When I first called famed Breeder and indie-rock legend Kelley Deal, she missed the call because she was outside planting tomatoes. Can I tell you how much I love that? It’s rad that someone with Deal’s reputation is cool to do press for a smaller-venue tour with her non-Breeder project R. Ring (with collaborator Mike Montgomery). I love the idea of an artist I admire like Deal, who has achieved the heights of pop success with “Cannonball,” battled the lows of addiction and came out stronger, doing normal life stuff. Even our heroes are human. It’s something to remind ourselves as we set our own goals or when compelled to heap a lot of judgment at people in the public eye.
“We’ve had such horrible storms. I’m in Dayton, Ohio. I need to get some stakes and get these tomatoes off the ground,” Kelley says. We chat for a minute about how the rain has been on the East Coast and I relate how I didn’t get to plant snap peas and am pissed. This is so awesome.
“Myself and Josephine and Jim Macpherson, they were all in town for some Breeders demo-ing so we went out to a farm outside of town this morning,” Kelley says. “We went and got a lot of corn. It was good.”
I mention to Kelley how I feel like the farm-to-table movement and local business emphasis or venue growth has been a leading factor in revitalizing our own city of Kingston, even to the point that Kelley Deal has a good venue to come perform at now when R. Ring does a free show at BSP on Thursday, July 30 with dream-pop songbird Pecas. The event is sponsored by Magic Hat and there will be $5 drafts of their great products that night. Hopefully no one will be tased like outside the rap show last weekend, although I have been known to self-tase to “impress” women, for money or for an initiation ceremony into a Misfits tribute band with Andy Animal, Matt Rice and Dead Unicorn drummer/Ulster Publishing pal Zac Shaw, who wussed out.
“With music, in my experience, with R. Ring and bands coming up now the only option you have is to go places where the community or city or venue is committed to making something interesting happen,” Deal advises. “You really do have to do it yourself. But you can! It really is a labor of love for pretty much everybody involved.”
Jello Biafra once said “vote with your dollars” and that goes for music as well. Let’s keep voting for Murder by Death and Kelley Deal types to come through town and kick up some ritual sing-along dust with us, ‘cause it’s been a real ball around here lately and I for one am having a blast. R. Ring will even have their new seven-inch for sale with Kentucky band Protomartyr on Hardly Art records.
“I don’t really know how brand-new bands even get going these days,” Deal says. “You hop in the van and do that thing. You just kind of go. But that means you have to either have a part-time job that’s gonna let you leave or you’ll have to be subsidized by … your girlfriend or boyfriend or mom.”
In my most cynical moment I think Big Brother invented file-sharing to convince us all of free music exchange but at the expense of artists being able to afford to do larger-scale tours and become the next political threat to the mainstream, like Rage Against the Machine or Run the Jewels. Make us all broke so the artists and wizards and homosexuals and Marxists have to stay home and cook up our Yippie pamphlets with bad glue fumes or troll Reddit.
“Nice conspiracy-theory work there, I like it,” Deal says. “The shows that Mike and I do with R. Ring, because we’re not a full band it’s a little weird. We can get put into a bar or Friday night club and we are not that band. The ‘close the night’ big rock band.”
I tell her she should get flash pods and a smoke machine anyway.
“That would be really funny and critically inappropriate,” Deal says. “People want to go see an Irish band that celebrates drinking and punk and not us, which I totally understand.”
I try to cheer her up by singing her the Pogues’ version of “Whiskey, You’re the Devil”. Then I pull it together and we talk a bit about persona. I tell her how I used to feel like I couldn’t crack jokes on stage as it would take away from the gravitas of any Joy Division-y big “statement” of seriousness. And how The Breeders or my friend Sean Paul’s old band Jerk Magnet growing up made me loosen up a bit.
“I totally know what you mean,” she says. “I kind of have come to terms with having the personality of a talk-show host. I’m just not scary. I’m just not. There’s a couple trajectory points for me. I remember watching The Song Remains the Same in a theater and I was tripping. I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ A group of people onstage collaborating to play and make music. That started my interest in it, but it wasn’t until I started listening to Kate Bush and it was so big and other-than-mainstream. It was a bullet point that made me know it was OK to not sound like anyone else. You don’t have to learn every note to ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ Then I heard Undertones and Buzzcocks. They picked up an out-of-tune guitar and found this joy of the amateur.”
But it’s perfect pop, and sometimes that is harder to write. We talk about how having Jack White play with a crack drummer is a yawn fest compared to Meg White’s minimal-but-empowered vulnerability. As we run out of time I have to ask Kelley if she and twin sister (and former Pixie) Kim Deal would, when they were kids, lip-synch battle to Motown into hairbrushes like Muppet babies.
“No, we didn’t. But that’s incredibly cute! Please keep thinking that,” Deal exclaims. “Why can’t we have tiny cartoon Breeders? Josephine would look like Velma from Scooby Doo.”