Stephen Malkmus and Scott Kannberg, known as "S.M." and "Spiral Stairs," came together in Stockton, Calif. in 1989 for a studio project. The two guitarist/vocalists recorded three lo-fi EPs, Slay Tracks (1933-1969), Demolition Plot J-7, and Perfect Sound Forever. Drummer Gary Young recorded the works at his home studio and said of effort, "this Malkmus idiot is a complete songwriting genius."
Citing The Replacements, Swell Map, and The Fall as influences, Pavement drew criticism from Mark E. Smith of The Fall who thought they were ripping off his band and didn't "have an original idea in their heads."
In 1992, the group rounded out with bassist Mark Ibold and percussionist Bob Nastanovich coming aboard. Their full-length debut, Slanted and Enchanted, made the rounds as a cassette for a while before being officially released that same year. They followed that up in quick succession with another EP -- Watery, Domestic.
While the band was on tour supporting Slanted and Enchanted, Young exhibited some eccentric behaviors such as handing out cabbage and mashed potatoes to fans entering a venue. After wrapping up a tour of Europe and the Asia/Pacific region in 1993, Young parted ways with the band. He was replaced by Steve West.
The following year, Pavement released the classic rock-tinged Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain which spawned the moderately successful single “Cut Your Hair.” The song even got the boys an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Another track from the album, “Range Life,” included a jab at the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots. Although Malkmus insisted it was a joke, he and Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan sparred in the press for several years over the issue. Corgan even threatened to not headline the 1994 Lollapalooza Festival if Pavement was on the bill.
Expanding their sound even further, Pavement's 1995 release Wowee Zowee pulled from punk, country, and more for its 18 tracks. Kannberg says of the collection, "We made some mistakes on that record... we were kind of pressured into putting out a record a little faster than we were ready to. I mean, I'm totally into the record. It's just if we had another six months to think about it, it would've been much different."
Thanks to their drug- and alcohol-infused live performances that didn't so much please fans, Pavement deemed themselves "The Band That Ruined Lollapallooza" in 1995. Their 2002 Slow Century DVD documents the chaos, as well as much of their career.
A trio set, Pacific Trim, came after Zowee and included only Malkmus with Nastanovich and West. Then came 1997's Mitch Easter-produced Brighten the Corners. The record was a bit mellower than previous efforts and, on the strength of singles "Stereo" and "Shady Lane," found a larger audience.
Their 1999 outing, Terror Twilight, was titled by Nastanovich: "Twilight Terror is the short span between sunset and dusk; this is considered the most dangerous time in traffic, because half of the people switch on the headlights, and the other half doesn't. It's when most accidents happen."
After two weeks of studio time spent playing Scrabble, the band brought in producer Nigel Godrich to helm the recording. Godrich took a shine to Malkmus, much to Kannberg and Nastanovich's chagrin.
A final six-month world tour would be the unraveling of the band. After a 1999 Coachella Festival show in which Malkmus wouldn't (or possibly couldn't) sing, he confessed that "I just don't want to do this anymore." At their final show on November 20, 1999 he wore handcuffs attached to his mic stand to symbolize his experience of being in the band. They officially split up two weeks later.
Flash forward 10 years to find Pavement reunited for their 20th anniversary. Their first show together at Central Park sold out in minutes. The press release announcing their 2010 tour plans read, "Please be advised this tour is not a prelude to additional jaunts and/or a permanent reunion."
A 'best of' compilation -- Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement -- was released in March, 2010 as a prelude to their 2010 world tour itinerary.