My, the Breeders certainly have been pumping them out recently. After fifteen years with only one new release, the legendary alt-rock group birthed a full-length album, Mountain Battles
, last April. That’s now being followed by the four-track EP Fate to Fatal
, a down-tempo shift for the band, and their first foray into the brave new world of self-publishing.
That’s right—the Breeders have gone rogue. Or maybe ‘gone underground’ is more appropriate, since two of the four tracks on Fate to Fatal
were recorded in bassist/singer Kim Deal’s basement in Dayton, Ohio, not far from the trailer park that was her first home. Though they have other EPs under their belt, the band has never before left the conventional studio-and-label channel for this sort of DIY approach. And, to hear Kim talk about the rigmarole of self-recording when we caught up with her over the weekend, it’s an experience that may change the way she makes music.
“It’s way more expensive,” Kim says of her preferred style of recording (for all their records, the Breeders have used only analog—or non-digital—recording equipment). “Programmed music is fine, but I don’t want to do it. You’re not going to rock my world by making me sit down and listen to your new programmed tune—your new programmed ‘joint,’” she adds snarkily. “[But after] Mountain Battles
, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to do analog anymore.”
Upkeep of all the specialized equipment is very costly, Deal says, and musicians are under increasing pressure to make their music available for free. “There is absolutely no income anymore,” she says glumly.
Deal was determined to have her way, though, which is how she decided to self-release her follow-up to Mountain Battles
. By recording half the album in her home studio (despite a flooding basement and a plague of gnats) and printing and selling the records themselves, the Breeders are able to have their cake and eat it, too.
Like a bachelor-party confection, though, there’s a surprise inside this cake. The album’s eponymous opener is a true-blue Breeders tune, a classic drum-and-guitar anthem with lots of mounting, shouted choruses—but that’s the first and last similarity to more rock-centric Breeders albums like Pod
and Last Splash
It’s worth noting that the Breeders were originally a folk-rock band when Kim and her twin sister Kelley founded the group while in their teens. It could be the sisters’ nostalgia at being so close to their childhood haunts, or it could just be the cornfields surrounding their makeshift studio, but there’s an almost countrified sedateness to the tracks on Fate to Fatal
that sets the album apart from most of the band’s oeuvre.
“Chances Are” is a mellow, introspective cover of a Bob Marley song. On “Last Time,” guest vocalist Mark Lanegan (Queens of the Stone Age, Screaming Trees) waxes Leonard Cohen with some baritone croonings about love and loss. The fourth track, “Pinnacle Hollow,” is a gently strummed evocation of a country road. No, it’s not classic Breeders fare—but then again we’d expect nothing less than a curveball from Deal and her gang.