Pixies’ Second Chance Bash
Evolving band hits open road
By Mark Lopez
David Lovering wasn't in the best shape in 2004. Granted, he'd made a name for himself as drummer of the Pixies, a group that shifted the dormant landscape of alternative music, drawing from a manic sound that was as precise as it was spontaneous. Where synth-heavy pop music ruled the Top 40, Pixies was spurned from the idea that music needed a different direction, a more forceful sound; see “Vamos.”
The group released riotous yet thoughtful melodies throughout the late '80s and early '90s, but their tenure was short-lived. Their last full-length LP was 1991's Trompe le Monde, and the band sort of fizzled out after. Lovering, singer/songwriter Black Francis, bassist Kim Deal, and guitar player Joey Santiago ventured toward other artistic pursuits.
Among such endeavors, Kim Deal's foray into the Breeders bred such aural gems as Last Splash and Title TK. Santiago made sweet rockers with The Martinis, and Francis released numerous solo albums. Lovering continued drumming and performed onstage as a “magic scientist.” In his illusions, Lovering focused on educational anomalies delivered with the snazz of a seasoned performer.
It was a matter of time before their Pixie paths would merge once again. When asked about their reunion in 2004, Lovering quickly responded, “I was at a point financially and emotionally … I got the call from Joe [Santiago], and it was a wonderful time. I couldn't have thought of anything better. I felt very fortunate because of it, and I feel like we're getting a second chance.”
That second chance resulted in almost a decade of touring, with old and new fans witnessing the allure of a vibrant return—a band coming back together to play songs that changed what was being played on the airwaves. They belted out loud refrains that modified how people thought about music: It could be imperfect, rife with puzzling aggression and effective lyrics. It could be ugly and sweet simultaneously, a sound crafted from adventurous revelations that weren't bogged down or self-aware.
“It was all new to us. We didn't know any better; we didn't know any different. We didn't know this was a new art. … We were doing shows and having fun, the gigs were getting better and better and better. It was always a progression going up and up, there was never [a] down for us,” Lovering said. “And I gotta say, I'm kind of glad we broke up back then because when we got back together in 2004, it was a different animal. And I don't know if that would have happened if we stayed together, so it's all good.”
Having toured extensively after coming back together, the question still lingered over whether they'd record new material, considering they'd only laid down one new Kim Deal-penned track “Bam Thwok” since reforming. But sadly, no full-length. And with their return, the band succumbed to the crash.
Before they could record new material in 2013, Deal said goodbye. Fans wondered how the departure would affect the sound. Though Deal's artistic prowess is clearly absent from the songs, Pixies' new material (in the forms of EP1 and EP2) contains a delightfully disjointed mixture of rhythms and percussion that made them a prominent entity from the beginning. It's the sound of a band striving to move forward.
“We had just lost Kim [Deal], and we made the decision to forge ahead,” said Lovering. Deal's exodus ignited a sense of brotherhood among the remaining three, leaving them to band together. It wasn't hard for them to get back into the swing of things. “Nothing ever changes. Even in the studio now, even if it's been 20 years, whatever years, it was like riding a bike. Nothing had changed. The only difference was that we were recording on a digital format rather than on analog, on a tape machine.”
But why two EP's? Why not a full-length record?
“Originally when we decided to do new music, it was just going to be an EP, four songs,” Lovering replies. “It turned into a bunch of songs [that] got recorded. And as EP1 suggested, no one knew there was an EP2. And as EP2 might imply, there might be an 'EP3' as well. Like a magician, I love the surprise.”
When any sacred tribe reunites, it's always touch-and-go when new material is distributed amongst yearning fans. Would empty ears beg for more pounding drums, chaotic guitars and Francis' wail laying siege? (I mean, shards of glass never shook that hard). Still, it could go either way. Would they love it or hate it?
“I know we've been playing the new songs since September … and it's getting a good reaction,” Lovering enthusiastically iterates. “I know it's a lot more younger kids—who weren't even born when we were around—who are singing along with the words. … And I can [usually] watch if anyone's sneaking to the restroom when we're playing the new songs, and it's been pretty good so far. [Laughs.]”
Pixies are currently on tour in support of their latest material. With a tonal shift—due to one bandmate's departure and a willful intensity guiding the remaining members' aesthetic choices—their punk sounds still prevail. And while some people may not want to view them as a trio—considering they've got touring bassist Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle) on hand—it's nice to see such an influential band hitting the open road and gracing audiences with their evolving brand of rock and roll.
When the inevitable question of whether new(er) material would surface arose, Lovering remained coy and evasive. “The mark of the magician: I can't reveal any more secrets, and we'll just leave it at that. It's a surprise. [Laughs.]”
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