What is it about female vocalists in alternative rock bands that audiences and critics find so appealing? Aside from developing cult followings, albums by Hole, Liz Phair and P.J. Harvey have been some of the most critically acclaimed of the last decade. A band that holds true to this phenomenon is Dayton, Ohio’s The Breeders, who will be headlining Saturday at the Starlight.
A band with seemingly as many lineup changes as the Yankees during the World Series, the group’s origins are difficult to trace. In my best Matt Pinfield impersonation, I will attempt to sort out the Breeders’ scattered history.
Started by identical twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal, the Breeders were formed when the girls were teenagers in Dayton. As time passed, Kim eventually found herself playing bass and writing songs in the highly influential band, The Pixies. Frustrated with her lack of contribution, Deal left The Pixies and started a band with former Throwing Muses guitarist, Tanya Donelly, under the moniker The Breeders. They recruited former Perfect Disaster bassist Josephine Wiggs and Slint’s Brit Walford on drums.
In 1990 they released their debut album “Pod” on British label 4AD records. Visionary producer Steve Albini recorded the album, which received favorable support from college and alternative radio stations. For their next EP, “Safari,” the band now included Jim Macpherson on drums and Kim’s sister (and original member), Kelley on guitar. Shortly after the release of that album, Donelly left to form her own band, Belly.
In 1993, The Breeders became mainstream with their hit album “Last Splash.” Supported by the radio friendly single “Cannonball” and a headlining gig at Lollapalooza, the album reached gold status in the U.S. alone. In 1994, the band, exhausted, took a break from touring. True to form of the perils of stardom, Kelley Deal was arrested for drug possession and sent to rehab. Kim, in the meantime, continued to write songs and formed the band, The Amps with Jim Macpherson and a “generic backing band.” The underrated album “Pacer” was recorded in October 1995, but received minimal airplay.
Over the next couple of years, the Breeders toured frugally, mainly with members of The Amps. In August of 1997, Macpherson left the band to play with another influential Dayton band, Guided By Voices, and The Breeders lineup was changed yet again. Finally, after spending a night drinking in New York City with Mando Lopez and Richard Pressley of the seminal punk band Fear, The Breeders current lineup was arranged. Kelley Deal rejoined the band and they recorded another album in 2000, again with “Pod” producer Steve Albini.
The new album, which the Breeders are currently touring to promote, tentatively titled TK, will be released in May. Don’t miss this special opportunity to see a truly elusive band. Who knows what the future holds? n