent a CD, and I said, "Yes, that’s fine." I can’t hardly hear where it was sampled.
AVC: Do you still follow The Prodigy?
KD: You know, it’s like, now I root for them since they used a song of mine. Now I’m like, "You go guys! " It's like I’m in the biology club and they’re in the football team, you know?
AVC: How has the Pixies' rejuvenation affected The Breeders?
KD: I don’t think a lot of people know The Breeders. And I really, actually don’t think a whole, whole lot of people know the Pixies either. I think music fans know the Pixies, but I live in Dayton, Ohio. If you heard that The Breeders were coming into town you would go, "Oh that’s that chick from the Pixies." But here they don’t do that. They’ve never heard of the Pixies, and they’ve never heard of The Breeders. So where I live, the fact that there’s a Pixies rejuvenation, how it affects The Breeders—none of that even exists. So I imagine that in a cool music area that maybe more people might go see us. I don’t know. But why would they? Because we’re not playing any Pixies songs anyway. There's probably just more people saying, [adopts grandma voice] "Oh yeah, back in my day, I saw them in ’93."