Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.
They might be the most famous sister act in alt-rock. One is a Pixie and both are Breeders – identical twins Kim and Kelley Deal were born on this day in 1961.
Kim and her big sister (by 11 minutes) Kelley grew up in the Dayton, Ohio, suburb of Huber Heights, raised by a father who was a laser physicist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The sisters took an interest in music at a young age and started singing together when they were 4 or 5, recording songs at home. Kim learned how to play “King of the Road” by Roger Miller when she was 11 and the two sisters developed an interest in country and folk music, while at the same time listening to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.
When they were teenagers, Kim and Kelley formed a folk band that they called The Breeders. Kim started to write songs, because she found it easier to play her own material than perfect someone else’s songs. “I got like a hundred songs when I was like 16, 17,” Kim later remembered. “The music is pretty good, but the lyrics are just like, OH MY GOD. We were just trying to figure out how blue rhymes with you. When I was writing them, they didn’t have anything to do with who I was.”
The Deal gals set up their own bedroom studio, with mics, mixing boards, amps and a drum machine, by the time they were 17. In the meantime, they performed at local bars – playing original stuff, but also songs by the likes of Hank Williams.
After spending time at seven different colleges, Kim got the opportunity to join The Pixies in 1986. She was the only one who answered an advertisement for a bassist who liked both Husker Du and Peter, Paul and Mary. Although Kim had never played bass, she figured she could adapt her guitar knowledge. Allegedly, Kelley was invited to join the band on drums, but chose to move to California instead.
While Kim was making college rock masterpieces such as Surfer Rosa and Doolittle with The Pixies, Kelley was working as a computer programmer. Although The Pixies were doing well commercially, Kim was feeling unsatisfied as a musician – mostly because frontman Black Francis (Charles Thompson) was the leading voice and writer in the group. During a break following Doolittle’s release and tour in ’89, Kim decided to form her own group with Throwing Muses’ Tanya Donelly. She decided to re-appropriate her teenage band’s name – The Breeders.
Although Kelley had been part of the original Breeders, she wasn’t able to take part in the new version because she wasn’t able to secure time off from work to record. Kim and Co. made the first Breeders album, Pod, without her.
The Pixies regrouped soon after, but not for long. The band recorded two more albums and then broke up, leaving Kim free to do more work with The Breeders. This time around, Kelley was able to join the band as a lead guitarist. Donelly soon left to form Belly and The Breeders recorded their second LP, Last Splash, in 1993. The album did extremely well and went platinum, bolstered by the MTV video hit “Cannonball.” They toured with Nirvana (Kurt Cobain was a huge fan of the band) and played that year’s Lollapalooza festival.
However, things took a bad turn when Kelley was busted for drug possession in 1994. It was made public that she had been an addict since her teens and she went into rehab. Following that, the Deal sisters worked in separate acts, but regrouped for a Breeders reunion in the late ’90s. They’ve since released two full-length albums and continue to tour.
In 2004, Kim’s “other band,” The Pixies, also caught reunion fever and began touring with all original members. They’ve since only released one new song, the Kim-written “Bam Thwok,” although they continue to tour as well.
When Kim is working with The Pixies, Kelley has taken up knitting – something she started doing to stay sober, post-rehab. In 2008, she even released a book of handbag patterns, called Bags That Rock: Knitting on the Road with Kelley Deal.