Pixies' Bassist Paz Lenchantin Way More Than Just a Replacement

Paz Lenchantin
Paz Lenchantin
Photo by Jim Bricker

The Pixies' influence on modern pop rock and alternative can't be overstated. To consider '90s music and all of its dynamic genre-building and expansion is a considerable task, but one that must include bands that made rock cerebral and interesting again. And, for popular music, any variation on the Paula Abdul-saturated airwaves and the heavily commercialized hair metal left over from the '80s was a welcome change among the Generation X crowd.

The '90s were a different day for music lovers. Fans could still turn on FM radio and find new talent on alternative stations. R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Pavement and other iconic avant-garde groups were building a foundation for what would soon become the Indie scene of the 2000s.

What was arguably the recipe that created the alternative genre was perfected by the Pixies. Their famously quiet/loud/quiet style dominated '90s music and was imitated by some of the most popular bands almost facsimile. Bands like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins used the loud, aggressive choruses juxtaposed against soft verses in a kind of satisfying auditory contrast.

And that specific formula made the Pixies a quintessential alternative staple. But what's a band to do when those pinnacle days are long gone and one of the band's principle members (bassist Kim Deal) has left the group?

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This is what fans and press still seem to focus on. The addition of bassist Paz Lenchantin (The Muffs’ Kim Shattock filled in briefly during 2013) still continues to be a topic of interest among listeners, yet the question still looms — Isn't Lenchantin just a replacement for Kim Deal?

Well, no. And to regard Lenchantin as such is incredibly unfair, with which she agrees. Calling from Los Angeles, Lenchantin talks about what she contributes to the Pixies overall. "I understand why people still ask about Kim [Deal]. I hope what I’m doing is not replacing someone but instead extending their work in the sense where I continue their work and continue the Pixies and keep it as strong as it deserves.”

She explains, “Making this [last] record, it was like this is a band again in spirit and in place. It’s important to keep in mind, Kim — I would assume or hope — she was never a replacement, trying to mimic someone; she was her own person, in music and in spirit. By me coming in, I want to continue in that same spirit yet also be my own person in the band.”

She adds, “I think it took a couple of years once I was in the band to acclimate and feel whole and feel like I was a member.”

Keeping the Pixies strong musically is a task that she handles with ease. Lenchantin's background in music covers a wide range of collaborations, but to classify her as a fill-in or substitute misses the versatility she possesses. She’s far more than just Kim Deal’s replacement and deserves greater acknowledgment.

She's contributed to (and been a full member of) a long list of bands, including A Perfect Circle, Entrance, Jenny Lewis and Queens of the Stone Age, to name a few. Her abilities to cover multiple instruments span many albums, from bass to piano and violin.

She grew up in a musical family, and Lenchantin's earliest beginnings saw classical instruction in a multicultural home. Her father, pianist Mario Merdirossian, and his musical influence continue to remain in her creative life.

“Both of my parents are classical pianists. My sister played cello, my brother viola and I played the violin as siblings.” She continues, “Later I made friends with the Devil and put my head in a different direction and found my way to scary land and became a Pixie. If you really want the truth of the story.”

“Speaking of my father, the last Pixies single was 'Classic Masher,' where the band gave me total freedom to direct and create the video. They know I’ve been creating videos since the '90s and I have a passion for it in the certain style that I do, and they were like, ‘Go for it, Paz, make a video.’ So, I cast my father playing the piano. So, it stars my father as the 'Classic Masher.'”

Tongue in cheek and a bit of dry wit go along well in a band known for its ironic and bizarre lyrics. Whether they’re about religion, death or literary paradoxes, Pixies continue in the same vein they always have with last year’s release, Head Carrier.

“I really enjoy playing Head Carrier. They’re fresh new songs that haven’t been played live that often and we’re pumping life in them.” Lenchantin says, “It’s exciting for me because it’s my first [Pixies] record. The song I wrote, 'All I Think About Now,' I was nervous to play live, because it’s somewhat putting me in the limelight that I’m not exactly comfortable with. I really enjoy being the back-up, [but] I‘ve been challenged to come forward more and I wasn’t sure how I’d handle this challenge, and now I’m kind of really, really excited about this challenge.”

She elaborates, “No matter how long you’ve been playing music or performing live, you need to be challenged by something; it’s really exciting and I really enjoy that moment. I also very much love the song 'All the Saints'; it’s the closing song of the record, it’s a beautiful poem, a beautiful lyric, musically because I was there for the whole development of the song, I have a personal interest.”

Many fans consider Head Carrier a comeback album and place it on par with some of their best work from the ’90s. Lenchantin explains, “I think that Indie Cindy was a transition record…it’s an honest record. We want to keep the momentum going and I think once the engine starts, it likes to keep running. This last record was so much fun to make. I hope that comes through and people can hear the fun we had making it. It’s been a fun journey for us as a band.”

See the Pixies this Sunday at White Oak Music Hall (on the lawn). Tickets are $45-$49 and doors open at 6 p.m.


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