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Fast and furious

Kelley Deal on the new and improved Breeders

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The Breeders' Kelley Deal has to pee. Bad. Thus signals the rather abrupt end to a brisk interview -- but it's also rather appropriate. Because if there's one thing that can be said of Kelley Deal, it's that she's free flowing.
But wouldn't you have a lot to talk about if, over the course of a little less than two years, you had a part in a major resuscitation? Following the success of the Breeders' Last Splash -- which barreled like a "Cannonball" through the alt-rock world in 1993 -- the band suffered a series of near-fatal stalls before sputtering back to life in 1999-2000. The current lineup -- Deal and twin sister Kim with guitarist Richard Presley, bassist Mando Lopez (both of L.A.'s Fear) and drummer Jose Medeles -- came together in 2000. This is the group's first road outing since the May release of Title TK, its first new album in nine years.

Survey the band's press over the last couple of years, and you'll find more stories about drug use, failed drum-tracking sessions and the "Behind the Music"-worthy events that led up to Title TK than on the album itself. But as far as Kelley's concerned, that's fine. Not only is she clean and sober, she believes the Breeders are now doing things the way they were meant to be done -- with the right players, right to tape.

"I think it's a good thing that people are interested in our studio quests, because they should know that Kim goes around and listens to drum sounds," says Deal emphatically. "At least it's not ProTools. With ProTools, for so many bands, it's more than tweaking; it's recreating sounds digitally. We never even considered it. I want to hear the drummer get tired at the end of a song. I want to hear Kim's voice get a little harsh at the end of a chorus where she's been yelling. I want to feel the sweat, feel the nicotine. I want to hear it, smell it, feel it."

Of course, you won't be hearing, smelling or feeling the Breeders on the radio or MTV anytime soon. Among the things that have changed since their last album is the number of outlets for exposure.

"There was a mourning process," admits Deal. "But we figured we'd just get on our horses and go. Just because the prevailing trends suck didn't mean we weren't going to make our music anymore. When we released Last Splash, Pod and Safari, what was going on was Paula Abdul, you know. So in a way, it's kind of similar. Instead of Paula Abdul, it's Britney Spears."

Indeed, it would be hard to describe Title TK as anything but a Breeders album. A collection of slightly abrasive melodies and skewed sounds, it's more stripped down than the angular, poppier moments on Last Splash. But it doesn't suffer from the duality that left Last Splash seeming a little underdone at times.

There's an often-intimate girlishness to Title TK. It's an endearing exchange between two quirky sisters, whose relationship Kelley describes as like taffy: sweet and misshapen -- and because it's always changing, you never know who will get the long or short end.

But audiences rarely get the short end live.

"We don't like when people do their new record in its entirety," says Kelley. "We do songs from Last Splash, Pod, Pacer [from Kim's other band, the Amps], a Kelley Deal 6000 song. There's a general enthusiasm. There are young kids, adults, and men -- we'll call them men -- who tell me they first listened to us when they were 12 years old. [It] makes me feel like a hag."

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