|Associated acts||The Breeders
Guided By Voices
The Amps were an American pop-rock group. Formed by Kim Deal in 1995 after her band the Breeders went on hiatus, the group consisted of Jim Macpherson, the drummer from the Breeders, and Luis Lerma and Nate Farley, two musicians from Deal's hometown of Dayton, Ohio. That year, they recorded the album Pacer at numerous studios in the USA and in Ireland. Engineers who helped record the album included Steve Albini, John Agnello, and Bryce Goggin.
Pacer was released in October 1995, to mixed reviews. The group toured in places such as the United States, Europe, and Australia, with bands including Foo Fighters, Brainiac, Sonic Youth, and Guided By Voices. The Amps continued as a group until some point in 1996, when Deal reformed the Breeders.
Background and formation
From 1986 to 1992, Deal was a member of the Pixies, and from 1989 onwards, the Breeders. In August 1993, the Breeders released their second album, Last Splash, which went platinum in the USA, gold in Canada, and silver in the UK. The other members of the group at that time were Kelley Deal (Kim's twin sister), Josephine Wiggs, and Jim Macpherson. By the autumn of 1994, after two years of straight touring and recording, and culminating in the Lollapalooza tour, the band members were exhausted; they decided to take some time off from the Breeders, but this hiatus ended up being longer than expected. Kelley was arrested on drug charges in late 1994 and spent time in and out of rehabilitation, while Wiggs became involved in some musical projects in New York, including collaborations with members of Luscious Jackson.
Meanwhile, Kim Deal was very eager to continue recording and performing. At first, she envisioned her next album as being a solo record, on which she would play all of the instrument parts. However, when she was recording initial demos for the project, she asked Kelley to be involved, to distract the latter from her drug difficulties. Since Kelley was now also involved, Deal decided not to go solo after all. Forming a new group, she recruited Macpherson to play drums, musician Luis Lerma, bass, and Nate Farley, guitar. Later, Kelley had to drop out of the project for her rehabilitation, and moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota. For fun, Deal began calling herself Tammy Ampersand, and the group, Tammy and the Amps. This later became simply the Amps.
The Amps released one album, entitled Pacer. It was recorded at several different studios, and with multiple engineers. The first session, at Easley Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, was engineered by Davis McCain and Doug Easley. There Deal recorded some new songs, including what would become Pacer's single, "Tipp City". This recording opportunity came about when she was producing a planned record by Guided by Voices; when that group abandoned work on their album, Deal used the leftover studio time for her own songs. Following the Easley Studios session, recording for Pacer continued at six other locations in total, including studios in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dublin, and Deal's hometown, Dayton, Ohio. Some of the other engineers who helped record the album were Steve Albini, John Agnello, and Bryce Goggin.
Pacer came out in October 1995. In the USA, it reached No. 29 on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart. Critical opinion of the album has been mixed. Allmusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine gives it 4.5 stars out of 5 and praises its "immediate and bracing" sound and "primitive energy". In Spin magazine, reviewer Joy Press writes that the album includes "a half-dozen gems" but that its overall "foggy sound" and "indecipherable lyrics" prevent the listener from fully embracing the work. The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock laments Pacer's "disappointing small-scale arrangements" and largely "forced and lackluster" performances. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide likewise rates the album poorly, describing it as "ramshackle" and mostly "forgettable".
Touring and reforming the Breeders
The Amps toured throughout 1995 and 1996. Before Pacer was released, they played some shows with Guided by Voices including concerts in Ohio in June and October 1995, and dates together in the UK in September. They then played a series of US shows in October and November with Sonic Youth, followed by a tour of Europe. In January 1996, they played the Summersault festival in Australia. Other groups the Amps toured with included Foo Fighters and Brainiac.
Later in 1996, Deal changed the name of the group back to the Breeders, originally with almost the same line-up as the Amps. Until then, Deal had been waiting for Wiggs and Kelley to be ready to rejoin the Breeders and record a new album together, and had held back from reforming the Breeders out of respect for them. However, in May 1996, Wiggs revealed that she would not be involved in the planned Breeders album, and Kelley chose to stay in Saint Paul, to be close to her rehabilitation facility. Deal then decided that she did not want to wait anymore to reform the Breeders, partly because the Breeders' repertoire was larger than the Amps', thereby allowing longer concerts. Deal added violinist Carrie Bradley (who had played on the Breeders' Pod album), and with Macpherson, Lerma, and Farley, played some shows in 1996 with Primus.
By 1998, Kelley had rejoined and Macpherson had left the group, and by 2000 Lerma and Farley had also left. The Breeders, with a line-up including the Deal sisters and new members Mando Lopez and Jose Medeles, released the albums Title TK in 2002 and Mountain Battles in 2008. Meanwhile, Macpherson was a member of Guided by Voices from 1998 to 2001, and participated in some other projects with Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard until 2005. Lerma and Farley have been members of the Tasties, and in 1999 participated Pollard's Lexo and the Leapers side project group; Farley was also a member of Guided by Voices from 1999 to 2004. In 2013, the Last Splash line-up of Kim and Kelley Deal, Macpherson, and Wiggs reunited to tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that album.
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