What to Do Tonight: The Breeders

Four square, Breeders style
  • Four square, Breeders style

The Breeders have released only four albums in their 22-year career, making them one of alt-rock’s most underachieving bands. During the same period, frontwoman Kim Deal’s Pixies bandmate Black Francis/Frank Black has been ridiculously over-prolific, recording more than a dozen albums. But even with the smaller catalog, Deal and the Breeders are the bigger stars, thanks to one hell of a summer back in 1993.

The band’s distinct take on noise-pop — combined with Deal’s brittle, beatific voice — has inspired countless artists over two decades, even with the sporadic output. It’s a blueprint for success that Deal boils down to a simple sort of discipline: record only good songs.

“I can’t handle being part of a bad song,” she says. “Writing a song is super easy. You can go to the library or bookstore and there’s actually a formula for writing songs. But here’s the hard part — writing a song I’m going to want to sing in front of people five years from now. If other people write bad songs, they just don’t play them, like [fellow Dayton native, Guided by Voices frontman] Bob Pollard — he’s got as many bad songs as he’s got good songs.”

Deal can trace her relationship with good songs back to her days in ’80s indie-rock icons the Pixies. “Gigantic,” one of the few Pixies songs she had a hand in writing, ranks as the group’s most endearing moment on record. Deal wasn’t allowed to pen many songs in the Pixies, so she formed the Breeders in 1988 with Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donelly as a side project and creative outlet. They released a couple of EPs. The same year the Pixies broke up (1993), Deal’s other band unleashed Last Splash, one of alternative nation’s greatest albums. Its first single, “Cannonball” (where Deal traded vocals with her twin sister Kelley, who’s also in the Breeders), became a summer anthem.

But it took the Breeders nearly a decade to make another record. The band was exhausted, Kelly got busted for drugs, and Kim formed another side project, the Amps. In 2002, the Breeders finally released a follow-up, Title TK, a stripped-down garage-rock album that traded the Deal sisters’ sexy indie charm for aggressive and unflattering noise rock. It wasn’t until 2008 that the Breeders got it right again.

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