Tanya tunes

Donnelly on her previous bands
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  October 30, 2006

Belly performs "Feed the Tree" on The Late Show With David Letterman
Tanya Donelly began her solo career with 1997’s rocking, edgy, sweet Lovesongs for Underdogs (Reprise). By then she was already an important figure in alternative rock, a charter member of both Throwing Muses and the Breeders, and the leader of Belly, who hit big with the 1993 single “Feed the Tree.” During our interview, she reflected on those bands. Here’s some of what she had to say

Throwing Muses | 1983–1991 | “Throwing Muses was my family — literally with Kristin [Hersh, her half-sister and the group’s primary songwriter]. The band started in our adolescence, and a lot of my childhood came out in it. Kristin was my musical midwife. She pulled me into music. There was always something in me that made me feel I couldn’t function away from her. But the Breeders taught me I could. In Throwing Muses my songs were few and far between, so I have a lot of affection for them. Each was its own little universe to me, because I wrote so infrequently.”

The Breeders | 1990 | “The Breeders was like a drunken slumber party. That was a blast. I feel I gained a lot of confidence through the Breeders. I learned that I played differently away from Kristin. The parts I wrote for Kim Deal’s songs were not like my Throwing Muses work, which was very exciting. Kim has an interesting way of writing. She leaves a lot of room, while Kristin’s songs tended to be more dense when I was in Throwing Muses. Kristin changed during the course of our playing together, but early on her songs were dense and she played a lot of the rhythm guitar. Kim’s way of working was, ‘Here’s all this space; take some of it.’ Kim’s stuff is very experimental. At first listen it seems simple, but it’s not. Playing with Kim made me a stronger musician for The Real Ramona, the Muses record we made immediately after the Breeders’ Pod. With Kim I learned how to write stronger leads and melodies, and I was proud of bringing that to The Real Ramona.”

Belly | 1991-1996 | “At that point, I wanted to have fun and be in a pop band, and the other people in Belly had the same sensibility. A lot of Belly’s music still had the same edge my earlier stuff did, but Belly’s shows were the most joyful I’ve had. We just had a blast. And it went sour, as things do. We toured for 18 months straight, playing an in-store every day and a show at night. There aren’t very many people who can survive that. We didn’t behave well and things got contentious. But when we started, it was so much fun jumping around the stage up there, and it was really good. It was really funny when we toured with Radiohead [who were touring behind their debut, Pablo Honey, and the hit “Creep”]. It was obvious people were there to hear two songs — one from each of us. Thom Yorke called it the ‘Feed the Creeper’ tour.”

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