Pavement (band)

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Pavement in 1993. From left to right: Bob Nastanovich, Gary Young, Stephen Malkmus, Mark Ibold, and Scott Kannberg.
Pavement in 1993. From left to right: Bob Nastanovich, Gary Young, Stephen Malkmus, Mark Ibold, and Scott Kannberg.
Background information
OriginStockton, California, U.S.
Years active
  • 1989–1999
  • 2010
  • 2022–present
Past members

Pavement is an American indie rock band that formed in Stockton, California, in 1989. For most of their career, the group consisted of Stephen Malkmus (vocals and guitar), Scott Kannberg (guitar and vocals), Mark Ibold (bass), Steve West (drums) and Bob Nastanovich (percussion and vocals). Initially conceived as a recording project, the band at first avoided press or live performances, while attracting considerable underground attention with their early releases. Gradually evolving into a more polished band, Pavement recorded five full-length albums and ten EPs over the course of their decade-long career, though they disbanded with some acrimony in 1999 as the members moved on to other projects. In 2010, they undertook a well-received reunion tour, with another reunion tour across Europe, the United States, and Japan scheduled for 2022 and 2023.[4]

Though only briefly brushing the mainstream with the single "Cut Your Hair" in 1994, Pavement was a successful indie rock band. Rather than signing with a major label as many of their 1980s forebears had done, they remained signed to independent labels throughout their career and have often been described as one of the most influential bands to emerge from the American underground in the '90s. Some prominent music critics, such as Robert Christgau and Stephen Thomas Erlewine, called them the best band of the 1990s.[5][6] In their career, they also achieved a significant cult following.[1][7]


1989–1992: Formation and Slanted and Enchanted[edit]

Pavement formed in Stockton, California in 1989 as a studio project of guitarists and vocalists Stephen Malkmus & Scott Kannberg, known originally only as "S.M." and "Spiral Stairs". Their debut EPs were the lo-fi releases Slay Tracks: 1933–1969, Demolition Plot J-7, and Perfect Sound Forever. They were recorded at Louder Than You Think, the home studio of Stockton local and former hippie Gary Young who also played drums on the recordings. Upon first hearing the duo's songs, Young was quoted as saying, "this Malkmus idiot is a complete songwriting genius".[8]

During this time the band was often compared to English rock band the Fall. Kannberg stated in a 1992 interview that he preferred Minneapolis rock band the Replacements.[9] The Fall singer Mark E. Smith claimed that Pavement were a "rip-off"[10] and that they did not "have an original idea in their heads";[11] other members of the Fall have been more positive.[12]

After the release of Slay Tracks, a new drummer, Jason Turner, was drafted to replace Young.[13] However, after just one tour and a handful of recording sessions, when it became apparent that Turner and Malkmus did not get along, Young was reinstated.[13] Malkmus later described Turner as "this depressed guy who might assassinate me one day... He's very competitive."[14] Around the same time, Bob Nastanovich was incorporated into the live Pavement band as an auxiliary percussionist. Malkmus had been roommates with Nastanovich in New York City.[14]

Pavement's first performance was on December 14, 1989 on their local college radio station KDVS-FM in Davis, with Malkmus, Kannberg, and Fawkes.[15][16] In 1990, Pavement embarked on their first tour with a third guitarist, Rob Chamberlin, who left to join a band called Sugartime before Ibold joined the group.[17][18][19]

British indie rock band the Wedding Present covered the Slay Tracks song "Box Elder" after their bassist discovered the album during a trip to the United States. As Pavement were still unknown at the time, people erroneously grew to believe that Pavement's original recording was the cover.[20] The Wedding Present frontman David Gedge gave a Pavement EP to John Peel, who quickly became one of Pavement's biggest fans.[21]

Around 1992, Pavement became a full-time band, with Malkmus, Kannberg, Young and Nastanovich, and bassist Mark Ibold, who had been one of the band's earliest fans. Their debut album, Slanted and Enchanted, was released commercially in 1992 after copies had been circulated on cassette tape for nearly a year. Though the percussive influence of the Fall was still pervasive, as was that of English post-punk band Swell Maps, many of the songs also exhibited a strong sense of melody. Since its release Slanted and Enchanted has appeared on many critics' best-of lists and is frequently cited as being among the most influential indie rock albums of the 1990s.[22][23][24] It is listed on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[citation needed] Later the same year, the band released the EP Watery, Domestic.[citation needed]

1993–1994: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain[edit]

