In 1986, an ad calling for a bass player caught Kim Deal’s attention. She auditioned and quickly was tapped to join the band, and the Pixies, a groundbreaking alternative band, was born. But after success came, Deal was frustrated by her lack of creative influence and sought out different side projects, such as the Breeders and the Amps, the former of which found a great deal of success also.
Early Life and Career
Born Kimberly Ann Deal on June 10, 1961, in Dayton, Ohio. Along with her twin sister, Kelley, Kim jumped into music-making early, collaborating with her sibling as a folk-rock duo that played at a variety of venues, including local truck stops.
But it wasn't until her early 20s that Deal began to gain some notice. After marrying in 1983, she and her new husband, John Murphy, moved to Boston where, in 1986, a newspaper ad calling for a bass player caught her attention. Deal auditioned and quickly was tapped to join the band. The Pixies, a groundbreaking alternative band, was born.
While often playing the shadow of the group's guitarist and lead singer Black Francis, Deal, who adopted the stage name Mrs. John Murphy, helped steer the band toward becoming a critical success. With a sound that mixed surfer rock tones with punk and their own unique alternative approach, The Pixies clearly influenced the shape and scope of the alternative rock scene of the early 1990s. Kurt Cobain told reporters that Nirvana's breakthrough song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was "basically trying to rip off the Pixies."
But Deal's relationship with her band—and Francis in particular—wasn't always easy. Deal was frustrated by her lack of creative influence. Sensing things wouldn't change for her with The Pixies, she sought out different side projects. Deal eventually reached out to Throwing Muses guitarist Tanya Donelly, and in 1990 the two formed The Breeders, an off-shoot of a project Kim and her sister Kelley had begun as teenagers. The group would eventually include Kelley Deal in its lineup.
In 1990, the group released its debut album, Pod. Not long after, the group released the EP, Safari. Like her previous work with The Pixies, The Breeders' music was received well critically, but was not a giant commercial success.
All that changed in 1993. The Pixies had called it quits and Deal, along with The Breeders (minus Donnelly, who'd left to start a new group, Belly) released a follow-up album, Last Splash. Backed by the hit single "Cannonball", the group, which also featured Jim MacPherson on drums and Josephine Wiggs on bass, became a favorite on MTV and mainstream radio.
"It was really weird to have a hit. Of course, we had a certain level of fame in The Pixies, but nothing I had ever done had been mall-kid friendly," Kim later recalled. "And Cannonball really shouldn't have been either, it wasn't that accessible. I remember being in Dayton, Ohio, in the winter of 1993, and people began to know who I was. I didn't like it. It's not because I don't like people, I'm actually very sociable—even a social animal. But it's very disconcerting to be recognized, it's like I have toilet paper dragging on my foot."
But struggles soon followed. Kelley, who was battling drug issues, checked herself into rehab for heroine addiction, and the band eventually took a hiatus. To kill time, Deal and her McPherson formed a new group, The Amps, which released an album of its own, Pacer, in 1995.
Over the years The Breeders has been an on-again, off-again affair for Kim Deal. The group reunited in 2000 and released its third studio album Title TK two years later. In 2008, the group received a splash of publicity for its fourth album, Mountain Battles.
In addition, Deal's time as a member of The Pixies never really died, either. The group's resurgence began in earnest in 1999 when the song "Where is My Mind" made it onto the soundtrack for the movie Fight Club. In 2004, the group's members settled their differences and hit the road for a well-received reunion tour. Today, the group continues to play together and kicked off a tour in 2009 that celebrated the 20th anniversary of their landmark album, Doolittle.
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