The Pixies are more than a band. They’re a force. When brought up in conversation, oftentimes even non-fans know of The Pixies. They are beloved and have accrued cult status among the underground and heard on mainstream radio regularly. Not to mention having inspired the likes of David Bowie, PJ Harvey, The Strokes, Weezer, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, and even Bono.
This year, Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle) has been announced as the new touring bassist for The Pixies. Lechantin replaced former stand-in and current Muff’s vocalist/guitarist, Kim Shattuck; original bassist and co-founding member Kim Deal, currently of The Breeders. The Pixies released EP2, on January 3, 2014, and, EP3, on March 24, 2014. Both were only available as downloads and limited edition vinyl. The three EPs were collected in LP format and released as the album Indie Cindy in April 2014. They also released a special edition of the album specifically for Record Store Day 2014, 10 days before it went on general sale as a two-disc, deluxe gatefold, 180-gram vinyl package; released on the band’s own Pixiesmusic label. There was also an ultra limited-edition cassette release not in a regular plastic tape case, but rather, a Cassingle-style sleeve. According to the band, the cassette release is limited to 500 copies worldwide.
The Pixies recently announced an upcoming eleven date tour, beginning in San Diego on September 27th. The tour will run up the West coast, stopping at The Masonic in San Francisco on September 30th, have a small run heading East through Canada, and conclude in Madison, Wisconsin on October 12th.
TUBE recently spoke on the phone with guitarist and founding member Joey Santiago, from Los Angeles, about the new album, the new label, and the upcoming tour.
Tube: How has the road been treating you in 2014?
Santiago: Very good! We got a new bass player, you know? Personnel make a lot of difference in any job so I’m loving it; just loving it. I had a lot of fun at Lollapalooza, I finally got involved in everything.
Tube: Did you get to see anyone you really wanted to or perhaps that you hadn’t yet?
Santiago: Well I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers and I mean, they’re money, you know? It’s such a show. One of them is always up in the air, you know what I mean?
TUBE: Yeah. You guys just got back from Japan, how was Summer Sonic?
Santiago: It was good, it was good. God, we had a weird billing over there, always a weird billing.
TUBE: I noticed it was very eccentric.
Santiago: Yes. Very, very eccentric; had a good time. It was quick, it was just two gigs, five days.
TUBE: Some bands get to a point where playing live is almost a reflex. Every now and then a crowd will really surprise them or the music sounded especially good. Has there been a special night while supporting Indie Cindy?
Santiago: God, what surprised us? Oof, that’s a rather good question, (Laughter), God, it’s probably somewhere in Europe. Actually, Cochella! Yeah! That show surprised us…and Istanbul, Tel Aviv? Yeah.
TUBE: I know you guys are pretty low key on the road and like to take it easy but are there any rituals or routines that you’ve acquired, even on accident?
Santiago: Well, I don’t have my pre ritual vodka anymore. (Laughs) I play totally straight laced and that actually made me more amped up, you know? Like the nervousness is good.
TUBE: You’ve got an eleven day tour coming up. Do you guys fly from city to city or do you take a bus and enjoy the road?
Santiago: We prefer the bus because we do overnighters, so your are sleeping and when you wake up, you’re in the city. Boarding planes are a pain in the ass you know? It takes away; it eats about four hours just from security, you know?
TUBE: Do you get to explore the cities that you play or do you find that you wake up and have a full day scheduled ahead of you?
Santiago: It depends if we have a day off. I know in Barcelona I walked around for about four hours. But I do have a ritual, that’s one of my things to do, it’s nothing new but, I like to walk for at least an hour, because that’s my exercise.
TUBE: Is there anything that you like to do or seek out in cities, or do you just let it happen to you?
Santiago: Just let it happen, you know?
TUBE: What can you tell me about the new label Pixiesmusic?
Santiago: It was a necessity, and it made a lot a sense…because we make more cents. (Laughter) Because the label used to, you know, and we’re fortunate enough that we have this spot that we can release it ourselves. And now hardly anyone is like buying…you know we’re not platinum selling band, but the amount that we do sell, its kinda like almost selling platinum, you know? Just because our take is a lot better. And also, Play It Again Sam is our marketing label and they do a hell of a job.
TUBE: So you would say that you’re a lot happier releasing your own music?
Santiago: Yeah, of course. I mean distribution wise, we hire that out, and publicity, we do the same thing. I mean let’s face it, back then that’s all the label did for you, was publicity and putting shit in trucks.
TUBE: One of the things I really like about how you released Indie Cindy was that you released it on every format available. CD, cassette, digital, vinyl, even special Record Store Day editions; do you have a preference on media?
Santiago: I buy vinyl on physical. The physical format that we sell the most of is vinyl, you know? CD’s are dead, which is funny.
TUBE: So you would consider yourself a vinyl purist?
