Pavement was an American indie rock band in the 1990s. Although they experienced only moderate commercial success, they achieved a significant cult following, and their music has been a major influence on many bands of the late 1990s and beyond.
Hailed by some as the quintessential American indie band, they are often considered one of the first American modern rock bands to achieve a degree of success without the support of a major label.
Pavement's most obvious influence during this time was English rock band The Fall, although Kannberg stated in a 1992 interview that he preferred The Replacements to The Fall. The Fall's primary member, Mark E. Smith, would often angrily claim through the years that Pavement was a "rip-off" of his band and that they didn't "have an original idea in their heads". However, some of the other members of The Fall actually enjoyed Pavement.
Around 1992 Pavement became a full-time band, with the addition of bassist Mark Ibold - who had been one of the band's first fans - and extra percussionist Bob Nastanovich (a fellow museum security guard along with Malkmus and David Berman) to help Young keep time. Their debut album, Slanted and Enchanted, was released commercially in 1992 after being circulated among critics and tastemakers for nearly a year, and became an instant indie classic. Though the percussive influence of The Fall was still pervasive (as was that of English post punks the Swell Maps), many of the songs also exhibited a strong sense of melody. The following year, the band released the EP Watery, Domestic, which represented a balance between their earlier and later styles.
With an improved recording quality and more original songwriting, they released Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain in 1994. The record was far more indebted to the classic rock tradition than their more obscure debut. The single "Cut Your Hair" was the band's closest brush with the mainstream, and briefly enjoyed airplay on alternative rock radio and MTV.
Another single, "Range Life", was infamous chiefly for lyrics that criticized alt-rock superstars The Smashing Pumpkins and the Stone Temple Pilots. Malkmus has insisted over the years that the line is meant to be light-hearted and timely, sung from the point of view of the aging hippie character in the song - later live versions of the track had the singer substituting "The Spice Girls", "The Counting Crows", or countless others for "Stone Temple Pilots". Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan, apparently not grasping Malkmus' sarcasm, threatened to drop his band from their slot headlining the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival if Pavement was allowed to play. Corgan and Malkmus would trade barbs through the press for several years after.
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.
1997's Brighten the Corners, a shorter, mellower and more conventional record than the previous album, was produced by Mitch Easter. It 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 and sold better than its predecessors. It was at about this time that the band started to fragment, with its members focusing more on other musical projects or on raising families.
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. 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 the guitarist were briefly worked on during the sessions, but eventually abandoned. 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, Beck and R.E.M., was hired to produce the album. The group first attempted to record in Sonic Youth's lower Manhattan studio, which Godrich immediately took a dislike to (it was within ear-shot of several practice spaces, and also set up more like a home studio). 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 the producer 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." Nastanovich also later recalled an awkward incident where it became apparent — about ten days into the sessions — that the producer didn't know the auxiliary percussionist's 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."
Malkmus wrote the entirety of the record, and the recording of the music only featured minor contributions from the rest of the band. The music on the record is by far the gentlest and most emotionally direct in the band's discography. 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 and the Bunnymen and "The Classical" by The Fall. Stephen Malkmus sings on both of the cover songs.
Pavement embarked on a six month world tour in support of the album, during which time relationships within the group frayed - mostly between Malkmus and the other members of the band. Steve West later recalled times on the tourbus where the singer 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. The lead singer'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 was possibly 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 confided to his bandmates: "I just don't want to do this anymore."
After completing their world tour in England in December 1999, Pavement announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus. 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?" Kannberg told the singer 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. 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.
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".
Scott Kannberg went on to form a musical group named Preston School of Industry, not to be confused with the Ione, California reform school nor the Pavement tune of the same name. They have released two albums with Matador Records, All this Sounds Gas (2001), and Monsoon (2004). The latter album boasts studio contributions from members of The Minus 5 and Wilco. Preston School of Industry was largely inactive from the end of the Monsoon tour until May 2008, when Kannberg announced via his blog that the band was wrapping up production on their third full-length album and planned to play several shows during the spring and summer.
Mark Ibold has been reported to be working behind the bar at a restaurant called Great Jones Cafe in New York City. In early 2005, rumors began to spread on the internet that he had a new group called Cam'Ron's Foreskin. In the summer of 2006, Ibold joined Sonic Youth as their touring bass player for their Rather Ripped tour.
Steve West lives in Lexington, Virginia. He has two children and works as a stonemason. He has released 3 albums as Marble Valley. His group opened for the The Jicks during a weeklong series of shows in the fall of 2001.
Bob Nastanovich has a home in Louisville, Kentucky and produces a website called "Lonely on the Rail" which combines his passions for horse racing and writing. He tour managed for The Jicks during their first tour. Since then, Nastanovich has been a jockey agent for Greta Kuntzweiler. When asked if he was in contact with his former band members, he said, "West - yes, Malkmus - yes, Ibold - rarely, Kannberg - never". He accompanied Malkmus on drums for two songs during a solo acoustic set at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival.
Gary Young has continued recording bands at his Stockton studio and invented the Universal Microphone Shock Mount, devising the first prototypes from garbage found in his yard. He has also battled alcoholism. He currently has a musical group, Gary Young's Hospital, which has released two albums and played a number of concerts.