Pavement—Indie Heros of the '90s—Reunite

By Maggie Serota
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 14, 2010

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The onslaught of seminal band reunion tours over the past few years has been nothing short of exhausting, especially given the fact that some of these tours have been joyless endeavors by bands trying to cash in on waves of nostalgia. However, every now and then a reunion tour that’s truly worth being excited about gets under way. The current crop of Pavement shows is just one of those tours, as evidenced by the fact that New York’s Central Park shows sold out a full year in advance.

Pavement’s repetitive rhythms, gentle melodies, rambling vocals and cryptic lyrics provided by shaggy front man Stephen Malkmus are often credited with inspiring that “back to the garage” slacker sensibility that dominated ’90s indie rock. Although many bands tried to sound like Pavement, none of them really captured its mesmerizing folk-tinged garage rock.

After becoming one of the defining bands of the ’90s, it seems fitting that the band disbanded at the end of that decade, despite the fact that it probably could have produced one or two more good albums.

“The main reason we broke up had to do with the fact that our band was always unconventional geographically,” percussionist and unofficial hype man Bob Nastanovich explains, pointing to the fact that the members of Pavement are scattered all over the country as opposed to living in the same city.

“Stephen needed to be in a band that could rehearse and be together to work on songs and arrangements,” says Nastanovich. Those needs drove Malkmus to form what some dub his retirement band, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks.

Shifts in the musical culture also put a strain on the band, especially given the electronic leanings of the late ’90s. Not to mention that the more mainstream markets took less of an interest in rock music in favor of the scourge of boy bands and pop divas like Britney Spears.

“Stephen didn’t know what to do next in that climate of the music industry,” says Nastanovich. “He wasn’t comfortable with bringing electronics into Pavement.”

All in all, Nastanovich concedes that 1999’s Terror Twilight —with its flirtations with ’70s power chords—was a fitting swan song.

“We had five albums and we hadn’t made a record we were ashamed of,” notes Nastanovich. There’s something to be said for quitting while you’re ahead.

Pitchfork also gave Pavement the well-timed honor of giving “Gold Soundz” from 1994’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain album the No. 1 slot on its Top 200 Tracks of the ’90s list.

“That was very gracious of them. Pitchfork has always been very kind to us with their unique rating system. They’ve also been helpful in the post-Pavement existence era with all our reissues and such.”

Although Nastanovich is grateful for the accolades, “Gold Soundz” isn’t a song he necessarily enjoys playing live.

“There’s excessive tambourine, which causes me pain since I’m so out of shape,” he admits. Still, he concedes that the track is a good introduction for the uninitiated to Pavement’s ouvre despite the agony the song causes him during the live sets.

And what of “Range Life,” the song that makes reference to Stone Temple Pilots and Smashing Pumpkins, which has also been added to the set list? Don’t those references make the song feel a tad dated? Nastanovich shrugs off any awkwardness before taking delight in ruffling the notoriously humorless Billy Corgan’s feathers.

“It’s not weird since Smashing Pumpkins are still out there playing. The song is a crowd favorite and it would be corny to change the lyrics. It was interesting that Smashing Pumpkins took such offense to it since they seemed like a reasonable enough target. The fact that they took such offense really helped us. I’m not sure if it ended up helping them in any way.”

Although Nastanovich seems genuinely excited to be back out on the road, the Internet rumor mill suggests the band reunited just so he could pay off his gambling debts. “The debt was mainly incurred from breeding horses, not from gambling. None of the horses I’ve bred have been stars and honestly, I’m not wealthy enough to be breeding horses,” says Nastanovich, who lived for quite some time in the horse-breeding hotbed of Louisville, Ky. “As for gambling on horses, I’m a student of the game. Handicapping horse races is my favorite.” Fittingly, he makes his post-Pavement living crunching numbers for a horse-racing database and working at racetracks in his current home base of Iowa.

So much for the theory that Nastanovich spends his days dodging shady bookies and goon squads full of leg breakers.

“I’m thrilled that touring can eliminate my debt, but it’s not a significant reason for the reunion,” he says.

So, what did inspire the reunion?

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