Josephine Wiggs, bassist for the Breeders — famous for its seminal 1993 album, Last Splash, and the hit "Cannonball" — speaks with the perfectly clipped English accent you'd expect to hear on audiobook versions of Jane Austen novels. When I call her to discuss her band's new tour, a short September run planned from Ohio to Los Angeles (culminating with a double-headlining Neutral Milk Hotel show at the Hollywood Bowl), she answers from the Ohio home of the Breeders' guitarist and singer (and former Pixies bassist) Kim Deal.
Last year, the Breeders embarked on a reunion tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Last Splash, playing the whole album. But when the tour was over, the band, newly inspired, wasn't ready to retire a second time. Ahead of the band's Wednesday show at RecordBar, Wiggs talked to me about the Breeders' second act as she watched a rainstorm from Deal's front porch.
The Pitch: This is the second tour reuniting the Last Splash lineup. I was under the impression that the 2013 run would be a one-time thing. What changed?
Wiggs: When we started the tour, all we set out to do was to commemorate that record. But then we were on tour, and it seemed to mean so much to so many people. We kept meeting people that were just so thrilled because they had seen us play 20 years ago, and they had stories about seeing us support Nirvana or seeing us play in Europe in '93. Everyone was so excited, and all these people were asking us if we were going to make another record or carry on playing.
And there was the fact that we were enjoying it so much. We were all surprised at how much fun we were having. And so all of those things coalesced into the idea that maybe we should try and carry on, which of course involved planning to write new material and get another record out.
Wait, what? You guys are making new music?
Oh, yes. That's why we're playing these shows, to try out some of the new songs that we're working on. We did that even before we went in to record Last Splash. We played a substantial number of those songs live before going on to record them. You listen differently when you're playing songs live in front of people. You use a different part of your brain. So that's the reason why we are playing these shows in September.
What does the new material sound like?
I think we have talked about what it was about those songs [on Last Splash] that was appealing not only to other people but to us — what it was about them that was fun to play and compelling. I think it would be great to tap into whatever that was and use that to kind of inform the things that we're rehearsing now, and the things that we're coming up with and shaping, and to try and tap into that sort of sensibility. I do feel like there was something special about that time and those songs, and it would be great to — not to emulate it, exactly, but to use that to inform what we're doing.
At the same time, it's new stuff. I don't know whether we should be asking ourselves, "Well, does this sound like a Breeders song — whatever that means — or doesn't it? Do we have to think about it, or is it just enough to play it?" We have thought about it, and often we will reference a lead guitar part or a way of doing something by way of referring to an old song and using that as a touchstone, but obviously making it sufficiently new and different, so that you're not just rehashing old things.
You've all had your own projects outside of the Breeders. What is the experience like of playing together now compared with back then?
We had no idea what to expect when we set out on that tour last year. We had no idea whether people were going to be interested, and we had no idea whether we were even going to get along. It seemed like a great idea on paper, but once you're taking an 11-hour drive in a van to get from one gig to a next, there's no way of knowing how that's going to play out, really. It could easily have gone the other way, but it didn't. We really enjoyed it, and when the subject came up, like, "How does everyone feel about carrying on?" Everyone was like, "Yeah, let's give it a go."
And maybe it had been because we had all done other things over the years, and it gives you a different perspective. It makes you a bit more philosophical about it. You understand that nothing lasts forever, and you kind of make the most of things when they are happening. You learn to appreciate the things that you like and to try and let go of the things that you don't like.