the literal magic of the pixies
On the eve of a tour for their sixth album, we speak to drummer Dave Lovering about the band that helped define music for a generation.
When the Pixies formed in 1986 it's unlikely they could've imagined how many lives they would ultimately touch with their music. Over four years, between 1988 and 1991, the band released four definitive albums and brought joy to lounge rooms, parties and dance floors around the world with epic sing-alongs like Velouria, Wave of Mutilation, Where is My Mind and Debaser. With the dream team of Black Francis on vocals, Kim Deal on bass, Joey Santiago on guitar and David Lovering on drums, the Pixies were a prolific force who defined a unique indie rock sound and left a mist of anthems and inter-band rumours in their wake.
While the announcement that the Pixies were splitting up in 1993 was heart wrenching for many, fans still had their albums to play on repeat and the Pixies' sound continued to influence bands that proceeded them like Nirvana and Blur. And just when that seemed like the end of the story, out of the blue after eleven years apart, the band announced they were re-forming to tour. These live shows, which covered festivals and stadiums around the globe, were full of the band's classics and felt like a visit from an old best friend. The band continued to tour their earlier music for the best part of seven years and in that time Kim Deal was ultimately replaced with fellow musical veteran Paz Lenchantin.
Late last year Pixies released their latest album Head Carrier and as they prepare to tour the album in Australia, we caught up with drummer David Lovering about life as a Pixie and being a qualified magician in his down time.
i-D: This is the second album for you guys after a break of 23 years. How was the experience making it?
David Lovering: Actually it was a joy. We had the luxury of seven weeks to rehearse and were able to actually learn the songs, which would have been unheard of when we were making our first albums.
Why did you put your first records out at such a pace?
Back then we just wanted to put out records as often as we could. It was a lot more feverish in terms of pace. As I look back, Surfer Rosa was an easy album because we had played those songs so much, in rehearsal and in the clubs around town in Boston. Recording it was easy because we knew the songs. Each album came a little faster and faster which was great but we didn't have that luxury of time to work on them. It makes you work much more in the studio when you don't have time.
It must be interesting recording now as a band that's had so much success.
We like recording. I remember when we did Indie Cindy two years ago, there was a lot of trepidation with that one. It was different because that was the first album we'd done in a very long time and we knew people would be scrutinising it in many ways. It was scary recording that. We knew we liked the songs but we wanted everyone else to like them too, so just making them was a little petrifying. We like the songs on Head Carrier also but it's a bit easier as it's not our first album in over a decade.
How do you see Head Carrier in relation to your other albums? How is the album different and how has it progressed from your perspective?
It's hard to say, there was no formula. These were just the songs we came up with over a period of time. And we even came up with some of them in the studio, which is a really typical Pixies thing. I can't compare this to Surfer Rosa or Bosa Nova or to Indie Cindy, they are all different albums. I think what's nice about it is that there are a lot of songs on this that, as the drummer, I really like playing live. They're faster and harder and they're so fun to play.
You must have been through so much with the Pixies. Looking back, do you have a favourite stage of the band's journey?
There are so many memories but what I think about most is the family that we have which is made up of the band and the crew. We all get along so well now and I love them because they are all so good at what they do. Our crew set such a good example and they've have been doing it for so long, it's just like working with total pros.
Last time you were in Australia was 2004 and you were playing songs from your past albums. This will be the first time here playing new music, is that right?
Yes, we were lucky to get away with playing old songs until 2011. I think we had a realisation in 2011 that we needed to write new songs and make an album. That was the motivation to make Indie Cindy and Head Carrier.
I understand that when the Pixies weren't together you were a practicing magician.
Yes, when the Pixies broke up I made the wise career choice of becoming a professional magician. I still do magic.
How did this happen?
I saw some tricks once that blew me away and I was just compelled to learn them. I spent years at classes, reading books, going to clubs and everything. Eventually I was working as a magician and had a stage show and I was doing that until the band reunited in 2004. I actually opened up for the Pixies with my magic show. That was cool. I don't do it too much anymore, we've been a little too busy with the shows, but I still do intimate magic tricks for friends at restaurants or parties. I just love magic.
I heard you opened with your magic show for Frank Black when he was playing his solo stuff.
Yes and before that I even opened up for a Pixies cover band in Los Angeles.
Oh wow, how did that feel?
It was a little bittersweet. At the time I had resigned myself to the fact that the Pixies would never get back together, so for that reason it was bittersweet. When we broke up in 1993, I thought that was it. I believed getting back together was an impossibility. When it did happen, I was overjoyed.
And you have a new bass player, Paz who's replaced Kim Deal on bass. They're quite some shoes to fill but she's really awesome.
Yes and thanks to her influence she's making Jo and Charles and myself behave extra well so we're all getting along great right now. It's interesting, as I mentioned, we rehearsed the Head Carrier songs for seven weeks, so we knew them all so well. With three days of recording left, Paz said she had an idea for a song called All I Think About Now, which was essentially a thank you letter to Kim Deal. Frank agreed to write the lyrics if Paz sang it. We learnt it in one night and recorded it the next day. The funny thing is that it's probably my favourite song on the album. It's the most classic Pixies sounding song and I find it ironic that it was Paz's song.
Will you be playing older music as well as the new on the tour?
We'll definitely play both. What we've learned from 30 years of doing this is sometimes we'd go on stage without a set list, which could work out well but we'd often realise after the show that we'd forgotten a classic like Where is My Mind. We've learned that the easiest way is to write down the five songs on a sheet of paper that we have to play, then we can just free-form it around those.
You sung on some of the old albums, do you lend your voice to anything on Head Carrier?
I sang the lyrics in La La Love You. I think that's it. It took me a long time to get the courage up but I loved it once I did. That said, there were a few drinks involved. I think you can even hear me putting a glass down in the recording of La La Love You. Obviously you've got to do whatever it takes.
The Pixies Australian show are between March 2nd -7th. Buy tickets here.
Text Briony Wright