A pillar of strength on the bass, Josephine Wiggs was the one member of the alt-rock powder-keg Breeders who never lost her composure. She has an elegant, statuesque quality about her. Young fans used to delight in taunting her at the band’s live shows—”Smile, Josephine!”—to no avail.
Now that Wiggs has released Bon Bon Lifestyle with the Josephine Wiggs Experience (John Mattock on drums, and touring with Aldou Obaje on guitar), photographers have joined the taunters. “We had a photo session yesterday, and the photographer said, ‘I want you to emote. I want you to be dramatic!”’ Wigg’s recalls with amusement. “And I said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t emote. That’s just not me. I can give you drama, but not like that.”’
What she gives on The Bon Bon Lifestyle is cool, jazzy instrumentals featuring her stand-up bass and piano, and slinky, winking pop songs with titles like “Make Me Feel Like Doris Day.” It’s a sound that one convert who saw the trio open for the band Luscious Jackson described, with precision, as “James Bond meets the Damned meets Nico.”
How different is the chemistry in the Wiggs Experience from the Breeders’? “Mainly, our drug of choice is tea,” says Wiggs with a hearty chortle, teacup in hand. Although, she adds, “John’s on decaf now.” “Yeah, I’m weaning myself off it,” laughs her bandmate, sprawled out on the carpet of a friend’s apartment, dubbing cassettes to listen to in their touring van.
Actually, Bon Bon Lifestyle was first conceived four years ago while the Breeders were still in the studio recording Last Splash. Waiting for the rest of the band to finish their parts, Wiggs taught herself to play the drums and tried her hand at lead Breeder Kim Deal-style pop. “Kim is extremely good at writing really catchy, hooky tunes, and I wanted to see if I could do that, too,” Wiggs says. “It’s still a bit weird, and perhaps more demanding to listen to than I would have wished. But I just can’t help doing things that I think sound cool even though they’re not conforming to the ideal.”
In between projects, Wiggs also went through a breakup with Luscious Jackson drummer Kate Schellenbach and moved into her own apartment in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. “For a while I tried to sort of cut off for a bit,” Wiggs says. “Because I think that’s the only thing you can do. [But Kate] means a lot to me and has meant a lot to me. Actually, we’re using her old drum kit.”
Without the Breeders or Schellenbach to keep her occupied in the year before this record came out, Wiggs retreated for a time into what she’s dubbed “the bonbon lifestyle,” taking afternoon naps on her friend Gretchen’s couch with Pekingese dogs at her feet. “The whole image is you’re either lying on the couch or you’re actually still in bed, watching soap operas on TV and eating bonbons. The extent of your activity is just this reaching movement to bring the bonbon up to your mouth, or perhaps changing the channel. It’s that life of leisure.”