Last year's out-of-nowhere EP1 ended more than two decades of studio silence from legendary rock band the Pixies. It was also the first release from the Pixies without bassist Kim Deal, whom guitarist Joey Santiago affectionately refers to as "the favorite Pixie." Now the Pixies are on tour with a new bassist, Paz Lenchantin, promoting EP2 and the upcoming EP3, which is due April 27.
Ahead of the band's February 11 Midland show, we chatted with Santiago by phone.
The Pitch: I know you're probably sick of talking about Kim, but I have to ask: What is like recording without her?
Santiago: Well, it certainly is different — a lot different. You know, her opinions we really liked. But there's three of us, too, and it's funny that sometimes people just discount the three of us. Or we're just missing the charm of Kim. I mean, undeniably, she was the favorite Pixie. And we knew that. But, I mean, we've done our mourning. We've mourned enough. I think we've healed through it. You just gotta go on. We miss her dearly, but we've gotta go on. We have to be a band. We've been around for a while — 26 years — and we've changed one band member. There's nothing unique about it.
What have been the challenges and rewards of bringing on Paz as a new band member?
The delight is her bright personality. She's really positive. Also, she's a shit-hot bass player. She's a great musician. We've been doing these acoustic sets for radio stations, and she plays the violin, too. [Laughs] That just puts us in another stratosphere. I think the challenge, for her, must have been that it was up to her, just to see if we meld all together. And she does, she melds. She's a perfect fit.
You've been part of the music industry through the best of times and the worst of times.
And we're not getting ripped off, you know? We've always had that creative freedom. No one [at previous labels] ever came in there and was like, "Ugh, make this sound like this, make this do that," or whatever. There were never any editors there. No one was ever in the studio, ever. None of our girlfriends at the time were in there at all, just the four of us. And when we went to Wales [to record EP1], it was the same thing. That was one of the reasons why we went to Wales. The UK was the birthplace of our career, where we took off.
And now you've got Cults opening for you. I imagine your audience today spans generations.
The thing for people is that we're consistent. You're gonna hear the songs the way they are. It is what it is. We play the music true to its form. We're tight. We're so tight as musicians. We don't fuck around with it.
If you haven't heard "Go Outside," by Cults, you may have been dead since 2010. That song, off the New York band's self-titled debut album, poised multi-instrumentalist and synth mastermind Brian Oblivion and singer Madeline Follin for a breakthrough. The duo released a follow-up last October, and where Cults was a convoluted pop-sugar rush, Static is a more mellow collection of delicate, haunted house-ready tracks.
We spoke with Oblivion just as he arrived in Durham, North Carolina, ahead of Cults' first show with the Pixies.
The Pitch: One big difference since Cults is the change in relationship status for you and Madeline. You're no longer romantically involved. How has that changed the work dynamic for you?
Oblivion: It definitely separates things a little more. We work more autonomously, I think, in me doing the music and her doing the vocals and lyrics. The first record was a little more of a collaboration, because we were spending every single moment of our time together. But I think it's a nice evolution of the band, because it allowed me a lot more time to work on the music and to experiment. Going forward, I think it's an advantageous relationship, especially now that we can be civil and more professional with each other, because we're not so close all the time.
When we go forward, working, we want to live in a different world for each record so that in the end we can have a semi-complete picture of what's in that world. Everything that we've been doing for the next one sounds super tough.
You're already working on a new record?
Yeah, well, we never really stop. The beginning process of records for us is always me making a bunch of loops. I'll just sit around with idle time that we have and make 16 seconds of music and when it comes time to actually write, we'll flip through 40 or so 15-second pieces of music and start to think about songs.
I remember reading something where you talked about touring, and you mentioned playing in Lawrence to a tiny bar with four people, then a packed show at the Granada. Now you're opening for the Pixies at the Midland.
Yeah, you're catching me at the moment where I'm probably the most nervous about it. Right now, I'm kind of losing my mind. There's always kind of a stranger-in-a-strange-land kind of a thing when you're opening up for a band. It's like showing up the first day at summer camp. Like, "Am I gonna make friends?" But instead of it just being about friends, you have to perform every night in front of thousands of people.
How did you feel when you first got the call about opening for the Pixies?
That's the crazy part of being a musician and having this quote-unquote job — one day, you can wake up and you're sitting around and you're bored and you're making yourself coffee, and then you check your phone and you have an e-mail saying, "Do you want to open for the Pixies?" and it just comes out of nowhere, and you're just like, "Yes!" Whenever something like that happens, it's a real blessing, and we're hoping we're going to rise to the occasion.