Pixies Continue Building Legacy With New Album, Podcast On The Horizon
The Pixies formed in Boston in 1986, but broke up in 1993 after a string of acclaimed albums that established the template for 1990's alternative rock. (Members of Nirvana once declared that that trio's breakthrough song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," was a "Pixies rip-off.")
By 2004, a new generation of fans were clamoring for a Pixies reunion. That year the original quartet — David Lovering (drums), Joey Santiago (guitars), Black Francis (guitar, vocals, born Charles Thompson) and Kim Deal (bass, vocals) — booked a series of successful reunion shows.
The group was slow to record new material, though the first three post-reunion albums, Indie Cindy, emerged in 2014. Deal had left the group by then, replaced first by Kim Shattuck, then Paz Lenchantin, who remains in the ranks today.
The third of those new efforts, an as-yet-untitled set, will arrive in September with a podcast about the making of the album, Past is Prologue, launching June 27.
The group is currently winding its way through a series of dates with Weezer, though it will pause to headline a show at The Cotillion Ballroom in Wichita on Saturday, March 23.
Speaking via phone during a break from the outfit's seemingly endless touring activities, Lovering chatted extensively about the reunion, new music and his career in magic.
Before hanging up he added, "If you've never come to one of our shows you should know something: We're not an anti-social band. We come on and do 90 minutes, but we don't talk to the audience. We like you, but we're just doing what we do best."
For many fans, it once seemed that a Pixies reunion was unthinkable and now we're several years into it. It's kind of astonishing.
[Laughs.] I know! We reunited in 2004, we stopped in '92 or '93, I forget. But in 2004 we got reunited. In 2011 we hit a weird place because it was seven years, which was longer than we were initially a band in the first place. It was kind of a surreal moment. The idea now is just to enjoy the moment.
Some bands do these reunions and they don't make new music. But you've released two albums since 2014 and have a third on the way.
That was also something that came up in 2011. We were around longer than we had initially been a band, but we were going on our old laurels. Playing all the old stuff. We started thinking, "We're the Pixies again and doing what we do best." That was the impetus for the album Indie Cindy , the first album since the reunion. We just finished the new one, which will be out in September.
You're going to be releasing podcast episodes about the making of the album throughout the summer, leading up to the record's arrival.
We recorded outside Woodstock, New York, this past December. We had a gentleman, Tony Fletcher, who was there just like us, living in the place. It was a residential kind of studio. Night and day, just recording the whole process of tearing into it. It'll be interesting to see how it came out because we were all in the same area for a long time.
Fans used to have to wait years to find out how albums were made after they were released. This will be out before the record is.
Yeah, it's interesting for the fans. There's a real human side to it, us joking around and stuff. That's the kind of stuff that I like to hear. We're at least human in some way! [Laughs.]
Are you incorporating new material in the sets this spring or are you keeping it under wraps until the record's out?
We might do that on our headlining shows. I could see us doing something new on those nights. We haven't been doing that on the dates with Weezer because we're trying to win over fans who may not know us. It's better to give them something they know instead of something obscure.
Every band wants new fans, and I'm sure that you've seen that in recent years.
I would say we're the Grateful Dead of alternative rock. Our audience is multi-generational: The people from the late '80s who knew us as well as their kids and possible grandkids as well as other kids who might have heard us mentioned through other bands, groups we influenced.
When we played Coachella in 2004, I looked out at a sea of kids who weren't even born during our first run, who knew all the words to the songs. In 2010 we played Coachella again, it was the same thing. These were new kids, and they were singing the songs, too. It's 2018-2019 and it's the same thing. What's interesting is that the older guys know the words to "Where Is My Mind?"  but the new fans know the words to those and things right up to the last two albums.
You were one of the bands from the 1980s, like The Replacements or Hüsker Dü, that broke up just as it seemed like you might be going to another level. Was it frustrating that the band came to an end when it did or did it seem like the right thing then?
It was frustrating, not because we thought we were just about to break. It was frustrating from the perspective of having our band break up. In hindsight? It's hard to tell. I can look back and say whatever I want because we got back together. Would things have been different if we had stayed together? I don't know. Things certainly changed in our absence. When we got back together in 2004 it was a different animal as far as people knowing who we were.
You influenced the next generation of bands. Do you hear things on the radio and say, "That sounds like us"?
I have a hard time with that. Even if the Pixies are playing on the radio, people have to tap my shoulder and go, "Hey!" [Laughs.] But people will say, "This band sounds like you." I have a hard time hearing it. I don't even know any Pixies lyrics. Very, very limited. I just know the melody and how it goes. I think that's why I have a hard time picking that up on the radio if I hear it.
After all these years it's still the melodies.
I'm more interested in the melodies as far as how it flows. I use certain keywords as markers. It's not just the Pixies. You ask me Led Zeppelin and it'll be the same. [Laughs.]
You've had this parallel career in the world of magic. How did that enter your life?
The Pixies had broken up. I went to a magic convention in Los Angeles, and I saw a magic trick. I think maybe I dabbled in magic as a kid. If you had told me that I would be a magician before I was a musician, I would have rolled around on the floor laughing. But, for some reason, I saw some magic and I had to learn it. I bought every book, every video. I became somewhat proficient at it and started doing parties and eventually a stage show that was science-based. I did that for a few years before the Pixies got reunited. I actually opened up for the Pixies once with it. Now I do it more up-close. Backstage, that kind of thing.
Was there a road paved for you to do the more science-based magic?
I have a background in electronic engineering. I love science. I collect meteorites, I have telescopes. I do all this science stuff, so I figured, "Why not do a presentation that's just basically me?"
The new Pixies album out in September. I imagine you'll stay on the road for a long time after that?
We'll start in September and that will take us through 2020, maybe 2021. It's good to know that I'm employed right now! [Laughs]