The Pixies aren’t really a band known for their sentimentality. Frontman and principal songwriter Black Francis lives in a headspace full of aliens, historic martyrs, sexual taboo, and scientific and religious potpourri that turns the noise pop band’s novel songs into bizarro streams of consciousness rather than diary-driven heart tugs. Which is why, on their latest album, “Head Carrier,” the tender homage, “All I Think About Now” is getting so much attention. Well that and the fact that the song is written about Kim Deal, the band’s long-time bassist since their formation in 1980’s Boston until her surprise departure in 2013, as the Pixies continued gaining a pulse again after an extended hiatus from 1993 to 2004.
PIXIES When: 7:30 p.m., October 8 Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State Tickets: Sold out Info: ticketmaster.com
“We don’t know if she’s heard it,” says guitarist Joey Santiago on a recent call before the band begins the second leg of its “Head Carrier” Tour, stopping at Chicago Theatre on Oct. 8. Santiago admits none of the founding band members (also including drummer David Lovering) have really kept in touch with Deal, though he’s quick to say that doesn’t mean anything and calls the split amicable, although abrupt. “We were totally, totally shell shocked,” he admits when Deal left in the middle of recording sessions of 2014’s “Indie Cindy” (their first new album since 1991) to regroup with her other ‘90s famous band, The Breeders. “At the same tie we had four weeks left of recording already booked and paid for, and we got her blessing to make the album and go on,” says Santiago.
With lyrics like “I remember we were happy / That’s all I think about now / If you have any doubt / I want to thank you anyhow” on “All I Think About Now,” it’s clear there’s still a great appreciation for Deal. The song was the idea of Paz Lenchantin, who co-wrote the track with Francis and is featured on vocals. Lenchantin has filled Deal’s vacancy the past few years as the band’s touring bassist (after a failed go with The Muffs’ Kim Shattuck who appeared with them at a comeback set at Riot Fest in 2013), though inked her status as an official member with her contributions on “Head Carrier.”
“I can tell you that she’s very positive, she has great chops and is a big fan of music and the arts and she understands what the Pixies are about,” says Santiago, commending the chemistry Lenchantin brings to the band. In fact Santiago was the one who ushered her in, after having worked with her originally in the band The Martinis that Santiago formed with his wife years ago. Lenchantin would go on to be a part of Maynard James Keenan’s band A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgan’s Zwan before landing with the Pixies. “Between her personality and her musical abilities, she has found her home. She’s the perfect fit really.”
In the recording process of “Head Carrier,” all four band members opted to live together in the same apartment, with Santiago admitting the experience felt like the old days when he and Francis formed the band while students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“We worked [in the studio] from 11 to 8 and would have a proper workday. But when we were done we’d go to our apartment and hang out, cook food and listen to music,” recalls Santiago. “Those were the times that we were solidifying ourselves as band.”
The album features zingers like “Classic Masher” and “Baal’s Back” (about the Mesopotamian deity) that are a solid return to form and hearken back to early albums like the dynamic “Surfer Rosa” (recorded with legendary engineer and Chicagoan Steve Albini) that produced iconic early alt rock tracks like “Where Is My Mind?” and “Gigantic” and was a huge influence on the grunge movement, with fans including a young Kurt Cobain, Billy Corgan and PJ Harvey. That album is coming up on its 30th anniversary in 2018, though when Santiago is asked about any special celebrations he’s unsure at this point.
“We’re tossing around ideas,” he says coyly, in short order recalling the 20th anniversary tour for other seminal album “Doolittle” in 2009. “Thirty is one of those numbers that has a zero or five attached to it, so it’s just by nature important I guess. … But you know why not? Why not celebrate it?”
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.