Pixies reunite with a purpose

With a new album and tour, the legendary band embraces history but rejects nostalgia

Photo cOURTESY OF Travis Shinn

The Pixies perform at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 26, at Ace of Spades, 1417 R Street. The show is sold out. Learn more at www.pixiesmusic.com.

They could have been just another reunion band on the nostalgia circuit. And, maybe for a moment they were.

But something changed for the Pixies in 2011, says David Lovering.

It had been 25 years since they’d formed in Boston in 1986 and eight years since the legendary alternative rock band—drummer Lovering, guitarist Joey Santiago, bassist Kim Deal and singer-songwriter Charles Thompson, a.k.a. Black Francis—had reunited following its 2003 break-up. Now they were finishing another tour.

During the run, Lovering says the band had been playing all the favorites, of course, but Thompson had been writing new material, too, and onstage it all just clicked.

“It got us thinking,” Lovering says. “We could be going out, resting on our laurels, doing reunion shows—but at that point we felt like a band.”

They started working on their fifth record with veteran Pixies producer Gil Norton—the first since 1991’s Trompe le Monde—but because band life is nothing if not unpredictable, Deal quit before they were done. So, the Pixies finished Indie Cindy with a session player and then tapped the Muffs’ Kim Shattuck to play live.

Shattuck toured with the Pixies for a while, then the band decided to bring in Santiago’s longtime friend Paz Lenchantin.

The band toured, released Indie Cindy in 2014 and then toured again. Eventually, they returned to the studio.

The Pixies weren’t looking to shake things up too much, Lovering says. Still, they wanted something a little new, listening to records and asking for recommendations before finally settling on British producer Tom Dalgety (Ghost, Killing Joke).

Dalgety’s role, Lovering says, was crucial.

“A producer [has] to have tact, they have to be able to manage and get the band in line,” he says.

“Tom was able to do that, he was able to tell us when something wasn’t working, ” Lovering says.

The resulting album, Head Carrier, released September 30, sounds like vintage Pixies. It’s darkly catchy, and rife with tension and Lenchantin’s voice, girlish and plaintive, echoes Deal’s. Somehow, though, it never feels indulgent or sentimental. Maybe that’s thanks to the current ’90s revival; maybe it’s because the Pixies’ sound was so sharp and singular to start.

One track in particular deftly walks the line between past and present: “All I Think About Now,” co-written by Lenchantin and Thompson, started as a mistake and ended up as a tribute to Deal.

“It was a miscommunication on a bass line—Paz first played it in a different key, then [liked] how the song was going,” he says.

The song is an homage to Deal but also a nod to how well Lenchantin fits.

“It’s very classic Pixies—and she came up with that,” he says.

Now the band is set to play a limited series of warmup club gigs, including a sold-out October 26 date at Ace of Spades. From there the Pixies will tour Europe and then eventually return to the studio. There’s already talk of a new record.

The Pixies have no intentions of calling it quits anytime soon, Lovering says. They love playing live, watching as the audiences evolve—all those old-school fans joined by an ever-swelling sea of younger faces.

“There are kids who know every word and every song; that’s been big for us,” he says. “We’re like the Grateful Dead of alternative rock.”