The Pixies' Joey Santiago on Their New EPs and Possibly Replacing Kim Deal

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Courtesy Photo
The Pixies are scheduled to perform on Monday, February 24, at Comerica Theatre.
Millions of people know who the Pixies are. Since the '80s, the band has found its songs incorporated into some of the most significant moments within pop culture's most beloved films and shows -- but only within the past 15 years or so. (Think Fight Club's buildings tumbling, Zack and Miri Make a Porno's main character love story, or one of the most important episodes of Lost. And, of course, actor Paul Rudd's deep infatuation with the band.)

But how many people, especially who were born in the '80s and '90s, actually know the Pixies? It's a damn shame, but many don't -- at least not in the United States -- even though the band had a huge influence on the alt-rock boom of the 1990s.

The band was much more successful in the UK and Europe. But to give a rundown of this band that combines indie and surf rock , as well as psychedelia, it would be damn near impossible to not bore the reader with the length of the band's history and accolades.

Plus, you can't pigeonhole the Pixies. To me, certain tracks are like stoner stripper rock, while others border on punk, and even others are like sunshine reincarnated into a person on acid and cocaine. Not to say that they are a drug band. They just appeal to the subconscious of your persona, discussing surrealism, biblical violence, relationships, and other issues that mainstream society doesn't like to hear about. The music peels back your layers and leaves your vulnerable without even knowing what happened in the first place.

Embodying soft harmonies and wailing choruses, the Pixies have extreme dynamic shifts and restrained verses, coupled with whispered guitar rhythms and controlled drums -- and, of course, the stop-start timing that would become widespread in alt rock later on. The group has influenced everybody from David Bowie and Radiohead to Nirvana and U2. Bono even once called the Pixies "one of America's greatest bands ever." Kurt Cobain said that Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was a conscious attempt to co-opt the Pixies' style.

And that "peeling back" is in part to the band shedding layers as well. The group disbanded in 1993 and reunited in 2004. Founders Black Francis (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar) and David Lovering (drums) are still around, but co-founder Kim Deal (bass, backing vocals) left in 2013 shortly after the band released a new track "Bagboy" (their first new material in almost 10 years) and was replaced by Kim Shattuck as the live bass player for some months. However, last December she was replaced by Paz Lenchantin for the band's 2014 world tour -- again, just as a touring bassist, no one permanent. At least among the critics, that's the word on the street.

But then again, in the interview below, Joey Santiago isn't so sure.

Throughout these changes, the Pixies released the new EP1 (September 2013) and EP2 (January 2014), which join the ranks of the band's four studio albums and five compilations. The most recent release, EP2, has a fresh atmospheric feeling, with songs like "Blue-Eyed Hexe," described by Francis as a tale from the northwestern part of the UK with a witch-woman, and the guitar solo is to sound like you're about to have sex with her. Then there's "Magdalena," a smooth atmospheric ride. "Greens and Blues" (my personal favorite) is the band's "better 'Gigantic'," according to Francis, and "Snakes" is pretty much a jam session where Santiago did a sliding guitar to emulate a snake.

Up on the Sun spoke with Joey Santiago about how the Pixies' sound has evolved, replacing Kim Deal, and the new-found anxiety he gets on stage now.

Congratulations on the release of EP 2. I really loved "Greens and Blues." What is one of your favorite tracks on the record?

I gotta look it up. That may sound funny but . . . okay, I think it's "Snakes." No -- actually it's "Magdalena."

That was the one you guys just released the video for, correct?

Yes. Um, yeah . . . I will tell you that when "Snakes" video comes out, it's going to blow people's lid, it's so good. Yeah, "Magdalena" is just so atmospheric, and I'm going to be selfish and say I do like my guitar parts on there. And it's attention getting too; I think live -- or I know live -- there's a great response to it whether they heard it or not. They go gaga over it, know what I mean? It reminds me of the old days when no one actually knew our stuff. We just had a buzz about town and were selling out based on word-of-mouth. We hadn't been signed yet and didn't have an album yet, but were selling places out. So this song gives me the feeling of those old days.

How do you feel that EP 1 and 2 elevate the Pixies, compared to the band's past works?

From the past work we've done?

Yes.

Well . . . elevates . . . hmm.

It's something different and fresh for you guys, but it's also still very much the Pixies. So did you feel it brought you to another level?

Sorry, I'm so spacey right now. It's definitely brought us to the next level, because we explored new sounds on it, so that's just a natural thing. It was more thought-processed, too, in terms of us thinking about how we were going to sound. And the song's vibe dictates that. The atmospheric thing, we were excited about it. When we're in the studio we do stuff we like, you know? We never know what the end result is going to sound like, really.

[Long pause, sigh.]

Actually [Black Francis] and I were just having coffee and doing laundry and we were talking about and riffing around with how the next sound was gonna feel like. And we knew it just needed to be raw. We're one of those bands that are lucky they can go from Bossanova to Surfer Rosa. We can do that because we have a sound and it's intangible. And we're hungry to do it. When we go to the studio, it's really our turn to entertain ourselves.



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