When All Nerve, the Breeders‘ fifth album, comes out March 2 on 4AD, it will be the band’s first record in 10 years, the first to feature the classic Last Splash lineup (Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, Jim Macpherson) in 25 years and the first time ever frontwoman Kim Deal has recorded digitally. “Doing analog work is kind of expensive, and Kelley [Deal, guitar] and Josephine [Wiggs, bass] were like, ‘I don’t mind going into a digital studio, Kim — ahem, ahem,'” she says. Billboard caught up with the quartet to discuss how the new record came together and whether we can expect more in the future.
How did the decision to do the Last Splash reunion tour in 2013 evolve into writing and recording this new record?
Kelley Deal: We started doing the tour, and it felt like no time had passed at all. There’s something super strong and super recognizable about these four people playing together. You know, Kim has played with tons of different people, I have played with tons of different people, Jim was in Guided By Voices for a while and he’s played with a ton of bands, and Josephine same thing. But we all know that there’s something about playing with Jim in the position of the drums that affects Kim in a certain way — not good or bad, just a specific way. Which affects Josephine in a specific way. It all just locks together. So we were having just a great time, and plus we really like hanging out with each other. Jim’s wife Amy is one of the caregivers for my mother, who has advanced Alzheimer’s, so that’s a relationship that’s been developed and really nurtured and rediscovered. They really are family. Josephine, we feel the same way, but she’s weird. She has an English accent. [Laughs.] So there’s this wonderful feeling and camaraderie on one hand, and then the music itself was special and vibrant on the other. So it was just like nobody wanted it to end.
When you got everyone together in the studio, did it snap back into place right away, or was there some adjustment?
Kim Deal: It was a little bit of both. It feels really natural, but at the same time there is adjustment. Like when Jim set up his drums and I started playing with him, I had to turn around and crank my amplifier up like two numbers. He’s pretty loud.
Jim Macpherson: Being 20 years older, I’m just talking for myself, but we’d do something and I’d be like “you guys, did anybody record that?” and they’d be like “why?” and I’d say, “So I can remember what I played.” [Laughs.]
Josephine Wiggs: I think it was kind of slow-going in the start…[but] that’s one of the reasons why I like the title [All Nerve]. Because I think it’s kind of a nervy thing to do, after all this time, to do a record that in a way is kind of a follow-up record to Last Splash. And we had no idea of how it was gonna turn out or whether people would like it, and in a way we were kind of just doing it for ourselves. That’s how I feel, anyway. I just wanted us to make as good a record as we could make that we all liked, that we all liked our parts that we were playing and that we would have fun playing live. And if everybody else likes it too, that’s just kind of a bonus in a way.
Kim, is it true that you and Kelley Facetime each other to watch the 6 p.m. news every day?
Kim Deal: Well, it’s not specifically for that, but we’ll Facetime each other. Then I’ll like, leave the room and do something and then come back and she’ll be there and I won’t tell her that I’d left. Don’t you do that with your friends?
Josephine lived in your attic in Dayton, Ohio while recording All Nerve.
Kim Deal: Yeah. I have a third story, and there is a toilet up there, so it’s a room. But it is attic-ish, definitely. She moved in. She travels 10 hours [from New York City], so when she comes in, she stays with me for a while and then she goes back.
What was it like essentially living together while recording?
Wiggs: Our schedules don’t entirely overlap because I’m a bit of an early riser and [Kim] likes to sleep late. So often I’m up and doing stuff in the morning and she’s still asleep, so there’s room for each person to have their own alone time.
Kim Deal: I wanted to kill her. At the end, if she wasn’t putting her silverware in the drawer right, I was just like “Ohhh, this is my last nerve!” But that’s just roommate stuff. I love her. It was great having her there.
You’ve spoken a lot about how when you were first starting out, no one wanted a woman in a rock band. How do you think women’s place in rock has evolved since then?
Kim Deal: I think [the internet] shines the light in corners of what people like. It’s a huge music page where you can look [and realize], “Hey, I like these guys.” So I think that’s a positive. But the one thing that I think isn’t awesome is that I notice the coverage and the festivals thing. They don’t get coverage. [It’s] still weaker.
Do you have plans to work together after this album?
Macpherson: I would love to. I love working with them. I hope we get to tour this record a while, but also I definitely would like to record with them again. It’s been a pleasure playing with them again.
Kim Deal: I think we’re going to keep working on stuff, yeah. And I can always torture Josephine. I have a pretty ukulele song, and of course, she fucking hates the uke. So I’ll tell you right now, yes, our next song will be a uke song, and I swear to God I’m working on a Christmas song. It makes me sick to my stomach. But I have to finish it because it has to be completed. It’s my OCD.