Breeders : Camber Sands Pontin’s Holiday Centre

Kim Deal is unwell. Kim Deal is damn fine...


Kim Deal is unwell. It’s early afternoon on

the Friday of All Tomorrow’s Parties, and the chief
Breeder, former Pixie and undisputed pop star attraction

of a weekend of challenging subterranean rock, is fast

asleep in her chalet. Last night Deal and ATP curator/Shellac

mainman Steve Albini went out drinking and Kim is

spending the daylight hours of her first UK show since

The Amps toured seven years ago tucked up in bed. She

has left orders to be woken in time for Shellac at 4.15.

Kevin, the Breeders‘ tour manager, is sanguine. “At

least this way she’s not talking”, he observes. The

Breeders have just been on tour in Europe, and Kim nearly

lost her voice; now the consensus is that the longer Kim stays

comatose, the likelier it is she’ll be able to sing.

Kim Deal, it transpires, likes a chat. And a drink. And a

smoke. All three together are even better. And if they come

complete with loud music in the background, well, now you’re

talking. And talking. Kim Deal – as much of the population of

ATP 2002 will testify – likes socialising. At a festival where

the bands walk, eat and sleep among their fans and a boiler-suited

Albini spends the weekend having his hand shaken by punters,

Kim Deal is even more ubiquitous. In the bar. Watching bands. On

the dancefloor shouting at the DJ to turn it up. Signing

autographs. Being bought beers. Strolling on the foggy beach at 6am.

But this all happens later. Much later. Right now, everyone is

tiptoe-ing around, trying to prolong her slumber. Her alarm call has

been revised to 8pm so she can see fellow ex-Pixie Dave Lovering

perform his ‘science magic’ show. Kelley Deal, Kim’s sister and partner

in the Breeders, is whiling away the afternoon knitting. “We’re really

excited and nervous about this show”, she says. “Did you know some guy

on Radio 1 played ‘Off You’ twice during the day? That’s the first

time Kim’s ever had daytime Radio 1 play with any band she’s been in.

And it’s a five-minute dirge!”


While Kim snoozes, Shellac are busy being excellent:

taut, muscular and really rather cute when they pretend to

be aeroplanes. Dave Lovering, meanwhile, is a natural ham in

his nutty professor labcoat and goggles, making things whizz

and bang engagingly. We finally catch up with Kim a few minutes

before The Breeders are due to take the stage at 10.45. She’s

in one of Albini’s blue boiler suits, smoking furiously,

surrounded by Pontin’s backstage paraphernalia. BLUECOAT

SHOWTIME! chirrups a battered piece of blue and silver chipboard.

“I’ve been so good today!” she stage whispers brightly,

more luminous than anyone this hungover has any right to be.
“I’ve been asleep all day!” Kim breathes. And The Voice?
“Should hold out…” she grins nervously.

It does hold out – just about. During ‘No Aloha’, it’s

like a fledgling bird, gathering strength on the wing. ‘Saints’

is even better, all prowling, deadpan cool. And when the

familiar ‘Awhoooooooooo’ sound foghorns out, heralding the

start of ‘Cannonball’, several hundred extremely happy people

threaten to drown it out completely. Kim’s voice – husky, wayward,

instantly recognisable – isn’t just an instrument, of course. It’s

emblematic of The State Of The Breeders (today Kim, Kelley, and

several members of LA hardcore punk stormtroopers Fear). In it lurks

Deal’s pop genius, something that hasn’t dissipated during the eight

long years it’s taken The Breeders to get a new record together. When

it cracks, bleeds and threatens to give out during ‘Iris’, that voice

is a heart-breaking reminder of everything that’s gone wrong for the

Deals: Kelley’s heroin addiction, the years in the wilderness. And

when it picks its way through that new single, ‘Off You’ – possibly

the most beautiful song Deal has ever written – it’s quietly

triumphant and deeply affecting. “I am the autumn and the

scarlet/I am the makeup on your eyes,” she warbles. We don’t

know what it means, but our legs turn to spaghetti anyway.


Backstage afterwards, the mood is tense, despite

the ATP crowd’s ecstatic reception. The band, their tour

entourage, record company, Albini and a paramedic are cloistered

in the cupboard that serves as a dressing room. The news is grim:

Kim has a throat infection and will have to see a doctor in nearby

Rye in the morning.

The next day, he confirms the diagnosis. On the way in to the

surgery, Kim makes friends with a girl, also from ATP, who’s being

seen for her conjunctivitis, and makes sure she gets the girl’s

friend a signed birthday card. She also goes for a curry in Rye

and meets Cheap Trick, Sunday’s ’70s rock headliners, who make the

mistake of asking The Breeders for a wishlist of songs to play. By

Saturday night, they’ve whittled it down to a list of about 30.

“It’s not just a sore throat, it hurts down here”, Kim whispers,

grinning and pointing to her larynx, while clutching two beers and a

cigarette. “It’s burning in a way I’m not used to. Singing doesn’t hurt,

but I need to rest my voice. TALKING LIKE THIS OVER LOUD MUSIC is what

kills it.” And then she rushes off to dance to James Brown, make some new

friends and hug Dave Lovering again.

Kim Deal is unwell. Kim Deal is damn fine.