Sept. 10 2014 01:56 PM

Iconic indie rockers get the cannonball rolling again

The Breeders
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Although The Breeders released their debut album, Pod, in 1990—featuring former Slint drummer Britt Walford and soon-to-be Belly frontwoman Tanya Donnelly—it took a few years for their most widely recognized lineup to take form. When the Pixies officially split in 1992, bassist / singer Kim Deal used the opportunity to give her one-time side project full-time attention.

At that point, Deal had already brought in her twin sister / guitarist Kelley to join bassist Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jim MacPherson. And just a few months before that, the band was selected as the opening band for Nirvana's European tour.

But no one in the group was prepared for what came next. The Breeders' tuneful and weirdly accessible sophomore release, Last Splash, became a surprise hit. Lead single "Cannonball" ended up a fixture on alternative-rock radio, and the band toured as part of the Lollapalooza lineup in 1994. The album went platinum.

By the end of 1994, however, the group had collapsed in a heap of exhaustion and drugs. And during the next two decades, only a pair of Breeders LPs—recorded without Wiggs or MacPherson—would see the light of day. The four musicians wouldn't play together again until 2013.

To coincide with the album's 20th anniversary, the Deal sisters, Wiggs and MacPherson reunited for a tour that found them playing Last Splash in its entirety every night.

"We initially got together just to celebrate that album," Wiggs told CityBeat during a break from band practice in Dayton, Ohio. "But we were also getting together to see what it'd be like to play together again. And we ended up doing far more shows than initially planned. It was supposed to be something like a four- to six-week tour, and I think it ended up being eight months. We played 60 shows."

The Breeders play Sept. 17 at The Casbah (sold out) 

It was during those extra weeks when the band started to consider writing new material. After all, there hadn't been a proper Breeders release since 2009's four-song Fate to Fatal EP. But Wiggs insists that it took a while for the idea of writing again to take hold.

"We were just having so much fun doing this unexpected thing," she says. "We really weren't thinking about it. But combine that with the tremendous response we were getting from audiences, and it was a question that kept coming up. It was only after people kept asking us if there was going to be new music that we thought about seeing what that might be like."

With the Deals and MacPherson all living in or near Dayton, it was Wiggs who was going to have to make the longest commute.

And that's exactly what she's done. Since January, the Brooklyn-based bassist has spent a week in Ohio each month working on new songs.

To date, they've come up with six but are taking a break to hit the road again (which includes a sold-out stop at The Casbah on Sept. 17). But if it weren't for a special invitation, The Breeders would still be in a Dayton rehearsal space working on song No. 7.

"Neutral Milk Hotel got in touch," Wiggs says. "They wanted to know if we were interested in playing with them at the Hollywood Bowl. It was what this tour was pegged on from the start. The offer came up, and we thought it was the perfect thing to work backwards from. And at the very least," she adds with a laugh, "it'll be fun to have ‘Cannonball' further down in the set list every night."

While nothing is set in stone, the general plan is to resume songwriting when they wrap up their tour. But Wiggs admits they're far from ready to commit to a deadline for a new album.

"There's no timetable for it," she says. "But I think we all want it out as soon as possible. We're just a bit at the mercy of the songwriting process and how quickly we can get another half-dozen songs together. But the ball is rolling since we've gotten the initial batch done, and things are going to pick up a bit now."

This is all good news for Breeders fans. What started as a temporary thing to honor an influential album's milestone has now flourished into a full-fledged reunion. And it seems to be chugging along at a pretty good clip.

For a band with such a tumultuous and unpredictable past, this is the most grounded and steady they've been in years. And everyone involved seems committed to at least trying to see if they can capture some of that magic they were responsible for all those years ago.

"This all came about in a strange way," Wiggs says. "But we're enjoying it and are excited to do more. We've been getting together to work up new material and always had in mind that we'd like to play them out. I think it will be really interesting to see how it fits in with the stuff we've been doing.

"And now we get the chance."

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