Head Carrier, the new album by Pixies, arrives at an important juncture for one of America’s most influential rock bands of the last 30 years.
Arriving 12 years on from their much heralded reformation, it follows the mixed reception to their last record, Indie Cindy, and a bumpy couple of years in which original bass player Kim Deal departed and her replacement Kim Shattuck was fired just a few months into the job. In her stead the band recruited Paz Lenchantin.
With the stakes higher for Head Carrier, Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago recently told one interviewer that the album needed to be “a punch in the face”.
Drummer David Lovering smiles at such fighting talk but thinks this time Pixies are back to something like their feisty best. “It was a joy to record and we’re very happy with the actual results of it,” he says.
Where Indie Cindy had a difficult gestation – and was actually three EPs combined – the new album was recorded en bloc, with the band spending seven weeks in pre-production, a comparative luxury they hadn’t enjoyed since their classic LP Doolittle in 1989.
“When we wandered into the studio it was just much easier to record something that you knew, that you had played and you were comfortable with,” says Lovering. “Also there were a lot more songs that were more punchy or faster and I enjoyed playing them.”
Even back in the early days Lovering recalls the amount of time that they had to prepare an album could be precious. “I think Doolittle was maybe two weeks – if it was two weeks – so this one was a luxury,” he says.
“The first recording we did was Come On Pilgrim and that was when we’d been together as a band for six or seven or eight months and we played and played and rehearsed. When Surfer Rosa came around again we rehearsed and played those songs around town and worked on them, then as each as each album progressively got quicker and quicker we didn’t have that luxury of really working these songs out, so that was more enjoyable this time. Not only the time that we had to spend on was wonderful, it was also like being back when we were being a ‘baby band’ when we would do shows and just learn these songs.”
Lovering feels Lenchantin has brought a new equanimity to the band. “I think more so than her musicality and how she works with us musically, she’s a joy to be around,” he says. “She’s fun, she tours well with us and she plays so good that I don’t want to be embarrassed so I have to step up my playing. She’s made me a better player, and I think the band’s playing better because of the rhythm section.
“One thing I ought to say is the band’s never got along so well. Even though Paz haz been with us for three years, she’s still the new woman and all the guys are behaving very well around her.”
I think the Pixies are the alternative version of the Grateful Dead. We get a wider range of audience than we did when we started, so we’re very fortunate.David Lovering
The song All I Think About Now has been described as a ‘thank you note’ to Deal. Lovering says he hasn’t discussed the lyrics with singer Charles Thompson, aka Black Francis, but reflects: “I think we all felt with Kim it was a sad day [when she left], it was awful to see her go, but then we’d known Kim for so long that whatever she wanted to do it was fine, all we could do was accept it.”
Having thought back in the 90s that the band was over for good – “When the Pixies broke up I resigned myself to the fact that we would never, ever, ever get back together” – Lovering remembers how excited he was to receive a call from Santiago in 2003 that they planned to reunite.
In the intervening years he’d played in a couple of bands but it was more the case, he says, that “this was something I did, I’m a drummer”.
There had also been an unusual diversion into magic. “I had time, I got involved with every facet of learning magic and I became a magician and started doing shows but it’s [not the same as doing Pixies] gigs,” he says.
“I’m lucky to have this job that I have now rather than doing birthday parties and things like that.”
To now be able to witness a new generation of teenagers singing along to the words of Pixies songs is even more special. “I think the Pixies are the alternative version of the Grateful Dead,” Lovering jokes. “We get a wider range of audience than we did when we started, so we’re very fortunate.”
That the band are getting along better than ever is “wonderful”, he adds. “It’s grand right now, it’s a fun band to be in.”
After all the ups and downs, Lovering feels the band are able to look ahead with some confidence.
“2011 was the impetus for us to do Indie Cindy and the reason it came about was that was seven years after the reunion in 2004. To us that was eye-opening to us to reveal that wow, we’ve been doing this reunion thing for longer than we were actually a band [first time around].
“We did Indie Cindy and this was the thought that we had, we’re a band, let’s record and tour. The mindset of the band is we’ll keep going with it,” he says.
Head Carrier is out on September 30. Pixies play at O2 Academy Leeds on November 30. For details visit http://www.pixiesmusic.com/