The Pixies' David Lovering and Joey Santiago on New Music, Odd Hobbies

Michael Halsband

After they released Indie Cindy, their first album in more than 20 years, last year, and now that they've worked through the departure of founding member Kim Deal— alt-rock legends the Pixies are back on the road. Billboard caught up with drummer David Lovering and guitarist Joey Santiago in the band’s trailer shortly before they took the stage yesterday at the Sweetlife Festival in Columbia, Maryland. Here are excerpts from that chat.

Sweetlife Festival is rooted in the notion that music and food are interconnected. Do either of you cook?
DL: I do, but not a lot. Joe is more of a. . . he’s a much better cook.
JS: No I’m not! I’m good at stews; my brisket is awesome. It takes awhile, about six hours to make.

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What’s your guilty pleasure?
DL: Uni. I love uni, the kind of sushi.
JS: Is that a guilty pleasure?
DL: It’s kind of rich. If I could just eat something like that, I would just sit there and keep ordering it.
JS: Mine, is not PC but I like foie gras. Or sweetbreads – how’s that? Foie gras is too controversial.

You guys have had such an extensive and impressive touring span. How has the audience changed over the years?
DL: They haven’t, really.
JS: Before it was all young guys, now it’s the gamut. The thing that’s steady from 2004 until now is that there are kids in the audience who weren’t even born when we were around initially—and they know all the words and are singing along. There is still that younger age group coming to our shows. I think it’s surprising that we’ve been able to keep that age here with us. And then people my age, who wish it were a seated venue rather than standing.

At some point, after you play so many shows, it must all blend together. Is there a show that stands out for you as a monumental one?
DL: The Hollywood Bowl show we just did in September was good. And the only reason I say so is because it was a good show but, when I think of our run in L.A. and all the years we’ve played there, we’ve never really had good shows. So to pull off a good show and have it be at the Hollywood Bowl... (laughs)
JS: The very first one; our first show at Jacks. I just remember being very, very nervous and the only people that were there were my brothers and the people I worked for at a furniture shop. That was it. We saw more of the floor than anything else—it felt weird, because there was no one there.
DL: But still, it was the most exciting and nervous one.
JS: I think I might've broken a string and we had to stop for a second.

How do you manage being on the road with home life and your families?
JS: Facetime. My kids are starting to message me, and the look on their faces. My son doesn’t say anything; he’ll just give me a look. They are 10 and 12. One time, they were just chilling out and I had the day off and we got on Facetime and he said, "Daddy, you don’t have to talk to me, just hang out with me." I’ve introduced them to the Beatles; my son loves “Helter Skelter,” my daughter loves “I Am the Walrus.”

If you weren’t making music, what would you want to pursue?
JS: That’s a good question. I would say bicycle mechanic, but they stop riding because they work too much. Dave? Something with science?
DL:  I have a lot of hobbies, too many. Treasure hunting, metal detecting, I’m a magician. It goes on and on . . .

What’s the best thing you’ve found while metal detecting?
DL: I have a lot of Revolutionary [War] coins, things from the early 1700s. I grew up in Massachusetts in the woods and that’s where I got into it. And I moved out to California and there’s nothing really that old there, so I picked up underwater hunting. So that’s all jewelry and rings and stuff like that—it’s outdoors, so it’s good for that. 
JS: You know, I have another project I’d like to get into. It’s for deodorant.

JS: Yeah, you know how people have their fragrances, celebrity scents – “Smell me, I’m P. Diddy.” I don’t know what it’s going to smell like, but I’d make a deodorant called Smell. I think some vanilla-citrus; that’s the sexiest scent for me. I’m gonna make it happen! I’m taking baby steps.

You guys have been in the studio, right?
JS: Yeah, we are working on new music. Sometimes we try it out live. It depends how we feel — and that’s how we do it always; the set list always depends on how we feel. These songs are a little more precious, a little more shy to come out live.
DL: We’ve played these songs at five shows, I think.

Are you going to play any of them tonight?
DL: We don’t know; we don’t write anything down. Behind each of the songs, we’re trying to do something that we haven’t done since we were a baby band. We have the opportunity to do these songs and play them around clubs, so it’s a really great way to hone it on the road.

How did you guys connect with Paz Lenchantin and what’s it like to work with her? You went through a few bassists after Kim Deal left.
DL: She’s wonderful to be around and a wonderful musician and the audience likes her — that’s the best part.
JS: We met her through a mutual friend, Josh Freese [of the Vandals and Devo]. We knew the chemistry with Paz was right, right away; it was instant and effortless.
DL: She has her shit together.

Are there any new artists out there that you’re into?
DL: The only thing that really got me was, not long ago, we had Royal Blood open up for us on a tour. And they were really good, just two guys. But they really had it down and they’re the best set I’ve seen in a long time.
JS: John Grant; he’s awesome.
DL: Yeah, he’s very good. Wonderful voice and good songs.
JS: He’s kind of like Randy Newman meets Billy Joel. I usually don’t like diary rock, but he is so self-deprecating. He just moved to Iceland and the instrumentation is kind of folky but with drum machines; there’s an Icelandic influence.


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