When a band is around for such a short time, it almost feels like fans have been orphaned. Such is the obsession for that group to get back together, to tour again, and eventually to talk about what happened, because why – why did Pixies have to break up?
In 2004, Pixies did reform, but then last year another blow occurred when Kim Deal left the band right after recording new material. It’s like your parents divorcing all over again. Amidst all the drama, it’s hard for one to have an objective opinion on the new Pixies album Indie Cindy.
Featuring songs from the band’s 2013-14 EP releases, there has been some time now to take a good listen. Would it be too bold to suggest that the new album actually sounds kind of polished?
“It does sound more polished. I mean, was that the intention? I don’t know. Some albums were not so polished – maybe Bossanova, off the top of my head. So the influences are there in songs like ‘Andro Queen’. But then you have ‘Blue Eyed Hexe’, which is pretty raw. Maybe there’s those that aren’t polished, but there is more of the more ‘polished’ ones,” guitarist Joey Santiago says.
Comparisons to the band’s ‘earlier stuff’ are going to be made until a black hole is created, and with Kim Deal now gone, it’s sad to realise that the Pixies of your youth just won’t exist ever again. Indie Cindy, however, does hold up as the ‘new’ album more than 20 years after the last. You just have to listen to it lying on your bed like the previous ones. There’s still that loud/soft dynamic and Black Francis’s crazed evangelical yells. The angry verses before the harmonious soothing from the chorus has always been the unique identifier to a Pixies track.
“Yeah, you know it’s what we are. It’s what Charles (Black Francis) is. It’s what I am. It’s what Kim is, you know. When Charles and I were putting those songs together back then, it’s what we were. We were confused kids; we would be happy one day and the next we’d be miserable. So we’d kind of reach out through our music,” the artist elaborates with a laugh. In fact, laughing seems to be the default noise he makes when attempting to take himself seriously, so when the topic changes to early and obscure music that influenced Pixies, Santiago audibly lights up.“I was mindful that you didn’t have to be a slick player”
It’s easy to spot most of the band’s influences (everyone was influenced by The Velvet Underground right?), so asking Santiago about The Bee Gees was a delight, to say the least.
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“The Bee Gees! I like the ‘60s Bee Gees. Very Melodic. Kind of like The Beach Boys and The Beatles, though in a lot of a more polished way because Bee Gees had such a sweet three-part harmony. Just beautiful, beautiful records,” the guitarist remembers. He continues on a roll, delving straight into talking about late 1970s new wave band, The Cars (yes, the band that had the hit ‘80s song, ‘Drive’).
“They’re from Boston and had that great first album (The Cars, 1978). I liked every element of that record. The riffs were simple and effective, and the lyrics were always ‘she’s my best friend’s girlfriend’ kind of stuff (laughs), but it’s reminiscent of what I started doing early on with my guitar.”
Santiago ponders for a moment, thinking about his influences and their effect on him early on. “I was mindful that you didn’t have to be a slick player. It taught me to kind of stay away but still be heard on the verses, to be mindful of the chord progression. Rather than muddling around out there, you know, being silly,” he reasons.
Thinking of recent groups that influence him, the Boston artist finds himself at a loss.
“It’s never really been any particular bands, more just rock n’ roll and whatever frontier it moves to, you know?” he explains, going on to describe that new fans to their genre will always bring new fans back to Pixies records instead of trying to find similar bands. Which, in the age of mixtapes, does make sense. The discovery still has to be genuine.
Santiago cites surf rock as the genre that his band had in common early on, with ‘60s instrumental group The Ventures still being an influence.“All I know is that we were influencing new bands, which was nice. Nirvana, obviously, but it’s always nice for bands to pick up instruments and interpret us in a different way”
“The other thing we took from bands like that was the titles – cos’, you know, they were instrumental, so you could listen and then go, ‘ahhh it really does sound like that’, like how Link Wray could have a song titled ‘Run Chicken Run’ and it sounds like a chicken running,” Santiago describes, bemused. Thinking of Bossanova and tracks like ‘Cecilia Ann’, the influence does show.
After mentioning Wray, it was inevitable that the conversation would steer in this direction. He was the inventor of the power chord, after all. After a short mutual lament over the fact that the famous guitarist lost his voice early on in his career, Santiago drops a music cred bomb.
“You know I played with him? I played one song with him at a show,” he declares proudly. Cue the sound of a pin dropping. Amazing. Trying to describe the mythical figure that was Wray is almost as hard as trying to describe what makes a Pixies track so equally mysterious. It might help that Santiago actually does surf and that the band was always a lot more working class than, say, The Beach Boys, who never did spend as much time on the beach as they sang about.
“Our subject matter was always kind of odd, I guess,” the musician says before describing his guitar on the Bossanova track ‘Ana’ as sounding like it’s falling down the stairs. The songs lyrics are also an anagram for ‘surfer’, which is common knowledge to most diehard fans.
Without realising how we exactly got there, the conversation arrives at a nice incline, discussing the hiatus and the growing Pixies fandom over the years. The guitarist is not aloof about it so much as he is humbled.
“All I know is that we were influencing new bands, which was nice. Nirvana, obviously, but it’s always nice for bands to pick up instruments and interpret us in a different way. We were never The Beatles, but as far as being a surf rock band, yeah – I would say we nailed that one pretty well.”
Indie Cindy by Pixies is out now through iTunes
Read our review of Indie Cindy here
Pixies @ Vivid LIVE 2014
DATE: 23 – 26 May | VENUE: Concert Hall | TICKET PRICE: from $69