During the Slanted & Enchanted tour, Gary Young's behavior became more eccentric; he would hand out cabbage and mashed potatoes to fans at the door of the venue, perform handstands, drunkenly fall off his drum stool, and run around the venue while the band was playing.[25] The band only understood how severe Young's drinking problem was after Pavement's first few tours. Malkmus later told Tape Op, "We knew that he was like a hippie and kinda flaky, but we didn't know he had such a bad drinking problem. We found out on that tour, because he really got sick from being nervous... That's why I let Bob be in the band...'Keep the beat going if Gary passes out.'"[14] In 1993, Malkmus unsuccessfully attempted to record some songs at Young's studio. He later said, "We kind of wanted to not record with him anymore, but we were too nice to fire people or even really talk about it... We tried to record there, but it wasn't sounding good and he didn't have his studio ready and he was also in a drinking funk."[14]

At the conclusion of a 1993 tour of Australia, Japan, and Europe, the group held a meeting in a hotel room in Copenhagen. Malkmus, Kannberg and Ibold remained silent while Nastanovich, Young's best friend at the time, argued with Young. Young agreed to leave the band. He was replaced by Steve West, who had been a fellow museum security guard at the Whitney Museum of American Art along with Malkmus and David Berman.[26] West's debut performance was in 1993 at a Drag City festival in Chicago. Also that year, the band contributed to the AIDS-Benefit Album No Alternative produced by the Red Hot Organization with their song "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence".[citation needed]

Pavement's second album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was released in 1994. The record was more indebted to the classic rock tradition than their debut. The single "Cut Your Hair" was the most successful song, and briefly enjoyed airplay on alternative rock radio and MTV. Pavement performed the song on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Additionally, the video aired on "Career Day", a season five episode of Beavis and Butt-head, who termed it "buttwipe music" and also wanted the band to "try harder." The song was also featured briefly in the movie A Very Brady Sequel.[citation needed] Like its predecessor, the album received widespread acclaim, including being listed on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[27]

The lyrics from another single from the album, "Range Life", criticized alternative rock stars the Smashing Pumpkins and the Stone Temple Pilots. Malkmus has insisted over the years that the line is meant to be light-hearted and is sung from the point of view of the aging hippie character in the song. Later live versions of the track had Malkmus substituting "the Spice Girls", "Counting Crows", or others for "Stone Temple Pilots". In response, Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan threatened to drop his band from their slot headlining the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival if Pavement was allowed to play.[28] Corgan and Malkmus traded barbs in the press for several years afterwards.[29][30]

1995–1997: Wowee Zowee and Brighten the Corners[edit]

The next album, Wowee Zowee, recorded in Memphis and released April 11, 1995, covered a wide range of styles including punk, country and balladry across its 18 tracks, which often avoided conventional song structures. On the Slow Century DVD, Malkmus attributed his odd choice of singles to his marijuana smoking, stating that "I was smoking a lot of grass back then but to me they sounded like hits." Although Malkmus has said in recent interviews that the album is the last "classic Pavement record," Kannberg has voiced regrets about Wowee Zowee. "We made some mistakes on that record... we were kind of pressured into putting out a record a little faster than we were ready to. I mean, I'm totally into the record. It's just if we had another six months to think about it, it would've been much different."[31]

During the tour for the album, Nastanovich stated on the Slow Century DVD, the band would often not work out a setlist before shows, opting for drug and alcohol fueled jams over hit singles. Some of these shows were held during the 1995 Lollapallooza festival, where the incoherent performances received a hostile reaction from many audiences. Footage from Slow Century shows the band being pelted with mud and rocks. The band then left the stage immediately and dubbed themselves "The Band That Ruined Lollapallooza."

Wowee Zowee was followed up by the EP Pacific Trim, which was recorded with only Malkmus and drummers Nastanovich and Steve West. Their studio time was originally reserved for a Silver Jews recording, but frontman David Berman walked out in frustration and the trio decided not to waste prepaid recording time.

Brighten the Corners, released in 1997 and produced by Mitch Easter, was a shorter, more conventional record than Wowee Zowee. Malkmus said on the Slow Century DVD that the album was an attempt to show audiences that Pavement had more mainstream and classic rock influences than it had previously portrayed. The album contained two of the band's best known singles in "Stereo" and "Shady Lane". It was the only Pavement album to include a lyric sheet except Slanted and Enchanted and sold better than its predecessors. Despite increased success, the band continued to fragment, with its members focusing more on other musical projects or on raising families.

1999: Terror Twilight[edit]

In 1999, the band began work on its final album, Terror Twilight. Bob Nastanovich came up with the title, and has revealed the meaning of it in several interviews: "Twilight Terror is the short span between sunset and dusk; this is considered the most dangerous time in traffic, because half of the people switch on the headlights, and the other half doesn't. It's when most accidents happen."[32] During an interview on the Slow Century documentary DVD, he said that the band was having trouble coming up with names for the record until he put forth Terror Twilight. One of the final contenders was Farewell Horizontal (also the name of a 1989 science fiction novel by K. W. Jeter), and Nastanovich said, "There was no way I was going to be on the Farewell Horizontal tour for the next year."

