Kim Deal performing with the Amps in Dayton, Ohio in 1995
|Associated acts||The Breeders
Guided by Voices
|Past members||Kelley Deal|
The Amps were an American alternative-indie rock group. Formed by Kim Deal in 1995 after her band the Breeders went on hiatus, the group consisted of Deal, vocals and guitars; Luis Lerma, bass; Nate Farley, guitars; and the Breeders' Jim Macpherson, drums. The Breeders' Kelley Deal, Kim's sister, was also briefly involved, but had to leave the band due to drug problems. The group was named when Kim Deal started calling herself Tammy Ampersand for fun, and the band Tammy and the Amps. They recorded the album Pacer in Ireland and the United States.
Pacer was released in October 1995. The group toured the United States, Europe, and Australia, with bands including the Foo Fighters, Sonic Youth, and Guided by Voices. Critics commented on the loose and rough quality of these performances. The Amps continued as a group until 1996, when Deal changed their name back to the Breeders. By 2000, Macpherson, Lerma, and Farley had left the band; they were all at times involved in various projects with Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard. Deal's next album, the Breeders' Title TK, was released seven years after Pacer.
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 Kim's twin sister Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, and Jim Macpherson. By late 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 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 a solo record, on which she would play all of the instrument parts. When she was recording initial demos for the project, she asked Kelley to play on some of them, to distract her from her drug difficulties. Since Kelley was now also involved, Deal decided not to go solo, but formed a new group. She recruited Macpherson to play drums, musician Luis Lerma, bass, and Nate Farley, guitar. Later, Kelley dropped out of the project for 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.
Recording and touring
The Amps released one album, Pacer, which was recorded at several different studios. The first session, at Easley Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, was engineered by Davis McCain and Doug Easley. There Deal recorded 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. Engineers Steve Albini, John Agnello, Bryce Goggin and others each helped record one or more of these sessions. Pacer came out in October 1995.
The Amps toured throughout 1995 and 1996. Early performances, before releasing Pacer, included June 1995 shows in Dayton: one with Poster Children and another with Guided by Voices. They toured with Guided by Voices and Chavez in the United Kingdom in September, in cities such as London, Glasgow, and Sheffield, and played another show with Guided by Voices in Ohio in October. The Amps performed a series of US concerts in October and November with Sonic Youth, including shows in Detroit and Chicago with Helium, in Seattle and Portland with Bikini Kill, and in Los Angeles with Mike Watt. Following the concerts with Sonic Youth, the Amps did a tour of Europe. In January 1996, they played the Summersault festival in Australia. That year, the Amps toured with the Foo Fighters in the United States, in locations such as Chicago (with That Dog), Worcester, Massachusetts, and Austin, Texas (with Jawbreaker). In 1995 or 1996, they also played shows with the Tasties and Brainiac.
Reviewers described live concerts by the Amps as unpolished and relaxed. The Chronicle's Drema Crist praised their show at an unidentified location as "fun-spirited and silly". Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune described one of their Chicago performances as "off-kilter" and wrote that "Deal's pungent vocals were swallowed up by the guitars, and the foursome's slight melodies were lost amid all the bashing." A review in The Chicago Reader of the same concert noted that "The Amps play with a low-key, hangout sound." The Phoenix's Matt Ashare felt that at their December 1995 show in Boston "the Amps didn't click in a way that would suggest that this was Deal's new, full-time band"; he added that it was "an unpretentiously gritty way for Deal to let off some steam while the Breeders [took] a little break". In Boston Rock, this concert was characterized as "sloppy" but "charm[ing] ... hanging loosely off Kim's gruff vocals and ebullient personality".
Reforming the Breeders
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 rejoin the Breeders and record a new album together, and had held back from reforming the Breeders out of respect for them. In May 1996, Wiggs revealed that she would not be involved in any immediate Breeders activity; Kelley also chose to stay in Saint Paul, to be close to her rehabilitation facility. Deal then decided that she did not want to wait any longer to reform the group, 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 other projects with Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard until 2005. Lerma and Farley have been members of the Tasties, and in 1999 participated in 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-era Breeders 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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