Pixies kick off latest leg of tour
David Lovering is loving his life a lot. The 55-year-old drummer is touring the world with his famously dysfunctional band, Pixies, but any signs of the old acrimony have long dissipated. In fact, being a Pixie these days is downright fun.
“We’re getting along incredibly well, and that’s the best thing about it,” Mr. Lovering said when reached last week at his home north of Santa Barbara, California. “Not that touring ever sucked; I could play the same song over and over forever. But I feel very fortunate, and I think all of us feel very fortunate, to have this second chance and to love what we’re doing.”
Pixies kick off the latest leg of their current Head Carrier tour Friday, April 21 at the Fox Theater in Pomona.
The hugely influential alternative rock band was formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986 by frontman, guitarist and songwriter Black Francis (aka Frank Black), lead guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal and Mr. Lovering on drums. Four popular records were followed by a bitter split in 1993. The timing wasn’t great. Nirvana, whose frontman Kurt Cobain had cited Pixies as a primary influence on his songwriting, was busy becoming the biggest band in the world.
The late Mr. Cobain’s band would eventually sell more than 30 million copies of their 1991 breakthrough, “Nevermind,” and every one of those potential new Pixies fans in that very early Internet age was out of luck in seeking out the source of his inspiration. Their back catalog may have gotten a bump, but the truth is Pixies could have easily parlayed the cultural moment into a higher profile. Instead, Mr. Francis went on to release a string of acclaimed solo records, and the rest of the band explored various projects. Mr. Lovering, surprisingly, became an expert magician, going by the stage name The Scientific Phenomenalist.
“Alternative” music eventually came to dominate the rock market over the 11 years Pixies spent apart. And if their first incarnation was more influential than profitable, the band made up for lost time after rebooting in 2004, playing to massive festival crowds and sold out theaters in a fairly rigorous touring schedule for a band of 50-somethings. They released three EPs (later repackaged as the “Indie Cindy” album in 2014) after reforming, and last year dropped “Head Carrier,” the first legitimate Pixies full-length since 1991’s “Trompe le Monde.” The new record is also the first with new Pixies bassist Paz Lenchantin, who joined in 2014. Ms. Deal, who also fronts the Breeders, departed the band in June, 2013; Her replacement, Kim Shattuck, from the Muffs and the Pandoras, was a Pixie for just six months before being dismissed in November of that year.
The addition of the Argentinian-born Ms. Lenchantin, 43, hasn’t just stabilized the lineup, Mr. Lovering said, it’s provided inspiration both musical and behavioral.
“Joe [Santiago], Charles [Thompson, aka Black Francis] and I, we still think she’s the new member in the band,” Mr. Lovering said. “Because of that we’re all just behaving extremely well. Paz is fantastic. She’s a joy to be around and she’s a really good bass player. I would say she’s so good she’s made me play better because I don’t want to be embarrassed because she’s such a musician. She’s made me step up.”
It’s never a given when an established band takes on a new member that the blend will take hold. Chemistry amongst musicians is a fragile, sometimes alchemic matter. Working and traveling side-by-side for months, sometimes for years at-a-time, is a uniquely fraught enterprise. But if Ms. Lenchantin’s position was ever probationary, it’s safe to say she can now go ahead and have those business cards printed up.
“‘Head Carrier’ is her vocation,” Mr. Lovering said. “It’s what she came up with. With her background of playing with us for the past four years, she’s become Pixie-fied. She’s a Pixie now. She plays like a Pixie would.”
The new record has received mixed reviews, but it’s generally regarded as a return to form. The reason it feels more like a Pixies record than the band’s previous post split efforts, Mr. Lovering said, lies in its pre-production. The band for the first time had a big chunk of time to work through the songs and solidify their arrangements prior to recording. “We had about seven weeks of just learning these songs, and that has never happened in all the previous albums we’ve done. We were confident and really knew how to play the songs. It’s a joy to do that because all the times we’ve done albums, it really put me on the spot. Going into the studio made me nervous. And this was the first in a long time that it was a luxury, where I actually was really comfortable with the songs. I think everything about this record was kind of refreshing and comfortable for us.”
All the touring has also paid dividends. “We’ve been playing 30 years now,” Mr. Lovering said. “I think just from that tenure of playing, you’re going to get better as a musician. So I think that, just with the length of time, especially all the shows we’ve done with Paz, we’ve become better musicians and I think we’re playing the best shows we’ve done in a long, long time.”
Mr. Lovering is playing in Pomona for the first time, but is no stranger to the area. His wife, an art major, graduated from the Claremont Colleges. “We’ve been [to Claremont] for art shows and have met friends there for dinner. It’s a nice little place with that tree-lined main street. For being in the LA County area it’s a nice little change for a small city.”