On Earth and On Tour: the Pixies Return to Minneapolis

A few decades, a few breakups, and a couple of replacements later, influential 1990s alternative favorites (and soundtrack to many formative college experiences) the Pixies are back in town. And the good news is that they’ll always sound just like the Pixies—with a driving, ethereal sound swell that gathered peers and artistic children including Nirvana in its wake.

But times have changed. For starters, “CDs are dead,” comes the verdict from Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago. So for the Pixies, who saw the rise and demise of compact disc sales, we can rest assured that Indie Cindy, the band’s first release in 23 years, hasn’t been a goal in and of itself. It was, however, something of a glimmering hope restored when the group returned with new songs and tours to remind us how music used to sound, and how that sound has grown.

“It’s pretty scary when you look at the Earth from up there. You get pretty lonely,” adds Santiago about the band’s long gaps between records and tours. “We were all over the place.”

Lately, Santiago says the band looks forward to keeping vital on the road. (“I’ve got a lot of frequent flier miles.”) As they make their way east from LA this month, Santiago recalls the “sweatiest” gig in their history, at 7th Street Entry years ago. They touch down again at the State Theatre on October 11.

It may have required one of the hardest-working females in music to help these veterans again to recognize the joys of touring. Former Zwan and A Perfect Circle axewoman Paz Lenchantin, who joined with Pixies last December, breaks into what is otherwise a boys’ club. “There’s a lightness now in the bus and just everywhere we hang out. In every city she’s got a lot of buddies,” enthuses Santiago. “She plays constantly. I don’t think she’s ever stopped.”

Still, amid a shifting landscape of records, releases, and tours, Santiago insists that not much has changed. “You still have to have good songs. You still have to play shows and gather up fans,” he says.

The passing years, the changes, the loneliness of being gone for so long—those boundless themes don’t disappear with the release of Indie Cindy. But the fact is that it’s good. It won’t cut through today’s noise like a hot knife down a stick of melted butter, as Bossanova and Dolittle did in the salad days, but Santiago and Co. don’t seem overly worried.

Santiago finally shrugs off a reminder of the 30-year milestone Pixies reached this year, marking his garage-band beginnings with founders Black Francis, David Lovering, and former Pixie Kim Deal (a newspaper classifieds find, in the days when newspapers had classifieds). The Pixies managed to forge an anti-derivative playground that defined alt-rock greatness. So when asked what keeps him going so long after the conception and birth of Pixies in a dorm room somewhere off the campus of UMass Amherst, Santiago says it’s the emphasis on work as play that he hopes to never let go.