Welcome to Holman's on Southeast 28th Avenue. This is where hacks are lured to huff cigarettes and spin the Meal Wheel while trying to pry information from cryptic indie rockers Stephen Malkmus and Joanna Bolme of the Jicks.

Malkmus, the languid singer-songwriter and frontman of the revered '90s indie band Pavement, is fresh from a yoga class. Drained, rubbery-looking and sporting a red V-neck sweater, he sits cross-legged and appears a bit peeved, as if he's just been kicked out of the Multnomah Athletic Club for swearing on the tennis courts. Bolme, the Jicks' dark-eyed bassist, is alert and hungry.

The rule at the table, unspoken, but quickly learned: Talk about what you want Ñ books, the origins of the name Malkmus, ashtanga versus Bikram yoga Ñ just steer clear of cliched rock 'n' roll interview questions. After all, this is the third interview in a week for Malkmus and Bolme.

'German, I guess. Maybe Greek,' Malkmus says about his surname.

Bolme snickers, and Malkmus asks in an arch, hurt voice, 'What? You don't think that I look Greek?'

Malkmus moved to Portland after Pavement broke up in 1999 and started the Jicks with longtime Portland musicians Bolme, drummer John Moen and keyboardist Mike Clark. 'Pig Lib' is their second album. It's splendid, by the way.

'It's not really any different playing here in Portland, just that your friends are there or whatever, so you want to sound all right,' Malkmus says of the group's upcoming concert at the Crystal Ballroom.

'Pig Lib' has some songs that would be as lovely to read as to listen to: 'Ramp of Death,' 'Animal Midnight' and 'Vanessa From Queens' are all melodic with bookish lyrics. Malkmus' voice sounds a lot like Lou Reed, especially on 'Ramp of Death' and 'Vanessa From Queens,' in which he warns, 'Bob Packwood wants to suck your toes.'

'Yes, well, I've been changing it up a bit, you know,' Malkmus says. 'Don't want to sound too geeky.' Bratty is another pet word. Bolme sings some backup, too, but isn't too confident about it. 'You can sing,' Malkmus assures Bolme.

Malkmus' surfer's hair flops onto his forehead and folds straight across his forehead, making him look totally effete for a moment. He stares out from under the fringe, and it's hard not to laugh. His hair falls back into place, and it's easy to see that he doesn't take himself too seriously.

More moments of wanton crankiness ensue: 'I voted yes on Measure 28, but I'm glad it failed. I went to bad schools. Why should the schools be any good here?'

Apropos of nothing, Malkmus mentions that the New York Post has picked up an item from an interview he gave to Entertainment Weekly. Under the headline 'Slack Attack,' the Post quotes him ranting about actress Halle Barry and comedian Jimmy Fallon.

'Great. We'll never get on 'Saturday Night Live' now,' Bolme says.

Portland might just be a soft place for Malkmus to snuggle for a while, maybe playing some competitive trivia at Beulahland on Tuesday nights down the street.

'I could go back to the East Coast sometime, sure,' he says. 'The rest of the band, though, they're pretty much settled here, except Joanna. Joanna could leave.'

Malkmus ends the interview: 'You got what you need? Yeah, you got it.'

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