Four sold-out performances at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. A new band member has joined the lineup, and the live set has been expanded. While the band was on hiatus, momentum grew from unlikely fans.
Pavement has reunited for the first time in 12 years and is back — and more popular than ever.
Pavement was the quintessential indie rock band of the 1990s, exuding an air of defiance and nonchalance, half-singing erudite lyrics while flashing an in-the-know look.
“It’s pretty amazing to see the energy that people — or Pavement fans, I suppose — have for this band after more than 30 years.” “Percussionist Bob Nastanovich said “It’s not like we were unpopular. We’ve always had a devoted following. The different aspect appears to be in droves.”
Pavement was formed in the late 1980s in Stockton, California, by guitarist/singer Stephen Malkmus, guitarist Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg, and studio owner/drummer Gary Young. Their songs referenced everything from Swell Maps to The Eagles. However, how they translated those influences into their own sonic language was always more important.
They released five albums and earned cult status among fans during their 10-year run, which included Nastanovich, bassist Mark Ibold, and drummer Steve West. In live shows, they were admired for their loose approach, tangled resonance, shrouded pop sensibility, and seemingly off-the-cuff mindset.
Nonetheless, aside from the semi-hit “Cut Your Hair,” they never made it big, and the band disbanded around the turn of the century as Malkmus embarked on his own career, which is now nine albums deep. His guitar playing has advanced to mastery level, and he now runs a tighter ship on stage with his band The Jicks.
Pavement reunited for a world tour in 2010, after years of claiming they would never reunite, and then split up again. Kannberg has remained in bands and released his own and other people’s music, while West works as a stonemason in Richmond, Virginia, and Ibold works as a bartender in Brooklyn.
Nastanovich, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, hosts the “3 Songs” podcast and works in horse racing. He had to Google Pavement and show them pictures to prove his membership in the band to people in the racing industry.
However, something unexpected occurred: TikTok. “Harness Your Hopes,” a 1999 B-side, went viral, with over 10 million views of people dancing, lip-syncing, or posting about the song. It’s also the most popular Pavement song on Spotify.
“Perhaps in retrospect it would have been a successful single,” Nastanovich said, “but it’s always good to let your audience figure out what your hits are.”
During one of the band’s recent Brooklyn shows, Malkmus joked that no one told them back in the day that “Harness Your Hopes” was a hit. “It’s kind of nice to have a funny song that we play every night that makes people smile and dance,” Nastanovich adds.
The band also welcomed a new member, Wild Flag keyboardist Rebecca Cole. “She has a very good vibe, and she allows us to play about 15 to 20 more songs well than we did in 2010,” Nastanovich explained.
“Pavements 1933-2022,” an international museum exhibition, opened this month at a gallery in lower Manhattan, tracing the band’s history through flyers, artwork, notebooks, and videos. In the 1990s, a few advertisements demonstrated the band’s reach — and depth. Malkmus strumming a broom like a guitar for Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, Absolut Vodka’s take on their “Wowee Zowee” album cover art, and promotions for “Got Milk?” and America’s Libraries.
Pavement songs were performed by younger artists Snail Mail, Lucy Dacus, and Soccer Mommy at the exhibition.
“More than anything else, it appears that the people who care about the band are very genuine, and it’s just amazing to see such an amazing range of ages,” Nastanovich exclaimed. “It’s just amazing to me that Pavement has continued to gather steam for some reason over the last 12 years.”