The Kelley Deal 2200 (Word Interview)


I didn't think there could be a more laid back, conversational, entertaining interview subject than Kim Deal. Then I talked to her twin sister, Kelley. And now I really don't know. Just like when I talked with Kim, this turned out to be less an interview and more just a chat, occasionally touching on Breeders-related topics, but just as often straying way off. For some reason the first five minutes were spent discussing our shared love of Starbucks, then we talked about gum for a bit, her drug addiction that temporarily derailed the band, then back to lighter subjects, such as why Eric Clapton is lame. (Totally unprompted, I may add. Swoon.)

The Breeders remain one of the best rock bands in the world. Last year's show at the 9:30 club was one of my favorites of the year. Tonight's at the Black Cat will surely be just as good. How can it not be? Between the four Breeders albums, assorted EPs (including this year's "Fate to Fatal") and the lone Amps album, there's hardly a single bad song in the bunch. The Deals may not be the most prolific gals around, but the quality control is impeccable. This interview was done a few weeks ago on the first day of the band's current tour, just as the sisters pulled out of Mom and Dad's driveway and hit the road.

So the past couple years have been a pretty productive and active period for the Breeders.
It's true! When we first started out, this is what we did. You know what I mean? Until we stopped in '95. So from like '90 to '95, this is how we rolled. And then in '95 there was a huge interruption, with arrests and rehab and drug use. Drugs got so in the way. Kim has this great quote, she heard it somewhere, she doesn't remember where. Wait, I need a drink of water. I chew nicotine gum and sometimes I get a nicotine fit.

How is that nicotine gum?

Well I guess that's sort of the point?
Mmm-hmmm. But now Kim calls me Britney because I'm constantly chewing gum.

You're a chomper.
Yeah, I'm a chomper. And I hate gum. I don't really like it.

I've never chewed a piece of gum in my life.

I swear to God!
You can really say that?!

When I was a little kid my dad said if I chewed gum it would mess up my teeth and I'd have to go to the dentist a lot.
They had a lot of sugary gums!

So it just got to the point where I had never chewed a piece of gum. And I don't really like trying new foods, so I just never did.
How old are you?!

I have to give you props for stating what you state without fear of judgment or ridicule. Or maybe you do have the fear and have just got over it. The whole Starbucks thing. The whole "I don't like to try new foods" thing. I'm so not a foodie. No, I don't want to try your [expletive]! I just want my stuff. And I love the fact that you're just not ashamed to say that. Where I'm constantly like, "Well, um, you know..."

Uh, thanks, I guess. Well, sorry to interrupt...
Oh, I forgot what we were talking about ... Oh, DRUGS! Oh, excellent. Yeah, so Kim and I started working together on "Title TK" in '98. Well she had been working on music all those years, in '96 and '97 and then we started working on stuff again in '98. And that's when we moved to L.A. and hooked up with the guys and started this iteration. Now, in the 2000s, to be fair, the periods of inactivity were not really the Breeders' doing. That was more the Pixies. Stupid Pixies. No, don't say that because I love them. It will come out that I don't like them and people really like pitting the Breeders vs. the Pixies, against each other. Like Rodan and Godzilla or something. So for several years there she was absolutely busy doing the whole Pixies thing. And we did this tour because we wanted to tour and in October/November she's doing Pixies stuff. So those were out.

(Much more after the jump.)

So basically it's back to how it was originally, picking up where you left off 15 years ago?
It feels like it. Yeah. With the exception that there's more downtime because the Pixies are doing some stuff.

But man, that's a long time. Twenty years ago. You must have learned some life lessons in that time.
Life lessons, let's see. I just want to be pithy and say stupid stuff. But I don't really want to do that.

Well you mentioned the drug stuff, and that really did derail the band at a big time.
You'd do music and there were some drugs in the room. Then somehow it changes without you even being aware of it, where you're doing drugs and there's some musical gear in the room. And I'm so not anti-drug. If you can do drugs and work it into your life, I am envious and I say, Congratulations and have a great time. And I wish I didn't have that other gene, I don't know. So I am not anti-drug even though I'm sure I should be. But drug addiction is a complete and total different thing. And that is just heinous and evil.

Was the famous FedEx story actually true? (Ed. Note: The story being that Kelley was arrested after signing for a package that contained heroin.)
Well, it wasn't FedEx. It was called Emory Air Freight. And, yeah. I just badgered the delivery guy until my package got flagged. And they did a setup delivery for me. And wanted me to sign for it. So I did. And I got arrested right there.

You'll always remember that one.
And you know, at that point, you really don't understand the consequences. Because of addiction all you're thinking about is, I'm going to be sick soon, and I'm going to be very uncomfortably ill. Physically ill.

So did you have any apprehension about getting back on the road again?
I have not had a drink since 1995. I am not interested in drinking, I am not interested in weed. I'm not interested in anything, all of that sounds really bad.

OK, let's go back to music.
Music shmusic! Oh, I'm just kidding!

Is it hard to keep up with current music?
I gotta be honest, I hope people aren't judging me ... I find it hard to keep up with all the new stuff in the world. I don't know how new bands do it. It used to be if you were a new band you were competing with the band across town. Now you're competing with every band in the entire world. I find that I actually like going to shows much better now than I used to.

