There are few bands that can claim the same level of influence Pixies have had. Formed in the latter half of the ‘80s, the Bostonian quartet laid the foundations of a genre to build upon for two decades. Taking influence from their heroes, Pixies consolidated the rhythm of Rush, the malleable lead guitar of Velvet Underground and raucous vocals of Black Flag into a monster far larger than the sum of its parts. Their debut EP, 1987’s Come On Pilgrim created some of the greatest music of the time; provoking a movement of alt-rock and indie persuasion, Pixies inspired bands such as Nirvana, the Strokes and Radiohead to name a few.
Speaking to founding member Joey Santiago, an undisputable pioneer for guitarists, State learns of their past, present and what waits thereafter for a band taking its first tentative steps back into a creative sphere. Their reformation in 2004 was, to many, an exciting time; fans were jubilant in anticipation of announcements and the simple fact that Pixies would tour again was enough for the moment. Moving on to mark its 20th anniversary, Doolittle – their most commercially successful album – was given its own tour and from 2009 until 2012, playing the record in its entirety.
I was interested to know was there a boredom attached to that tour, three years of playing the same setlist, maybe wearing down their interest in developing the band further. “No, well just because there’s always … when you play live you just never have a perfect show, y’know? The audience won’t be able to tell, but I guess … we hear Charles’ [Thompson or Frank Black, lead singer] little mistakes or my own, and yeah … I guess you can’t really be completely happy. The Doolittle gig in the Olympia was such a great gig for us.”
As important as Pixies are to musicians, staying true to their legacy during the Doolittle tour was a service paid to those fans, simply happy with experiencing the past. Many, however, began to doubt the longevity of such an act; would they stay relevant or simply fade out playing old material and moving onto other classic album tours? “We didn’t consider [recording new material]. We have two iconic albums with Doolittle and Surfer Rosa even though Bossanova is my favourite Pixies album; I just know people would probably not be as receptive”.
Earlier this year, an announcement detailing bassist Kim Deal’s departure from the band following a ‘last supper’ between the members struck a death knell to many. Quickly followed was the release of free-to-download ‘BagBoy’ featuring Jeremy Dubbs as an interim replacement. Telling both Santiago and Thompson over a coffee, Deal immediately left to catch a flight. Swapping coffee for alcohol, the pair headed to a bar to mull over her resignation. “Yeah, we were quiet for a while, of course. I remember we were sitting there and were just like, ‘What the fuck are we gonna do now?’, y’know? We considered maybe changing the name but we said, ‘Y’know, fuck it. The three of us are a part of that signature sound so why? Why should we bring the Pixies somewhere else? We know somebody stupid might say, ‘Man, they sound like the Pixies.’ Well, no shit! So that was out of the equation. We entertained the idea of replacing her with a dude, and I mentioned Jeremy Dubbs [who appears on ‘Bagboy’] but it’s like replacing Bon Scott with a chick: you just can’t do it.”
Kim Shattuck of the Muffs has replaced Deal for the EP-1 tour but Santiago is quick to enforce that Shattuck is no replacement for Deal. In many other interviews both drummer Dave Lovering and Santiago have stated that, if she so feels, the original bass guitarist is welcome to resume her position. While Santiago’s tone is not one of defence, it certainly seems as though he is reinforcing a collective ideal of preserving Pixies as they were, or at least as close as possible. “It’s stupid. She’s doing well for this tour, for both tours that she’s on. People assume she’s replaced Kim Deal and that she’s like a member of the Pixies. No. Just no”.