The Pixies Worry They're Overstaying Their Welcome
At this point, the most startling thing about the Pixies' reunion isn't so much that it happened. The iconic alternative band and its fans have now had seven years to come to grips with that much.
What's most surprising about the band's reunion, these days at least, is that it's still happening. After 11 years apart, the Pixies have now been together just about as long as they were during their initial run from their formation in 1986 until their unceremonious breakup in 1993.
"It's just blowing us away," drummer David Lovering says, incredulous. "We would never have even thought. In fact, we do kid around about it, like, 'What are we even doing? We're definitely wearing out our welcome.'"
The weird part? Lovering's only half-kidding.
"The time is moving along to where it's been so long now that I'm starting to really think about that," he admits. "I certainly don't want to do that. I don't want to, y'know, make a mistake of it. But we're still getting offers for festivals and big shows and things like that. So, really, it's not ebbing in a way. It's still going great. So we're going to keep at least cautiously doing it. We've just got to be careful, I think. That's all."
Pardon his uncertainty: Currently on the road wrapping up a two-year celebration of the 20th anniversary for the band's 1989 opus, Doolittle, Lovering says he and his band mates—mercurial frontman Frank Black, oozes-cool bassist Kim Deal and underappreciated guitarist Joey Santiago—are still coming to grips with their place in the alternative music canon. They still find themselves surprised at the passion and size of their following—which, without a doubt, is bigger these days than it ever had been.
That's the weird thing about the current Pixies; back when they were still an active band, releasing albums at an annual clip as they did between 1987 and 1991, they could never have drawn audiences like those they attract today. The closest the Pixies would ever come to that was in 1992 when they were hand-picked to support U2 on the Zoo TV tour—but those crowds weren't necessarily there for the Pixies so much as they were for Bono and The Edge. Even so, it was that brief moment in the spotlight that exacerbated the growing tensions between Black and Deal.
And so the most promising and influential band of its generation split up—announced by Black via a fax, oddly enough. All four members went their separate ways. Black embarked on a successful solo career. Deal formed The Breeders, who, in the mid-'90s, saw the kind of commercial success that the Pixies could never attain in the late '80s and early '90s. Santiago became a studio musician and composer, scoring, among other pieces, the soundtrack for Judd Apatow's short-lived Fox series, Undeclared. And Lovering? He gave up drums—completely—and became a magician.
But the band's legend grew, getting name-checked as an influence by newer acts like Radiohead and Nirvana, the latter of which famously described "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as an attempt at writing a Pixies song.
Lovering makes no mistake about it: It's because of these mentions, he says, that people gave the Pixies a second glance.
"Ever since 2004 when we started out [with the reunion], it's like we've gone up to another level," he says. "It's just really surprising to us. Back in the day, it was a lot of, mainly, young guys going out to the show. Now, you get a lot of young women—and when I say young, I mean that they weren't even born when the record was out. They're getting this from all the talk of Nirvana and Radiohead and just the word about us through other bands, so they're coming to see it. And it's kind of insane, because they can sing along to every single word. They know everything. And it's almost shocking, y'know, just to see them singing along. And then you have the contingent of people my age that would rather be sitting, but they can't."
He pauses and laughs.
"But it's great," he adds. "It's a nice collection. When we decided to get back together, I don't think we had a clue as to what it would be or how it would turn out to be. So this was all definitely an awakening to see all of this. It's tough to peg—like if it was something with age or that we were due or that type of thing. Certainly, I think, back in the day, even for Doolittle, for example, I think it was a great album, but it really didn't do the greatest. It didn't do anything."
Well, maybe at the time. In 1995, six years after its release and two years after the Pixies' breakup, Doolittle finally reached the 500,000 sales mark. These days, it's slowly approaching platinum status—an honor long overdue to one of the most influential records of the grunge movement. Lovering credits producer Gil Norton, whom he calls "the fifth Pixie" and whom the band remained with for its next (and last) two releases, for helping the band find that groove.
"When we were doing the album, it was just like, 'Wow, I think this is going to be a really special one for us,'" Lovering recalls, before confirming that, yes, after playing some B-sides, the band does indeed perform Doolittle from front to back in its touring celebration of the disc. "Ninety percent of a producer's job is to be a good guy and to be social and get along with everybody. Everything else, that's easy. And Gil pulled it off really well."
For a band so contingent on the personal interactions and relationships of its members, that was vital.
"We're all such different people," Lovering explains. "Each one of us is the complete opposite of everyone else, and I think that's what makes it work."
In the studio, at least. But, nowadays, Lovering says, it's working on the road, too—better than ever.
"We're all pretty much the same people," he says. "You do learn, though, at least in my case, the things that you do wrong—that you can't behave certain ways and stuff like that. So I think everyone's just on that same par of being older and wiser."
And the band members' relationships with one another, he says, are good—so good, even, that, if only in passing, Lovering acknowledges that the Pixies have indeed been toying with the idea of returning to the studio for a new album, their first since 1991.
"We've been talking about it for at least the last two years," he says. "As far as it coming to fruition and us doing something, nothing's happened yet as far as action being taken—mostly because we've just been so busy this year just touring on and off around the world. And we have nothing—nothing planned, I know—for next year as far as anything. So there is talk."
It's an enticing reveal from a band that fans have been clamoring to hear new material from—and a surprising one, too, given all his talk of the band being worried about wearing out its welcome.
Don't those two ideas contradict one another?
Lovering laughs when asked.
"I'm a magician," he says. "I can't reveal any secrets."
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