I feel so privileged when I go to see a band and this particular band. They have busted up the set list; somebody has a van; somebody's boyfriend's sister's cousin got a van; they loaded it up and took the time to take it to their practices. And then they loaded it up and came here and they got the gig and now they are playing live for you. And all the bobbles, and the talk about parts, and "turn down!" and "I can't hear myself sing!" I can't imagine. But something real and organic happens.

So I really enjoy going to live shows. I don't even care if the band's any good. To me they're all good if they're up there playing. OK, I don't really mean that. But I like to think that.

Do you tweet?
Now, listen. I had decided and I told everybody -- listen, I'm gonna tweet the tour. Brand new idea, I know. So I did one. I did a tweet. I was gonna do one every day. I did that one two days ago. And I'd like to thank you for reminding me to tweet something today.

"Talked to really cool person from Washington Post before doing some radio thing at some radio station."
"Thank you David from The Washington Post for reminding me to frackin' tweet."

What's your tweet name?
I don't know. I'm very new at it.

Is it the Breeders? Or Kelley Deal?
I think it's @KelleyDeal. But you have an "e" in there.

I know how to spell your name, come on.
(Laughs.) So I am going to try to do that.

So here's something. I saw your show at the 9:30 club last June, and it was great. But one thing -- you were very apologetic. If it was time for you to play one of your songs you would say, Oh, I'm sorry, I'm going to mess this up. Then after the song you'd say, Oh, I'm sorry I messed that up. I specifically remember you playing "It's the Love" and both of those things happening.
Maybe it's because we hadn't played that in a while. I'm glad you told me that! I don't like when people do that! People don't care! That song is by the Tastees, from Dayton, you can't mess that song up. The worse you play it the better it sounds. Which is why I was like, Kim, you could play the guitar on the chorus parts and then I could get to my parts quicker. It's up tempo and I'm singing a lot of lines and then everything drops out and it's just me playing the lead. And it's just the bass and drums and me doing the lead. All the rhythm [guitar] is then gone so I'm like, Why aren't you playing the rhythm during that? And she's like, No! And I appreciate her point, that that is the charm of that song. If you get that too good, the charm of that song goes away.

I think she's right.
He thinks you're right. (Kim says something in the background.) Fine! Agree with my [expletive] sister. I don't care!

Well on the recorded version, during the solo, there's one slight flub, but that's like the best part of the song.
(Laughs.) Oh, great! Excellent. No, I know what you're saying, I do. I just recently heard a Rolling Stones song, I can't remember which one it was. I was in the car so I was sitting there kind of daydreaming and I was listening to [Keith Richards] play the guitar and it was so messy and so great. Like with Eric Clapton, I recently saw him on something. And yes, he's a good guitar player. Obviously. He's a great guitar player. But it's so soulless now. He puts each finger to that fretboard flawlessly. Gives it the exact correct vibrato. Pulls it away, gets to the next chord just in time. You know, gets to the next lick. And it's just so yawn-inducing. And it's so weird for me.

Lemme tell ya -- our front of house guy plays better guitar than I do. Our tech plays better guitar than I do. Pretty soon I'll be saying Jose the drummer plays better guitar than I do. But I would never, ever want to play like that. Everybody in the audience can play better guitar than I do. I guess that's why I'm up there fronting this song and although I believe, like you believe, that I just need to be unapologetic about it. And hopefully, when I get to a riper, older age than you of 28, I'll be able to grow into that maturity.

Well that was just one observation.
No apologies, baby! Sometimes, too, when we play that I think, (drummer) Jose (Medeles) hates this! I don't think Jose likes playing that song.

I don't think he digs it.

What songs does Jose like to play?
Well, he's a dude. And he's a jazz guy. He probably likes guitarists that are a little more accomplished. Although I'm speaking for him, I don't know. Maybe he'd like it more if I celebrated it more. Maybe it's because I'm not fronting the song so competently that he feels kind of twee playing it.

Yeah I guess if he's not into it and you're not even selling it, then what's in it for him?
Right, then he feels like a tool playing it. Well we're not doing that song on this tour. Nobody offered it up and I didn't.

So how do you decide? Everybody comes in with a list and then you just pick?
Exactly. That's exactly what we did. It was so "Mountain Battles" heavy last year because we were so excited to play everything live. This year we're really bringing back some old ones. We're opening with "Hoverin'"!

Nice! (Laughs.) Exactly. We're playing "The She." We're playing "I Am Decided," "Flipside," "Little Fury." It's the first time we're actually playing "Flipside" with a keyboard.

I talked to Kim last year and I told her that the Amps record is one of my very favorites. I guess that record was sort of supposed to be the next Breeders record, then all of your [expletive] went down. So is it weird to play those songs?
Not really. During that time, we started recording [those songs] -- we went to (Steve) Albini's, we went to (Doug) Easley's studio in Memphis and we went to New York and did some work on that. I'm actually on five or six songs. It's kind of bittersweet. I'm singing on "Bragging Party," playing the lead on that. I think I'm playing bass on "Pacer," some other stuff. So it's kind of sad that that couldn't have been a Breeders record. But you know ... [sings] "You live, you learn!"

Is that cover going to be in the rotation on this tour?
Yeah, we're going to do that! Mmm-hmm.

By David Malitz |  August 21, 2009; 9:00 AM ET Interviews
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Totally agree about The Amps record.

Kelley Deal is a trip.

Posted by: elcarg | August 28, 2009 11:53 AM

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