"JESSIE'S GIRL" FROM "BOOGIE NIGHTS" As our porn star heroes approach rock…
- Posted on Apr 28th 2011 12:00PM by Joshua Ostroff
Another alt-rock pioneer that's had plenty of recent success is the Pixies, who released a series of groundbreaking albums that turned them into cult icons and inspired the loudQUIETloud likes of Nirvana. Their initial run was short-lived, as frontman Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis) famously broke up the group -- bassist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering -- via fax in 1994, and the Pixies were kaput before they could reap the financial benefits of what they had musically sowed.
That was the case until 2004, when they reunited for a hugely successful tour. The Pixies have been on and off the road ever since -- they're currently criss-crossing Canada and parts of the US on their two-years-and-counting 'Doolittle' tour and are not only attracting their original audience, but fans who were toddlers in the '90s.
Spinner sat down with Santiago and Lovering between a two-night stand in Toronto to discuss the Pixies' past, present and, yes, their future.
How does the alt-rock revival feel for you guys, having been such an influential part of the movement?
Joey: I guess we should feel flattered. I am a little, but we don't really think about that. The truth of the matter is, everybody gets influenced so we are just one of the lucky ones that people get influenced by.
David: That's the way it's always going to be. Jay-Z is going to be "classic rock" one day.
Did it feel like there was a cultural movement building?
Joey: We already toured after 'Surfer Rosa,' so we knew we had a good following. We didn't have a jock-y crowd at all. Usually we attracted outsiders. It just got more popular. The alternative kids? I would say we were even outside of that. Our audience was more alternative than we were. We would always joke around, "God, these guys look more like rock stars than we do." We were just wearing sweaters of some kind at the show. These guys always looked rockin.'
Did you feel ahead of the game?
Joey: I don't know. Once again, the fashion's the thing, because that's part of rock 'n' roll. I remember Charles always wore this one flannel shirt, he wore it to death. And people started wearing flannel. It was less posturing. We were semi-part of that. Musically? People were getting more adventurous, more "alternative," I guess. Ahead of the curve? There was Hüsker Dü and R.E.M., so we were just holding their torch, but it certainly got more popular. It blew up.
What was it like to go away for a decade and come back iconic in 2004?
Joey: It was amazing. I had no idea what a big deal Coachella was. When I looked it up, I was like, "Oh my God." When we were up North, in Canada, we started swooping down to California. I started feeling a little bit nervous.
David: Our records came out when some of those kids weren't even born and here they were singing along at Coachella. It was shocking.
Joey: The amount of people just paying attention when we played. Then looking at the side of the stage and seeing Red Hot Chilli Peppers and PJ Harvey, Radiohead ... just looking. And I could see them and I just had to, "No, I'm not going to look at you. These 70,000 people look more comforting."
One thing separating your tours from most reunions is your audiences are filled with young fans.
Joey: It's pretty cool to have young kids to come to the show. What age do they get it, the Pixies? When they enter the university, I assume. There's college radio stations there. People are trying to explore the world in a different way. I think we are one of those bands, the landmark when things were different, when things shifted. We were a big part of it.
Definitely, the Pixies represent that cultural shift in the same way the Sex Pistols once did.
Joey: It's almost political. You wanted to hang out with people that liked your kinds of music. And I kind of was like that. I never trusted anyone who didn't get the Velvet Underground [laughter]. It was like, "What else is wrong with you?"
The reason why the "alternative" kids are into us is because we're part of that history. The bands they like now, they kind of know that we influenced them. We're lucky that we're still relatively young so they get to see that point of history onstage.
How do much of the Pixies do you hear in today's indie scene?
David: It's hard for me to discern. I know it's out there. I have plenty of friends who say, "You gotta hear this, they're ripping the Pixies off." And maybe more so now than earlier, there's been a resurgence of that kind of thing. Everything's retro now.
Do you think it's tough for bands to have that influence in today's fragmented music world?
