Headlining a massive music festival in their hometown might seem like a vindication for the Pixies, the seminal rock band that influenced such '90s megastars as Nirvana and Weezer. The band, beset by internal struggles in a music world that was never quite ready for them, broke up before achieving the domestic success that might have been equivalent to their legacy. But Black Francis, the big voiced lead singer, says he and original members Joey Santiago and Dave Lovering don’t think of it that way.
“It’s not that we don’t understand the hometown thing or whatever, but from our point of view, and it’s always been this way from the beginning, when we take the stage, we’re not really anywhere. We’re in this other space. And hopefully the audience is in that space too,” he explains. “It’s a pure space. It’s devoid of geography and it’s devoid of what day of the week it is, and it’s devoid of what time of day the gig’s at. It’s our show, and that’s really where we’re at.”
For a band that perfected the loud/quiet/loud style of rock music (and whose reunion tour inspired a fine documentary with just that name), Black Francis says that all these years later, they’re trying to keep it simple. “We don’t have any dance moves, we have very little shtick. We’re sort of known for not saying anything to our audience. We’re shy.”
Shy they may be, but they’re taking this reunion pretty seriously. A new album was just released, called Indie Cindy, and Black Francis seems confident it has the same old Pixies feeling. Asked what distinguishes an old Pixies song from a new one, he says, “Nothing, as far as we’re concerned. I mean, it’s our music, under our flag.”
There is one pretty big change for the band, however. Bassist Kim Deal departed last year, marking the first permanent change to the lineup. Are the Pixies still the Pixies without Deal? It’s a tough question, and one Black Francis says the remaining members discussed. “We had numerous conversations, but at the end of the day, we decided that we liked the music and we like the work and – I wouldn’t say we’re workaholics – but when we have a job, we like to do the job,” he explains. “At the end of the day, it’s rock music. And so after our initial discussions about what the future held, we decided it’s just about music, it’s what we do, it’s what we know how to do. We’re not going to fight that reality.”
Stepping in for Deal is Paz Lenchantin. “She has been truly a blessing to this band. We couldn’t be happier,” Black Francis says. “She totally fits in. Her creative contributions are really grounded. They come from a place of experience. She gets us.”
They never questioned adding a female vocalist back into the mix. “That’s part of our sound, that we have a female voice mixed in there with my own,” he explains. “We like to have contrast. I suppose you could argue the band is pretty much a vehicle for my songwriting, my fronting the band or whatever, but if it was all just about that, I think it’s almost a little bit overbearing or something. She balances me out a lot, or that role balances me out a lot. And it’s a beautiful thing that we don’t try to overanalyze or think about too much. It’s just sort of like, “Duh! You got the dude and you got the gal.’ That’s a classic.”
The band first formed in the '80s, when Santiago and Black Francis (known by the simpler moniker Charles Thompson back then) met because they lived in the same dorm at the University of Massachusetts. As to the all-important question of where they lived, Black Francis has a ready answer. “We were in a building called Brown, which is in the Sylvan complex,” he explains. "A few years ago, I ended up moving back to that area. I live down the street from UMass. It's kind of funny." One might even say, it's educational.