The Pixies are, for the first time in 23 years, making additions to their musical catalogue. “After 20 years, who gives a fuck?” guitarist and founding member Joey Santiago dismisses. “Like, after -10 degrees, now you’re just splitting hairs. Fucking cold is fucking cold.” Yet within the past six months they’ve independently released two albums, two music videos and announced a worldwide tour. “It had to happen organically,” Santiago says of their new sound. “This was the just the compound of that organic process.”
Despite being one of the most influential acts in alternative rock history, the Pixies wrote and released their most coveted material by 1991. With a roster of well-known singles from their major label debut, Doolittle, the Pixies changed the definition of radio-friendly rock. Since then, the various members of the Pixies have kept prolific, supporting each other’s records. Santiago has been a consistent member on singer/songwriter Frank Black’s albums, while also forming “The Everybody” with Pixie’s drummer, David Lovering.
But eventually, the Pixies had to create something new. “People were just begging for a new album and after a while we just went ‘uncle,’” Santiago says about the Pixie’s newest releases. EP1 and EP2 are stark departures from the past, increasing the band’s sonic template from their last record, 1991’s Trompe Le Monde.
“We’re a band now, we obviously have all been getting along for the last 10 years. We wouldn’t have done it three years ago, because people were still in a nostalgic mood and we weren’t even thinking about it,” explains Santiago.
Santiago stars as the only Pixies member in EP2’s newest music video for “What Goes Boom,” a sparse recording of a Mars-like environment the culminates in an explosive finale. “I think that riff might have been around for a year,” Santiago says of the song. “It sounds different, but at the same time it still sounds like the Pixies, right?” The heavy metal riff takes a noticeable departure from anything you’ve heard before, but the band revels in its own creativity. “We go in to a studio to explore new avenues,” Santiago states, integral to the Pixies mantra for the entirety of their career. “Movies do sequels, we wouldn’t make Doolittle 2… unless we made a movie about Doolittle.”
Another good reason to attend this tour, Santiago’s origin in the Philippines becomes incredibly relevant in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the nation last year. “I do have family there,” he says with some sense of relief, “but fortunately they were out of harm’s way from that terrible storm.” In response, the Pixies have been collecting donations on their most recent tours. “We donate from every show, we’ve been asking people on the guest list to donate, it’s been a steady stream of funds and support coming from us,” explains Santiago. “But we couldn’t care less about politics, there’s enough bands that do that.”
Fans of the Pixies’ more-established material will have no cause for fear, despite possibly regretting their absence from their Doolittle tour. “We cater to the fans. We’ve given them all new material in one sitting before, but we prefer not to do that,” Santiago quips about their set list strategy. “And to be fair, even back then, when we released Doolittle, Bossa Nova, Trompe Le Monde, we didn’t release all new songs. We just didn’t.” Despite missing their long-time bassist Kim Deal, that should be enough to comfort even their most skittish fans. Just expect to leave with something new.
Pixies perform at the Orpheum on Feb. 17, 2014.
By Mathieu Youdan