The band originally planned to self-produce Terror Twilight, renting out Jackpot! Studios in Portland, Oregon. The group stalled though, with Malkmus, Ibold, Nastanovich and Jackpot! employee and future Jicks bassist Joanna Bolme usually opting to play Scrabble over getting any sort of work accomplished.[33] Kannberg was especially frustrated over the sessions, particularly at Malkmus' refusal to include any of Kannberg's songs on the album. Fan favorite "For Sale: The Preston School of Industry" and one other song penned by Kannberg were briefly worked on during the sessions, but eventually abandoned.[33] At the end of the initial two-week session, very little had been accomplished and it was decided that a producer should be brought in to assist them.

Nigel Godrich, best known for his work with Radiohead and Beck, was hired to produce the album.[34] The group first attempted to record in Sonic Youth's lower Manhattan studio, which Godrich took a dislike to as it was within ear-shot of several practice spaces, and also set up more like a home studio.[35] Godrich eventually convinced the band to move to a more "proper" 24-track studio, where he had previously worked on albums by the Beastie Boys and R.E.M. Though Godrich took an immediate shine to Malkmus, Kannberg and Nastanovich were wary of him. Nastanovich believes that though Godrich "took on a pretty substantial challenge and did a good job," that he "focused his attention on Stephen" and produced them "in a way that just sort of had more disregard for the rest of us."[36] Nastanovich also later recalled an awkward incident when it became apparent that Godrich did not know his name. Kannberg, still disillusioned over his songs being rejected by Malkmus, said of Terror Twilight: "It was not fun to do that record from the very beginning. It was the hardest record to make."[36]

Malkmus wrote the entirety of the record, and the recording of the music only featured minor contributions from the rest of the band. The group released one last EP, titled Major Leagues. It features three Malkmus songs, two original Spiral Stairs songs and two covers, "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen and "The Classical" by the Fall.

1999: Breakup[edit]

Pavement embarked on a six-month world tour in support of Terror Twilight, during which time relationships within the group frayed, especially between Malkmus and the other members of the band. Steve West later recalled times on the tour bus where Malkmus would put his coat over his head, refuse to speak to anyone, and call himself the "little bitch". Critics noted that their setlist had started to include a number of their early songs, much like a band playing their greatest hits on a farewell tour. Malkmus's attitude continued to deteriorate as the tour wore on, finally coming to a head during their slot at the 1999 Coachella Festival. During the concert, Malkmus refused (or possibly was unable, due to illness) to sing, effectively turning their set into a mostly instrumental one. Nastanovich called a band meeting after the show, and Malkmus finally told his bandmates: "I just don't want to do this anymore."[37]

The group's final concert together was at Brixton Academy in London on November 20, 1999.[38] During the concert, Malkmus had a pair of handcuffs attached to his microphone stand, and at one point told that audience, "These symbolize what it's like being in a band all these years."[39] After the concert, he confirmed to people at the after-party that Pavement was now done "for the foreseeable future....."[39] About two weeks later, a spokesperson for Domino records told NME: "Pavement are retiring for the foreseeable future to: 1. Start families 2. Sail around the world 3. Get into the computer industry 4. Dance 5. Get some attention."[38]

In the summer of 2000, Malkmus called Kannberg and told him, "You need to change the website to say we aren't a band anymore. People keep asking me if we're breaking up and you know we're not a band anymore, right?"[40] Kannberg told Malkmus that he needed to call the other members of the band to inform them that the band was finally breaking up, but Malkmus refused and Kannberg was left with the task of informing them.[37] Steve West later admitted that he never received any official call about the breakup from anyone in the band, and discovered that Pavement had dissolved via the internet. Nastanovich later commented that "There was too much exhaustion for heavy emotion."[41]

2010: First reunion[edit]

Stephen Malkmus in concert with Pavement in 2010

On September 15, 2009, Brooklyn Vegan reported that Pavement were scheduled to perform multiple benefit show dates in New York City's Central Park from September 21, 2010.[42] Official statements by the band, label, venue and promoter were released on September 17, 2009, confirming the reunion.[43] The announcement included one concert in Central Park and the promise of a tour, but said that the reunion may only be a one-off event. It said, "Please be advised this tour is not a prelude to additional jaunts and/or a permanent reunion."[44] Tickets for the first Central Park concert sold out in two minutes,[45] leading to the announcement of three more shows at the same venue.[45] The band since confirmed a world-wide tour which started in Auckland, New Zealand on March 1 at the Auckland Town Hall, before heading on to Australia[46] then heading to the UK, including the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Minehead, Somerset (May 14 – 16)[47] and several European shows.[48] They also performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2010, the Sasquatch! and Primavera Sound Festivals in May, the Toronto Island Concert in June with Broken Social Scene, Band Of Horses, and others,[49][failed verification][50] Open'er Festival, Roskilde Festival and Les Ardentes and Pitchfork Music Festival in July.[51]

