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'We're The Grateful Dead of alternative rock': In conversation with Pixies

Legendary alternative rock icons Pixies are back and for all their hiatuses and unexpected departures – they’re still the very same band they’ve always been. Guy Marcham speaks to the band.

By Guy Marcham, Deputy Music Editor

'Of course, his lyrics are going to be something either otherworldly, religious or dark!' Pixies drummer, David Lovering exclaims of his fellow band member and frontman, Black Francis. For legendary alternative rock icons Pixies are back and for all their hiatuses and unexpected departures – they’re still the very same band they’ve always been.

It’s hard to know where to start as the iconic drummer, David Lovering, picks up his phone on a sun drenched LA early morning to discuss with Epigram Music his much celebrated and adored 30-year alternative rock legacy. As part of Pixies, Lovering has contributed to countless acclaimed albums such as 1988’s Surfer Rosa and 1989’s rock behemoth, Doolittle. For a man often highlighted as the influence behind Dave Grohl and the gnarly yet melodic angst driven sound of Nirvana, Lovering comes across as firmly grounded and down to earth. Any utterances of legacy and being part of a band of mystical proportions are rightly quashed, especially when pressed on how he feels about being constantly plastered with the ‘legendary’ tag by audiences and music journalists alike. 'It doesn’t affect us at all. Not anybody. We couldn’t care less about it. It’s a wonderful appreciation and I do love that, but I don’t ponder on it’.

A reluctance to dwell on and philosophise about former glories and past achievements is evident. The band instead look to the here and now. Lovering gleefully describing his ability to shut up and play the god damn music his 'shtick'.

'We feel that we are a viable band. This is what we love to do. Play and record. We’ve done it long enough to think that we know how to do it alright. That’s why we continue'. The drummer seems straight talking and eager to kickstart life again as part of the Pixies, starting with their upcoming seventh studio album (third without their much-loved former bassist Kim Deal) ‘Beneath the Eyrie’ (out on 13. September).

The band released their two ferocious and hard rocking lead singles first, entitled ‘Catfish Kate’ and ‘On Graveyard Hill’. The latter representing a return to form for the Massachusetts based band, with its discordant shrieking guitars and pulsating bass culminating an instantly catchy, fiery and gothic chorus. Beneath the Eyrie is very much a storming no nonsense rock album, an escapist offering during an ever-turbulent period both here and in the U.S. 'It really wasn’t a concept or anything like that, as far as a formula'. Lovering makes the recording and creative process behind the album seem effortless. A back to basics Pixies album that’s bound to please their already die-hard fan base.

It seems to Pixies, everything tends to come easy. With over 3 decades of experience making music and playing momentous shows and headline sets at the likes of Coachella and Reading Festival – who can blame them. Before heading off on their upcoming European and UK tour (in which they headline London’s 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace) the band would have had only one rehearsal. “That’s the way the Pixies operate” Lovering beams. 'When we get into the studio for that day everybody goes "I haven’t touched a guitar in 7 months!”

Yet, Lovering can be viewed as the band’s workhorse. Keeping the show on the road after all these years. The drummer is constantly finding ways of bettering himself when performing live. 'We’ve been playing ‘Where Is My Mind’ forever, and about three years ago I heard it on the radio. I realised, wait a minute, there was a high hat in the song. I thought, I’ve never played that before!' Much unlike his fellow bandmates, Lovering practices alone every day for 90 minutes. A dedicated routine that enables the band to delve deeper into their influential back catalogue while playing live, airing otherwise hidden gems and racing through song after song. 'Our shows are never the same. We have an 80-song list. 80 songs we pick and choose from. We’ve been doing it long enough for it to be seamless.'

A lot has previously been said about the departure of former bassist Kim Deal. Some fans regard this latest incarnation of Pixies as ‘version 2.0’. Yet Lovering and the rest of the band paint a vastly different picture. 'I don’t even know the difference' explains Lovering, 'it’s just been great and like nothing has changed'. Lovering even notes that the introduction of their new bassist, Paz Lenchantin (who has worked with the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Silver Jews) has propelled the band to new heights. 'The wonderful thing about Paz is she’s a wonderful player and has made me play better as I don’t want to be embarrassed around her (…) It’s great that we have a rhythm section that is kickass.'

The band and Lovering in particular see themselves as in their prime. In a year in which Doolittle is celebrating its 30thanniversary – the band definitely aren’t thinking of retiring and giving it all up just yet. Lovering is instead spurred by a new generation of fans who attend their gigs in enormous numbers. The veteran drummer talks enthusiastically about the 'seas of kids who weren’t even born when our albums came out.'

'From 2004, every show we do we have a lot of young kids, and I’m sure we’ll get more with this new album, who will know more off the new album than they do of the old stuff. I’m not kidding! It’s crazy! We’re very fortunate that the band have quite a diverse age group. I’d call us the Grateful Dead of Alternative Rock. This is what gives us a kick in the pants! We feel like we are still a viable band in our age. All we want to do is play and record and this propels us forward.'

For a band so steeped in history and musical legend, Lovering and Co. resemble something entirely different. Over the phone they present themsevles as somewhat normal, without an air of pretentiousness and entitlement. For all of Francis' dark and twisted lyrical imagery and Doolittle's crowning adoration and influence , the band only seem focused on one thing - 'this is just our schtick, playing the music.' After 30 years of being a band, they sure know how to do it.

Featured Image: Pixies/Fear PR