By Brian F. Johnson
The Pixies have been perilously perched on a fragile precipice for several years. The band, which reunited in 2004 to tremendous excitement, and which famously had a tumultuous past, were doing wonderfully in their post-hiatus years, selling out shows and tours all around the world. But they were trapped in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.
They hadn’t released an album since 1991’s Trompe Le Monde, and for that matter they had only put out one song since they reunited. It was time to do what they had been threatening for years and put forth something new, but the pressure was immense to maintain the legacy of the band, which was such an overwhelming influence on groups like Nirvana and Radiohead.
Then, suddenly without warning, without any advanced notice, the group offered a free download of a new single “Bagboy” in late June. And just a couple months later, EP 1 was released. Then, just after the calendar was flipped to 2014, EP 2 was released. The “LOUDquiet LOUD” history of the Pixies wasn’t just on ‘loud’ anymore — it was screeching.
“We had been playing since 2004 on our old laurels and old material and it just kept going,” said drummer David Lovering in a recent interview with The Marquee. “When we originally got back together we thought we’d do it for a year. Then when we hit the seven-year mark, we realized, ‘Wait, hold it a minute, we’ve been doing this reunion longer than we were initially a band.’ That was surprising to us. We were just floored and it kept going even more.”
As early as 2004, the band members had said that they had new material they were hoping to record, but it took nearly a decade for a release to materialize. “We’re just a very dysfunctional band, still. Even as we get older and wiser. From this point right now to when we really started talking about doing it has been four years,” Lovering said. “We knew that to accomplish it, we needed to have full veto power for anything that was garbage and we did use that. It took a long time, but we forged ahead.”
The two EPs were recorded in secret at Rockfield Studios in Wales with longtime Pixies producer Gil Norton, who did Doolittle, Bossa Nova and Trompe Le Monde for the group. The band had arrived ready to record five songs, but they ended up writing another seven songs while they were there.
The releases caused an obvious stir and while the general reception is positive, there has been that damned-if-you-do faction that has, of course, said the work doesn’t stack up to the band’s earlier work. “Trompe le Monde never sounded like Come On Pilgrim. And Come On Pilgrim never sounded like Doolittle, and Surfer Rosa never sounded like EP 1. So it’s different. That’s how we do things. We don’t know what’s coming next, we’re just trying to move forward and have fun with what we’re doing,” Lovering said. “We didn’t want to turn into a casino act. We wanted to be vital.”
Just before the Pixies released the single “Bagboy” — about two weeks prior, actually — another surprise had come out of the band’s camp. Founding bassist Kim Deal, it was announced via Twitter, was leaving the Pixies to work on her own material. The Pixies, a band which had centered around, if not completely relied on the interplay between lead singer Black Francis and Deal, was losing at least a huge part of its anchor. The group that had been infamously disbanded by a fax sent in 1993, was now telling fans just as impersonally about Deal’s departure.
“When Kim left it was really hard for everyone, even Kim,” Lovering said. “And she’s always welcome back, but when we hired Kim Shattuck for our European tour it was our first situation playing with someone new. She was playing the parts of Kim Deal, but we were on stage with someone else and that was new.”
Shattuck handled the role for the tour and shortly thereafter it was announced that Paz Lenchantin of A Perfect Circle and The Entrance Band would be coming on board as the “touring bassist” for the band’s upcoming multi-continental tour.
“With Paz now, she’s one hell of a player and I’m intimidated by her. I have to step up my game to play a lot better now,” said Lovering. “I’m really doing the best I can to make it work with her and the rhythm section is incredibly powerful and precise. It’s a whole new Pixies to me.”
While the band members might not be on the trajectory that in a perfect world they might have created for themselves, Lovering said that he feels the band is fortunate and happy to be where they are right now. “I’m kind of glad we did break up,” Lovering said. “If we didn’t break up, I don’t know what would have happened with the Pixies. Would we have kept going? Would the quality have gone down? Would we have imploded seven years later? Would we have gotten bigger? I don’t know, but I think that we’re very fortunate that when we came back in 2004, we had a whole new fan base of kids that were influenced by us through Nirvana and Radiohead and stuff like that. So all I can do is look back in hindsight and say, ‘Wow. It worked out, and it worked out so well that I’m glad we did break up.’”
In mid-January, less than two weeks after releasing EP 2, the band set out on one of its longest tours to date. And as the band looks forward into 2014 and beyond, Lovering said that if fans were surprised by EP 1 and EP 2, then they should stay tuned for some time to come. “As a magician, I love surprises,” Lovering said. “As EP 1 suggested, there might be more, and there are more surprises coming, but it will take until 2015 for all of these surprises to reveal themselves.”
:: Pixies ::
:: Fillmore Auditorium ::
:: February 13 ::
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