Santiago: YES! I have this awesome hi-fi stereo, you know? I went kinda crazy on it. I mean a friend of mine will come over and I’ll be like, “I have silver soldering man, it makes such a difference!”
TUBE: Have you heard any reaction as far as releasing the special cassette version?
Santiago: Yeah, I mean people like it. I guess it’s a hipster thing to do, you know? It’s analog, I guess that’s why they like it. God, I guess I gotta get a cassette player.
TUBE: Do you still have any old cassettes?
Santiago: I do, but they’re probably pretty crusty right now.
TUBE: Do you have any opinions on the downloading of music?
Santiago: Nah, not at all. I mean I like it because it’s very immediate and I think with every technology you do have to embrace it. You know, you can’t go with the cons because you can’t look at the negative. You gotta look at the silver lining and the silver lining is you know people have it immediate and you can suffice people and we get our hee-haws off right away. (Laughs)
TUBE: As far as illegal downloading, do you have an opinion?
Santiago: I guess I used to, but now it just happens. It just happens; and once again we are a really lucky band that people just download. The younger bands these days…I feel for them you know? But then again if they have a good song so… I really don’t have a problem with it. For crying out loud we gave some away, we gave a surprise track away so there’s no problem there.
TUBE: What would you say the mindset should be as far as starting a band today? You started a band in a completely different place on the timeline. If someone that looked up to you asked for some pointers, what would you tell them?
Santiago: Good songs, and just be yourself. It’s hard to find a niche. We came upon our niche by accident and we got lucky that we came up with some kind of new thing we didn’t know and we are glad people embraced it because sometimes we come up with something new sounding and it sucks so just get good songs first.
TUBE: How have the crowd reactions been as far as mixing old songs and new songs?
Santiago: You know what? Its getting better and better as the album gets…riper. The people are starting to sing along especially the younger crowd because they’re more, they’re just more liberal.
TUBE: Now that the songs have been road tested are there any favorites?
Santiago: Well the whippersnappers, they like “Greens and Blues”, and they seem to be blown away by “Indie Cindy”, just because of the tricks and turns; and “Snakes.” We gotta do “Snakes” more.
TUBE: I like the fact that you don’t even write a set list anymore. How does that work? Do you literally just call the songs out to one another on stage?
Santiago: Yeah, we did. We used to do that but now David Lovering is making set lists for us; but that’s not to say we won’t go off the grid because you know depending how Charles is feeling, sometimes the vocals…the singing isn’t accounted for on how intense Charles could get. Sometimes he needs a little breather a little break just like the old days that’s what he did.
TUBE: Are there any places that you’ve wanted to travel and tour but haven’t had a chance yet?
Santiago: Ohhhh there’s a bunch of them. Well we do want to go to China, and uh, and we wanna hit Russia one of these days. How about the North Pole?!
TUBE: You’ve always mentioned Black Flag as an early influence and I was wanted to ask if we might ever hear a Black Flag cover from The Pixies?
Santiago: (Laughs) Maybe! You know the first time that I uh, saw them was in U-MASS. I was studying and Charles bumped into me, in study hall, and he goes “C’mon! We gotta go see this band, Black Flag!”, and I saw em’ and I was like “Holy Shit!” I was in college and never saw this, what do you call it pogo dancing? And they run around in a circle? Not a fan of that. Pain, I’m not a fan of, violence…
TUBE: Are there any plans for new media in the near future?
Santiago: In 2015 we might have a new one we’re always brainstorming.
TUBE: Do you guys find it easier to write new music at home or on the road?
Santiago: At home; the road is just too…there’s not really any time, you know? There just isn’t and Charles prefers to write when he’s got time and a deadline you know?
TUBE: So deadlines are good for the creative process?
Santiago: Deadlines are GREAT for the creative process you know I compose for TV and film and you learn that nothing is that precious.
TUBE: Absolutely. This may be an odd question but you living in LA, where there is currently one of the most severe droughts in history. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions as to what we as Californians can do?
Santiago: Well, conserve water. You know you can actually water plants with milk? So if kids don’t drink it all you can put milk in there and juice and everything. I mean, I’m not saying buy a carton of milk and water shit. I mean just leftover stuff you know?
TUBE: (Laughs) Thank you for clarifying. I appreciate you sharing some of your time and I look forward to the show at The Masonic in San Francisco.
Santiago: You mean you don’t wanna know about Kim Deal?! (Laughs) Yeah, we’ve answered that question enough times. Well…there’s use in crying over spilled milk, you know? You gotta pick it up and just put it in the plant and you’re good to go. (Laughs)
The Pixies will be performing live at The Masonic in San Francisco on Saturday, September 30th 2014. Doors at 6:30pm. Show at 7:30pm.
Words Jordan Wolfe
Photos Melissa Uroff