David: We were lucky, number one. We were different and we had the goods -- we had the material, we had the music. Anyone that does it today has to have the same three things, whether they're putting it on iTunes or wherever.
Is there any current underground band that you could see having a single-album tour in 20 years?
Joey: Did Granddaddy break up? If they got back together, they'd be huge. The 'Sumday' album, that could be something. Arcade Fire's 'Funeral' album, that's pretty classic.
I don't know how underground you are when you win Album of the Year.
Joey: Thanks to us! [Laughter]
You laugh, but Arcade Fire winning a best album Grammy says a lot about the musical culture Pixies helped pioneer.
Joey: God, did we really do it? I guess I get that feeling with 'Doolittle.' It's just in so many charts, too. "Greatest Albums of All Time" on Rolling Stone, NME. And the kids just want to see that.
When 'Doolittle' was done, did you feel like it was going to be a big one?
David: I was really happy. I thought it was the best record we did so far. 'Doolittle' was just like "Wow, all the songs and just as a whole it was really perfect."
Joey: We were listening to the mix and asking the engineer how to rewind that thing and put it on the big speakers and we were just cranking it. I was grinning ear-to-ear. I was shocked how good it was. I knew people would listen to it and go "This is f---ing awesome!" That's it. That's all I knew. I didn't know it was going to be a landmark record but I knew people were just gonna flip out.
You released a single a while back, but there's been no follow-up album. Kim made another Breeders album. Is there a reason Pixies haven't put out fresh stuff?
David: We were happy to just tour, and it's been non-stop because people want to see us. We've talked about it for years, but nothing's come to fruition.
Joey: I'm gonna answer this honestly, for once. In the back of our minds I think we're afraid that it might cause friction. Right? Don't you think? It might, and that "might" is gonna be an "Uh oh, what the f--- are we doing now?"
David: The thing is, we want to protect the legacy. If we do something, it better be good. And as we go along -- it's been seven years now -- it gets more difficult to make that decision.
But if you do something that matches the legacy, that's a real triumph.
Joey: Yeah, but having said that about the friction thing, that there's a danger there, I don't know if there's gonna be. Who knows once we get in there? But I think that makes good music. [The Kinks'] Ray Davies, you know, beating up his little brother, [laughs] that friction, we've always kind of used it. Like "Oh yeah? Screw you, we're gonna play." That little angst, it's good.
David: Well, we got that formula down, so [we] might as well.
Is that friction from having two songwriters in a band? You seem to get along well not writing songs.
David: I wouldn't say that, per se -- just the whole process of going into a studio and recording, just going through the learning stuff again. We haven't done it in a long, long time.
Joey: Having said that, if there were two people to pick, Dave and I wouldn't be the friction. It would probably be the other two [laughs].
In those interim years were you ever like, "I can't believe we called it quits instead of sticking around and selling millions?"
Joey: I did wonder what if Charles didn't break up the band. If he just put it on the shelf while he explored his thing and never even mentioned that we broke up, and just said, "Hey, I'm talking a long-ass break from this thing." Then later on, have everyone go, "Oh yeah, damn, that was chemistry" and like five years later we would've made those two albums that we were contractually obligated to [laughs]. But we can't think about that, you know? Should've, could've, would've.
David: Not that we did the right thing, but it turned out alright.
Michael Rall, WireImage
David: We should be touring 'Bossanova' by now, but that's not going to happen. We're gonna wear out our welcome soon enough. We gotta plan to make something new.
Joey: That talk about making a record will be in the forefront next because it'll be time, you know. It'll be time. We've definitely gelled as a unit and hopefully when we can all bury the hatchet -- and we have -- maybe we'll go in there and hope for the best.
You know, Bono even asked. Remember that? He's like, "Please make a record!" Goddamn, we can't leave that unturned. That would frustrate me. It would. I think we should do it. But it's up to everybody.