The news crashed over Sacramento like a wave of mutilation. The Pixies, one of the most beloved and influential bands in the alternative-music canon, earlier this month announced a Capital City show for Wednesday, Oct. 26. And this wasn’t just any gig, but a rare club performance at Ace of Spades for fewer than 1,000 people. No wonder tickets sold out quickly.
Sacramento was selected as one of four stops in a short warm-up tour before the Pixies head to Europe. Across the pond, the Pixies will perform for thousands at such venues as London’s O2 Academy and Poland’s Hala Arena. But first, the band will road-test songs from its latest album, “Head Carrier,” and revisit its classic material in a few smaller California markets. In addition to Sacramento, the band will perform in Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Ventura.
“Head Carrier” was released Sept. 30. It generally has received positive reviews, including a three stars (out of five) from Rolling Stone, where the album was described as “looser and less burdened by the past” compared with 2014’s “Indie Cindy.”
The Oct. 26 show marks the Pixies’ first concert in the Sacramento area since 2004, when the band headlined at UC Davis’ Freeborn Hall. Back then, members of the Pixies were in reunion mode after spending the better part of 10 years broken up and pursuing various solo careers and other bands.
The Pixies circa 2016 is a band settling into its latest groove. Paz Lenchantin, who replaced original Pixies bassist/vocalist Kim Deal for a 2014 tour, is now a full-fledged member of the group. Lenchantin’s previous bass and strings credits include stints with A Perfect Circle, Zwan and Queens of the Stone Age. Three other founding members of the Pixies remain: frontman Charles “Black Francis” Thompson, drummer David Lovering and guitarist Joey Santiago.
Deal left the band in 2013 for unspecified reasons, though previous tensions between her and Thompson were well-documented. Deal was first briefly replaced by Kim Shattuck of the Muffs before Lenchantin was added to the Pixies fold in 2014. The Lenchantin-penned song “All I Think About Now,” a love letter of sorts to Deal, remains one of the highlights on “Head Carrier” for its sunny vocals and discordant guitar – a hallmark of the Pixies’ classic sound.
Lovering, the Pixies’ founding drummer, says this incarnation of the Pixies finds a band renewed and harmonious with its inner-group relations. In a recent phone call with The Bee, he reflected on the group’s past and present. Here’s some of what he had to say:
Q: It sounds like the Pixies are in a good place right now with the new album and tour. But when the band re-formed in 2004, were there any nerves going around for not having played together in a while?
A: It’s interesting because when we first got reunited, it was very easy to play. It was like riding a bike. It’s like muscle memory from when you were younger. But it wasn’t until doing those early shows that it was kind of surreal. Most of the audience was much younger and some weren’t even born when we were officially a band – and they knew every word of the songs. Ever since then, it’s been wonderful.
Q: Are these kind of warm-up shows leading to a bigger tour something typical for the band?
A: I’m excited for these four shows coming up. It’s a little more interesting and I definitely have more fun in a closer kind of setting. The last time we played was in mid-July for a run of festivals in Europe. This (warm-up tour) is a little different. Before we go off to Europe, this would just be a good way to get everything clicking and get back in.
Q: How was the process of recording “Head Carrier”? You worked with a new producer (Tom Dalgety, who has worked with artists including Killing Joke and Siouxsie Sioux) and also had Paz as a full contributing member. That’s a significant amount of change for a new album.
A: We had seven weeks of just rehearsing songs and when we went into the studio we had the confidence that we knew what we were doing. It was a luxury and wonderful. Working with Tom, he was able to say to us as a Pixies fan, “I don’t like that song, get rid of it.” (laughs) We just obeyed and went along with the producer and we’re very happy as a result.
This was the first time in the studio with Paz even though we’d been working with her for three years. And it was wonderful. I hate to say this is version two (of the Pixies) but we’re looking at it (that way) and we have Paz, and a different studio and producer, and it was all exciting to do. Paz was great. It was a luxury because many albums we’d done were kind of tense. When we finally did “Head Carrier,” this was a joy.
Q: What was the tipping point for making Paz a full member of the band?
A: She’s wonderful to be around. She makes everyone happy and has that kind of effect on the band. She’s a wonderful musician and makes me play better because I don’t want to be embarrassed on the stage. And the audience loves her, too. After three years of shows she was doing a fantastic job. It was just natural. With the new album coming up, it was just obvious to have her. She became a Pixie.
Q: The band’s been together longer since reuniting than its original run in the ’80s and ’90s. Is that an odd thing for you to get your head around?
A: That’s the only reason that you’re hearing “Head Carrier.” When we hit the seven-year mark in 2011, that was kind of eye-opening to us. That was longer than we were initially a band. It was basically that we’ve done this reunion thing long enough and we’re still a viable band. That’s where we’re at now.