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Pixies on Head Carrier: "It's just about embracing the damn past..."

20 September 2016, 10:00 | Written by Laurence Day

Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago tells Best Fit all about making new album Head Carrier and having the confidence to be true to themselves.

Was Indie Cindy ever thought of as a one-off, or was it always the plan to come back and stay back?

We knew we were gonna make another one at some point. We'd already been talking about what came next before Indie Cindy was done – there weren't plans at that time exactly, but we were discussing how we'd record it. There were concepts.

After Indie Cindy being the 'comeback', did you feel liberated from the expectations of a return?

I won't be shocked if the reviews are negative of Head Carrier. With Indie Cindy, we were expecting that. We were expecting... weird... reviews. First of all, Kim [Deal, longtime bassist/vocalist] had left the band, and then we were exploring unknown territory to us, sound-wise anyway. We took a risk. I guess the musical risk was the one that we knew we would either get slayed for it or people would go 'yay, be adventurous!'. We had to do that to get to the place we could do Head Carrier. Indie Cindy was an album that had to be made.

How did Head Carrier come together?

We got together for like two weeks, bashed out some ideas, and then tried to figure out which songs we had were worth working on. We went through everything, and then worked on the ones we loved until they were perfect. Then we demoed them all. We gave the demos to [producer] Tom Dalgety, and then went to Bath, where he's from, did two weeks of pre-production and then recorded in London in three weeks.

Was there anything you particularly tried to do differently with this album?

The original concept I had that I told Charles [frontman Black Francis] was to go back to acoustic and electric. For a while. It was going to be a more simple and direct record – if there's one thing I was trying to do on this album it was embrace the past and own it. It's fun! It's fun to be myself. That shit's cool – I love who we are.

You don't often hear people talk about embracing the past.

We did look into the future... that was the risk with Indie Cindy. That was the conundrum when we started that album: look into the future or go back to the past. Seeing as it was the first record since the reunion, we thought we'd explore the future. And we did! We successfully did it. But for Head Carrier we're just going back – initially I was like 'I don't wanna go back, I don't wanna go there...' and it wasn't until we were in Bath that I really felt comfortable with what we were doing on this record.

Head Carrier feels lighter and more relaxed than a lot of Pixies material – why is this?

I can definitely see where you're coming from, and I think that's because we were exactly that: more relaxed, having more fun. We were happy. I mean there are dark moments on the album, but it does sound jubilant – like joy. It doesn't sound like a pop record though! I think the most important thing was that our personalities really shine through on Head Carrier.

What is Head Carrier about for you?

For me, it's just about embracing the damn past – the way I play... fuck it. This is what I am and this is who I am.

I'm really proud of it. Very proud. The amount of work we put into it and the amount we persevered without Kim Deal... there were too many obstacles to overcome to make this record. I think it's great and it means we've persevered through a bunch of stuff.

There were a few big personnel changes to the Pixies mix for this album. What does Paz [Lenchantin – bass/vocals] add?

She adds that lightness... that fun. She's very, very talented – plays practically every instrument. She's got a great taste in music. When we were making Head Carrier we'd all stop at 8pm every night and we'd make dinner, hang out at least until midnight... once the latest we went was 5am... and we'd talk and we'd listen and we'd listen to music. That was the thing we'd do – listen to music and talk to each other.

Was there ever any apprehension about joining a fully formed project like Pixies? Did she, or you and the rest of the band, have to adapt?

No, no, no. We'd already been touring for three years with her and she already knew... she didn't have to know. She came in as the perfect fit. None of us had to change anything.

The other big difference was working with Tom instead of [longtime producer] Gil Norton.

It exceeded its goals. We wanted to get out of our comfort zone and have another person's input on production. He fit right away – he was a weird guy, and we're weird. We all got along. It was great working with him and I'd do it again.

What's next for the Pixies?

The Pixies are a band again. We'll play live. We'll record a record, at some point, and play live again. That's the plan. We're already booking tours around the world. That's our plan.

Head Carrier is released 30 September via Pixiesmusic/Play It Again Sam.

This interview took place prior to Santiago entering rehab for "alcohol and drug issues" last week. We wish him a speedy recovery.

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