The band released a "best-of" compilation album in March 2010, entitled Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement. On June 24, 2010, Pavement performed at the Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton, their first-ever hometown show.[52] Original drummer Gary Young joined the band for an encore, playing three songs from Slanted and Enchanted.[53] Young also joined the band during six songs the next night at The Greek Theater in Berkeley.[54]

In September 2010, Pavement appeared on The Colbert Report and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[55] After concluding their proper US tour at the Hollywood Bowl on September 30, the band played the following night in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino as a part of the Matador At 21 festival.[56] During their set, Scott Kannberg kicked his monitor and smashed his guitar into his amp in frustration of not being able to hear himself while performing.[56] NME noted the band had an "icy atmosphere onstage".[56] The band honored a further two South American show commitments in November 2010.

2022: Second reunion[edit]

Kannberg joined Malkmus and the Jicks onstage at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on March 28, 2014, for an encore performance of the Pavement song "Stereo".[57] On October 1 and 2, 2016 Malkmus and the Jicks performed at Spiral Stairs' 50th birthday celebration at The Chapel in San Francisco. On the first night Kannberg joined Malkmus and the Jicks onstage for four songs. The following night Kannberg played three more songs with the group, joined by Gary Young on the final two.[58] On June 1, 2019, Pavement announced that they would be reuniting to perform two 30th anniversary shows at the 2020 Primavera Sound festivals in Barcelona and Porto, and were scheduled to be the band's only performances that year.[59] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was cancelled, and their performances were rescheduled and announced as part of Primavera Sound's June 2021 lineup.[60] In March 2021, the festival was delayed to 2022. In September 2021, the band announced a European tour for late 2022, their first in 12 years,[61] and announced a North American leg on November 2, 2021.[62] On May 23rd, 2022 the band played their first reunited concert together for a sold out crowd at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. [63]

Musical style[edit]

Pavement is considered to be one of the bands to have invented the modern "indie" sound and was a large presence in "slacker culture", a subculture most prevalent during the 1990s.[64] The band was also noted for Malkmus' humorous and often cryptic lyrical themes which was a key factor in gaining their cult following. Malkmus rarely wrote ballads or love songs and only a small portion of their discography contained personal reflections or similar lyrical themes, most satirical or laced with sarcasm.[65]

Pavement was also noted for having no designated rhythm and lead guitar player. Malkmus and Kannberg switched roles frequently although Malkmus played lead for the majority of their career. The band was also noted for their use of a foil, or a 'hype-man' usually present in hip hop groups. Bob Nastanovich filled the role although he has detested the term himself.[66] Nastanovich also served as a second drummer during their live performances and served as lead vocalist on select songs that required screaming to prevent strain on Malkmus' voice.

Other media[edit]

In 2002, Slow Century, a documentary by Lance Bangs coupled with all of the band's music videos, was released as a 2 DVD set. Included was extensive footage, both professionally shot and taped by fans on camcorders, from the band's earliest shows in 1989 forward. The three final songs from the band's final concert ("Stop Breathin'", "Conduit for Sale" and "Here") are presented at the end of the documentary. Also on the DVD is a hidden easter egg clip from the same show, wherein Malkmus talks about how the handcuffs attached to his microphone stand "represent what it's like being in a band all these years." A bonus disc with a complete concert in Seattle, Washington, from the early part of the Terror Twilight tour was included on the second disc, as well as several songs from their penultimate show.

2004 saw the publication of Perfect Sound Forever: The Story of Pavement, a biography on the band written by Rob Jovanovic. Reviews for the book were mixed, with some saying that it contained much of the same information as the Slow Century DVD and expanded very little on it, while others called it a "fond retrospection".[67]


The band appeared in a 1997 episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, titled "Pavement", where they were mistaken for The Beatles and played two songs done exclusively for the show. These songs were later included on the deluxe re-issue of Brighten the Corners.

Band members[edit]

Current members

Former members

  • Gary Young – drums (1989, 1989–1993; 2010)
  • Jason Turner – drums (1989)

Former touring musicians

  • Rob Chamberlin – guitar (1990)[69]



Studio albums


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  68. ^ @rebeccaclaycole (May 12, 2022). "I'm playing in Pavement now and so far it rules hard 🤙" (Tweet). Retrieved May 13, 2022 – via Twitter.
  69. ^ "Stains on the Sidewalk: We Downed Beers in Chinatown with Former Pavement Bassist Mark Ibold". Retrieved May 13, 2022.


  • Jovanovic, Rob (2004). Perfect Sound Forever: The Story of Pavement. (Boston) Justin, Charles & Co. ISBN 1-932112-07-3.

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