Kim Deal is hilarious. She's on the phone from Dayton, where she lives with her mom and dad, explaining how she ended up recording a seven-inch single with singer/sometime actress Morgan Nagler. "I know her because she wore the shortest shorts I've ever seen onstage," says Deal, laughing. "She's the nicest and I always really loved her voice."
In 2009, Nagler's band Whispertown, then known as the Whispertown 2000, opened for the Breeders on tour. A few years later, when Deal was temporarily living in Los Angeles ("in a killer house that's overlooking one of the valleys near — I don't know where it was really, I'm from the Midwest"), she ran into Nagler in a studio parking lot. "She handed me a demo. When I listened to it, it reminded me of how much I loved her voice. So then, it was like, 'Hey do you want to come over and work on stuff together?' She wasn't living far away, so she got in her car and came over."
The result is the fourth installment in Deal's solo series. Since early 2013, the Midwestern rock doyenne has released three limited-edition runs of vinyl singles, including the menacingly woozy bassline creep of "Walking With a Killer" and the tenderly reticent serenade, "Are You Mine?" For Deal, putting out vinyl is a far easier process of relinquishing new work than dealing with the logistical encumbrances of a full album. "I'm just notorious — it takes me forever to put an album together," she offers. "With this, and having different musicians, it just feels like, 'Man, these two songs sound cool together — I'm just going to put them out.'"
"The Root" begins with Deal intoning, "I'm happy for you / But I feel like crying," while Nagler sings back-up. "That [refrain] is something Morgan had brought in," she explains. "She had that, and a couple other lines, and in a weird way, I took over, and started playing everything, and kind of sped it up. I ended up singing it."
At some point, Deal realized she'd inadvertently co-opted Nagler's lyrics. "I looked at her: 'I am so sorry, I'm taking it away from you, aren't I?' She was so nice about it. Her voice sounds so good on the other one."
That other one is "Range on Castle," a guitar ambling encapsulation of existential drift that Deal wrote about a bleak moment loitering at a firing range. "I found myself on a date, going to a gun range on Castle Road, here in Huber Heights, Ohio. It's like, 'Oh my God, the pathos of all of this is just,'" she says, trailing off. "He was a real nice and everything, but you know."
Deal already has the fifth chapter of her solo series planned, a collaboration with Slint drummer Britt Walford, who she ran into at Steve Albini's 50th birthday party. "I hadn't seen him in, I swear, a decade," she recalls about Walford, who also played in one of the Breeders’ earliest lineups. "He's such a nice guy, and I met his daughter, and I texted him last fall, asking if he wanted to come up sometime and play with me." They've already recorded together; now, she just has to FedEx the finished product to the sound mastering place.
"This is the great thing about doing stuff by myself," she says. "I can just play with cool, interesting players. That's all I do. It's really fun."
You can pre-order the single here. "The Root" and "Range on Castle" will both be available digitally on April 1. Here is Vaughan Oliver's cover art for one of the vinyl single's two versions: