Not many bands could leave more than two decades between albums and still deserve a ruckus when they finally got around to returning. Then again, Pixies aren’t other bands. While they’ve not been completely AWOL in recent years, their new output was restricted to the odd new track amongst a festival greatest hits set. Then, over the past year, came the EPs - now combined to make a full length record ‘Indie Cindy’. Without iconic bassist Kim Deal, all of a sudden Pixies have something to prove. Dave Lovering and Joey Santiago got on the blower from the other side of the world to explain more.
You played in Peru last night - how was the show?
Dave: It was fantastic - we didn’t do that many new songs, maybe four new ones then a lot of oldies - that meant the crowd went kind of crazy for that.
How do you choose how to mix up the old with the new songs?
D: We never write a set list before we go on stage. We do one opening old song that we all know, from that point on we just call the shots - just bang bang bang, in succession, as fast as we can. Just picking songs out of the air. Because of that it’s a great adventure and a great challenge, but then again you really can’t tailor it, sometimes the set’s not may not be the greatest.
Has playing with different bass players made you hear the songs differently?
D: When Kim [Deal] left there was a couple of days of ‘woah!’. Just getting out of that. ‘Woah, she’s not there anymore’. It’s different in some ways, with the in-jokes or whatever… but it doesn’t bother me, it’s no hassle. I think I’m playing better now - Paz [Lenchantin] is such a great bass player, I don’t want to be embarrassed around her. I’m playing better. I’m not changing the songs in any way, true to form is what they are. I feel better playing it, it’s increased my ability.
Joey: Paz is the best player live we’ve had since Kim Deal. We’re being challenged. We tried lots… the rest were good. But this one suited us the best.
Have you had a good reaction from a new generation of audience?
J: Live has been great.
D: What’s surprising us is that our audience is a mix of children that weren’t born when these songs were written, and people my age who wish we were playing a seated theatre. There’s a big difference in the whole thing. My observation is (and I’m on a drum riser, I can see) is that the kids, when we do the old songs, they sing along, but when the new songs come up they sing along to them too. The older folks don’t sing along to the new stuff. You can’t please everyone, but yeah, they like it - it’s working really well.
How does touring compare now to 25 years ago?
J: Well, we have family now, that changes a lot. We can’t tour as long, but never did that long anyway really. And we have a new bass player now. It’s a lighter atmosphere that we have with her, it’s good.
Is there a different dynamic?
D: When we got reunited in 2004, from that point to this point now I’ve enjoyed it so much more. I was given a second opportunity. Not that I didn’t appreciate it in the early days… but now I really appreciate it so much more. It’s been wonderful. Adding the new material makes it more adventurous. The old songs are like riding a bike, the new songs are a challenge, they’re fresh. It’s wonderful. I’m having a blast.
What’s your favourite song to play?
D: Probably ‘Magdalena 318’, because it’s a groovy kind of thing. It’s also the easiest song to play.
J: All the new ones. All of them. Right now it’s ‘Magdalena’. It’s got a lot of textures, it comes over so well - the crowd response on that as far as a new song goes is real strong.
Do you prefer playing old songs or new on tour?
J: Both. We’re still working it out live. We choose five maybe six new ones every night. This is a festival circuit, they wanna reminisce, and that’s fine. We’re still trying to learn. The new stuff is fresh.
Are you excited that the record is coming out soon?
D: Certainly - very excited. There is a sense of trepidation; we thought, ‘oh no, we have to do this music and so better be good’. It’s been a long time coming - the EPs have come out but it will be interesting to get a response for the whole album.
How was it recording in Wales?
J: It’s great over there. You’re in the middle of a field which is made for horses. Everyone had their own cottage, we had our own cook, we didn’t have to go anywhere. A great atmosphere is all there was. There was lovely half hour walk into town to clear your head. So that’s all there was… work, work, and er, more work.
Was it always planned to be an album, was it the idea from day one?
D: No, originally when we wanted to do new stuff, we were just going to do four songs, one EP. It turned into much more. We did a number of songs in the studio of which twelve were picked for ‘EP1’, ‘EP2’ etc as surprises. But when we started the multi-EP plan we were always going to do a full album, all the songs in their entirety, we planned that.
Why did you keep it a secret?
J: Two reasons: one of the reasons is it might not be any good! We could have all shaken hands and said ‘Nope, this isn’t going to be released’. We didn’t even know if it would get completed… Kim Deal left! That was a big thing. We overcame that. A million things could have happened. The second reason is we like surprise… it’s worth it for the fans. It makes it special.
D: I liked the impact factor of it. I’m a magician - I like surprises. I wish I could say I was responsible for it, or Joey or Charles, but it was management. We didn’t want to give up the fact we were recording, we wanted to make this a big surprise.
J: We never told anyone. We tried to keep it very hush hush. I didn’t even tell my friends and family! I think the citizens of Monmouth are used to not blabbing things out, otherwise no one would come to the studio anymore.
How’s the magic going?
D: Very good. I’m usually entertaining backstage and at the after shows, I’m the festival magician. We did Lollapalooza, it was fun doing magic to AFI and Soundgarden. We’ve had some good evenings.
Were the EPs a comment on how people listen to and digest new music now? The death of the album?
D: Even though we were going back to the old LP format - in this day and age it’s about immediacy, you can pick and choose songs. An EP is a much smaller selection to pick from. It plays along with this day and age. It plays along with ‘the record format is dead’… even though we’re still putting out a record.
Do you listen to your own albums?
J: No! Only when I have to practice for a date. And then only just a verse and chorus. Got it.
Did you record all the album together in one long session?
D: Yes, we were there in Wales for two months, we did everything in one session.
Was it fun?
D: It was a blast. I used to hate recording. The first Pixies thing, ‘Come on Pilgrim’, was recorded after a year of playing. We knew the songs. Then it started happening quicker and quicker… it became frustrating to be in the studio so quickly. But yeah, we worked on these songs for a long time and I knew them really well, so I went into this with a renewed attitude. And this was a wonderful work environment - pigs, horses, nothing to take your mind away. I really enjoyed it.
Joey, are you feeling ok now, after being blown up for ‘What Goes Boom’?
J: I survived that, but I had the best doctors money can buy. I have a bionic leg right leg now. But I can jump really really high, up to the tallest buildings.
What’s the plan next - you mentioned there was unreleased stuff from the sessions…
D: Oh gosh… well, there may be some big deluxe thing coming out, I’m not sure, nothing now but just promoting all the new music we have. And seeing what the future holds.
J: Hopefully we’ll record more. Other than that, going back to TV and film work, more composing.
Pixies’ new album ‘Indie Cindy’ is out now via Pixies Music.