Considering their last album was released in 1993, you’d think the Breeders could have come up with an album title in that time. Instead, they named their new release Title TK, which in journalism jargon means “title to come” – used when information is still forthcoming.
As coolly detached as she is, frontwoman Kim Deal wasn’t being a slacker. This title was conceived even before this album, due May 21, was.
“I always thought Title TK sounded cool. Even when Last Splash didn’t have a name, I thought I’d call it Title TK, but I didn’t use it then. And then for this one, I was like, ‘I could use Title TK and that would be funny because it reeeally is truuue,’ ” Deal said, laughing. “It sounds like a championship of procrastination and…” she trailed off, appropriately.
The Breeders’ Pod (1990) and SafariEP (1992) got little attention from mainstream listeners. It wasn’t until Last Splash, known for the breakout single “Cannonball” and its accompanying music video directed by Spike Jonze (Beastie Boys, Fatboy Slim) and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, did the group hit it big – for an indie band.
Then they fell off the face of the earth.
It’s nearly 10 years later and the Breeders, still anchored by Kim Deal and, to a lesser extent, her twin sister Kelley, are back. The Deals have traded in all of the old bandmembers – Tanya Donelly, Josephine Wiggs, Carrie Bradley, Jim MacPherson and Britt Walford – for ex-members of the L.A. punk rock band Fear: Richard Presley, Mondo Lopez and their friend Jose Medeles.
“See, I couldn’t find a band for a while,” Deal said, explaining the group’s absence. “I think it was because everybody was on their digital stuff, their Pro Tools stuff that was just coming out of the boxes then, fresh-smelling and everything.
“Musicians were in a room in their house, not in a room playing with each other,” she continued. Then, in her best computer geek voice, she illustrated what she meant. “I got a P.O.D here man, we can just put it straight on to Pro Tools.” She breaks the act to explain that that means, “You’re just sitting there watching someone work a computer, which is so not fun. I can’t even stand to see someone read their e-mail.
“So I couldn’t find a band. I thought, OK, I’ll learn to play all the instruments,” she explained. No small feat, but not out of character for the tough-girl rocker. In the summer of 1999 she went to Electrical Audio, producer Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago. She recorded three songs herself: “Too Alive,” “Forced to Drive” and “The She.”
“But what I noticed was it didn’t matter if I liked how it came out, there wasn’t a band around to make fun of me or for me to make fun of,” she said. “If I did finish the record like that, how would I tour it? I’d have to get a band. What? Like a touring band? That’s just weird. So after those three songs, I didn’t go back and finish it because it didn’t make any sense. I needed a band.”
She found the members of Fear in March 2000. Kim met them when they were in New York playing a few shows. The guys were at Motor City, a bar on the Lower East Side, when Kim walked in to grab a drink after playing music at a friend’s studio around the corner.
“The studio is called Loho,” Presley said. “Which means…?”
” ‘Good luck’ in Chinese,” Deal answered assuredly.
“Good luck,” Presley repeated, completing their little exchange.
“So,” he continued, “she came over to us and we started talking and she said, ‘Hey, I’m next door, you should come over and jam.’ We were there till like 9 a.m.”
Over the course of that epic jam, Deal first asked where the guys lived – East Los Angeles – and then decided to move there. Three months after that night, she showed up with all of her stuff and three songs from her one-woman recording session in hand.
Two years to the month after they met, Deal and the Breeders were back in Albini’s studio recording such songs as “Sinister Foxx,” “Little Fury” and “Off You.”
” ‘Sinister Foxx’ is a name I’ve had since the ’80s,” Presley said, “and I thought it would be a good name for a cheesy metal band. And this is really bad, but this is for the kids: A year and a half ago, I got a DUI and had to go to court-ordered alcohol awareness programs every Thursday night. And [Kim] would say, ‘Oh Richard can’t come to practice, he’s gotta go to his beer class,’ ” he explained, referring to the song’s reference to his weekly engagement.
“And at a Breeders show in L.A., this friend of ours got drunk and almost died. So that’s where the line about being at Cedars every night comes from because there’s a hospital in L.A. called Cedars Sinai,” he continued. “She’s got a nasty scar on her stomach, they had to push her guts back in and stuff, so that’s where we got the inspiration for the song.”
As for “Little Fury,” Kim explained that the title comes from pocketknives that are sold at truck stops with the word “fury” across the blade. “I thought it was funny that this guy called it his little fury and I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re doing great for yourself.’ ”
The opening line of the song and the whole album is “Round up holler girls,” which Deal said refers to her grandmother’s neighborhood in West Virginia – Potato Hollow – which is known around the way as Tater Holler. “I’m just saying, ‘Hi, Holler girls.’ ”
” ‘The She’ has a cool-sounding organ on it,” Deal said. ” ‘The She’ is the name of a nightclub where my brother used to disco dance, he had the suit and everything.”
“Her brother Kevin was a championship disco dancer in Dayton, Ohio,” Presley said.
“He wasn’t a champion. Did he win any trophies? He roller-skated,” Deal clarified.
“Disco roller-skate?” Presley joked. “With the pulled-up socks and the Jack Tripper shorts?”
Giggles all around and then, trying to stifle them, Deal said, “So that’s ‘The She.’ ”
The first single from Title TK, “Off You,” features what Deal refers to as “that noise.”
“We were at the studio. ‘Off You’ sounds good. The bass is done, the guitar is done. Then Kelley wanted to play bass pedals. It came out as so obviously not a noise that would go with the song, but it sounded cool.”
“It sounds like some science fiction thing,” Presley said.
“Yeah,” Deal said. “Whenever I hear it, I say, ‘Kelley’s landed.’ “