One of alternative rock's most promising -- and frustrating -- bands, the Breeders were conceived initially as a way for Pixies bassist Kim Deal and Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donelly to let out some suppressed creative energy and to take a break from being the second bananas in each of their main bands. Deal and Donelly both played guitar, leaving bass for Josephine Wiggs of Perfect Disaster. Taking their name from the group Deal led with her twin sister, Kelley, in their teens, the Breeders combined the spareness of Throwing Muses with the shifting dynamics and warped pop sensibilities of the Pixies. Pod, their critically acclaimed debut album, was released in 1990. Two years later, the group delivered Safari, a four-song EP that found the band getting more muscular and melodic. Soon after its recording, Donelly left the Breeders to form her own group, Belly. Kim Deal brought in her sister Kelley as her replacement. By this time, their permanent drummer was Jim MacPherson, who was billed as "Mike Hunt" on Safari. 1992 also saw the group play its first high-profile gigs, opening for Nirvana on their European tour.
As the Breeders were working on their new album in the beginning of 1993, the Pixies split, leaving Kim Deal able to pursue the Breeders full-time. Released late in the summer of 1993, Last Splash was a hazier, more disjointed continuation of the hard pop of Safari. With the sonic collage of "Cannonball," the Breeders had a crossover hit that catapulted the group into stardom; within a year, the album had gone platinum and the band had a prime spot on 1994's Lollapalooza tour. That year, the group also released the limited-edition 7" Head to Toe and Divine Hammer singles that year, both of which confirmed the Breeders as a quirky, artistically willful group that was nevertheless in tune with the commercial pop tastes of the early '90s.
Just as quickly as success hit the band, the Breeders went on a sudden hiatus, partly due to exhaustion from the rapid nature of their fame and from their extensive touring. Late in 1994, Kelley was arrested for drug possession and was sent to a rehab clinic in Minnesota; the rest of the band went their separate ways while she recuperated. Wiggs played with musicians around New York, ultimately forming the Josephine Wiggs Experience with them; Kim returned to Dayton with MacPherson, learned how to play the drums, and continued writing songs. By early 1995, Kim had an album's worth of new material ready to record. Though she considered recording them on her own, Deal decided to assemble a backing band of MacPherson and other Dayton-area musicians, including Nathan Farley and Luis Lerma of the Tasties. Not surprisingly, the Amps -- originally called Tammy & the Amps -- sounded like a rougher, lo-fi version of the Breeders; their gigs and their 1995 album Pacer emphasized the loose, charming spontaneity of Deal's style.
Though the Breeders' break was supposed to be temporary, it ended up lasting far longer than the band or its fans could have expected. Indeed, the lineup that recorded Last Splash never regrouped: Wiggs recorded with the Josephine Wiggs Experience and later formed Dusty Trails with Luscious Jackson's Vivian Trimble; after Kelley completed her rehab, she formed her own solo project, the Kelley Deal 6000. She toured and released an album with this group, 1996's Go to the Sugar Altar, which reflected on addiction of all sorts in a very Breeders-esque manner.
By that year, however, Kim reclaimed the Breeders name and played some California dates with the band, which was basically the Amps' lineup with the addition of violinist Carrie Bradley (who played on Pod). In 1997, the Breeders played the Tim Taylor Memorial Benefit Concert -- in honor of Brainiac's singer/keyboardist, who was killed in a car accident earlier that year -- with that group's drummer Tyler Trent replacing MacPherson, who later joined Guided by Voices. Later that year, Kim went into the studio in one of many frustrated attempts to make the third Breeders album. However, the group's low profile didn't mean that it didn't have any hits; a sample from "Cannonball" used in the Prodigy's worldwide smash "Firestarter" earned Kim songwriting credits -- and royalties. By early 1998, Kelley had rejoined the band and the duo continued to write and record songs, though the only song to surface from any of their sessions was a cover of 3 Degrees' "Collage," which appeared on the soundtrack to 1999's big-screen adaptation of The Mod Squad.
Though a new Breeders album was hotly anticipated later that year -- and then in 2000 -- it didn't arrive. In 2000, Kim and Kelley spent time in the studio with Steve Albini; late that year, the Breeders played their first gig in over three years (and Kim's first show with Kelley in over six) at a free, secret show in Los Angeles. Once again, the Breeders' lineup had changed, with bassist Mando Lopez, guitarist Richard Presley (both formerly of Fear), and drummer Jose Medeles backing the Deal sisters. The group reconvened in the studio with Albini in 2001, finally completing an album's worth of songs. The Breeders began a flurry of activity in 2002, beginning with a club tour that winter and the release of the Off You and Huffer singles and their long-awaited third album, Title TK, that spring. The group embarked on more extensive tours of Europe and the U.S. after the album's release. After a quiet 2003, Deal was once again in the news in 2004 when the Pixies announced they were reuniting for tours of North America and Europe.
In late 2007, rumors that another Breeders album was on the way were confirmed, and Mountain Battles arrived in spring 2008. The Fate to Fatal EP, which featured a cover of Bob Marley's "Chances Are" and guest vocals from Mark Lanegan, arrived in 2009, the same year the Breeders curated the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, England. The following September, they played the ATP festival in Monticello, New York. In 2013, the band celebrated the 20th anniversary of Last Splash with a deluxe reissue of the album and a coinciding tour that reunited the Deals with Wiggs and MacPherson. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Heather Phares