Pixies Gouge Away Through Recent Lineup Turmoil
Photo by Michael Halsband
Several words come to mind when pondering the Pixies, among them "pioneering," "innovative" and "influential." Lately, it's safe to add "resilient" when discussing the veteran rockers.
Since their 1986 inception, the Boston-born band -- front man Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and beloved bassist Kim Deal -- have been an integral part of the modern alt-rock mold. Last year, however, the Pixies experienced a potentially fatal blow when Deal announced her sudden departure after 25-plus years.
Despite the setback, the Pixies endured, regrouping with the help of touring bassists. Tickets to many shows on their current worldwide tour, which stops at Bayou Music Center on Thursday, have sold out within minutes.
Where many other bands' reunion attempts have fizzled, the Pixies seem to have cooked up a successful recipe for staying power. Santiago thinks the band's 2004 reunion (after breaking up in 1992) has remained successful purely due to the length of time they'd stayed off the map.
"We simply hadn't been around," he says during a recent phone call. "And we broke up at the height of our career -- which was a blessing in disguise -- because in the years following, people started appreciating us.
"It didn't hurt to be mentioned by Kurt Cobain [as a major influence] or to have our music played in Fight Club," he adds.
According to Santiago, the band members matured by light-years during their time off the radar.
"We used to party back then...a lot," he laughs. Nowadays, he says the Pixies favor more conscientious priorities, like nurturing their growing families and living healthy lifestyles. Now married with two children, Santaigo is an avid cyclist who tries to maintain his healthy routine while on the road.
"I'm more health-conscious now," he says. "Charles has been obsessed with Bikram yoga."
Santiago is referring to Charles Thompson, the Pixies front man more commonly known by his stage name, Black Francis.
Something has provided the lasting glue that keeps the Pixies intact, though it's evidently not spending quality time together.
Story continues on the next page.
Photo by Dana Yarvin
"It's like a marriage," Santiago says of the band's dynamic. "But when we get home [from tour], we don't retain that relationship like a marriage does. In all honesty, we hardly even call each other, and you rarely see us together besides when we're all onstage."
Distance, he adds, "keeps our conversations more interesting when we are together."
But that doesn't mean the Pixies don't share a remarkably close underlying bond.
"Charles is my interpreter," Santiago laughs. "For example, I'll say something ridiculous, and people will be like, 'What the fuck did he just say?' and Charles will translate precisely what I meant. I guess it takes a bizarre person like Charles to understand a ridiculous, random guy like me. That's why we're buddy ol' pals."
With such history, it's understandable that Deal's departure was a huge upset for the band. Santiago admits her leaving was a tender subject but insists they've moved on.
"The beginning of her leaving was most difficult," he explains. "But now that the train is rolling, we don't have time to think about it. We get the daily schedules saying 'Lobby call's at 8; show's at 9:15!' I mean, we think about Kim, but after a while it's back to business as usual."
Bassist Paz Lenchantin
Photo by Amanda Charchian
Santiago says newly recruited touring bassist Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan) also seems to ease the impact of Deal's departure.
"We love Paz," he beams. "She melds in with us and has a very positive personality. She also plays the violin, so she brings a whole different element to the music."
In addition to touring extensively, the Pixies have been recording new material and releasing surprise EPs during the past year. Santiago considers newbies "Indie Cindy" and "Blue-Eyed Hexe" among his favorite Pixies songs ever, calling them "magic in the studio."
Reminiscing, Santiago attempts to dissect what exactly has made the Pixies so influential and to so many.
"We were different," he reflects on the band's prime. "But we had no idea we were influencing a lot of people -- we were just making music.
"You never know what the hell is going to happen," Santiago sighs. "You just have to enjoy it."
Pixies and special guest Best Coast play Bayou Music Center Thursday, February 27. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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