Pixies’ David Lovering: “I Think We Still Are A Cult Band”
Written by Frances Vinall on 24th April, 2014
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The Pixies are one of the defining alternative rock bands of the late eighties and early nineties, bearing influence on everyone from Radiohead, to Nirvana. Their creepy, dynamic songs were a perfect blend of psychosis and pop, but they broke up before they had a chance to get big.
While frontman Black Francis worked on solo projects, bassist Kim Deal found success with the Breeders, guitarist Joey Santiago moved into film, and drummer David Lovering began working as a magician. By the time the Pixies reformed in 2004, they were every misfit’s favourite band.
Before the band head to Australia for Vivid LIVE in Sydney — where they’ll perform five shows as part of a bill that also includes Lauryn Hill and St Vincent — David Lovering took some time out between Coachella shows to speak to us about what it’s like living life as a Pixie.
Watch: Pixies – Blue Eyed Hexe
Hi Dave, how’s it going?
David Lovering: Good, how are you today?
Yeah, good! You guys are coming to Australia soon – what can we expect for your Sydney shows?
DL: We’ll do a lot of the old songs that people like, and we’ll mix in maybe four or five of the new songs. What we do is, we don’t do a setlist. We just do one song that we all know will be the first song, and we just wing off songs for an hour and a half or whatever the time limit may be. It’s a different set every night.
Does that ever go wrong?
DL: No, it doesn’t. It actually goes pretty good, because it makes it exciting. If we have a setlist down, you can look ahead and you can plan for it, but when they’re just being called out it adds a little excitement to it. Sometimes I’ll be out of breath and I’ll be like, ‘No! No! Don’t do another song!’ [laughs] But it’s fun, it makes it an adventure every night.
Do you have any favourite songs that you try and angle for everyone to play?
DL: Probably the favourites, like Monkey Gone to Heaven and Where Is My Mind?… Debaser. Those are the kind of songs that we definitely put in the set. Then we can monkey with everything else.
Is it a strange experience writing and touring without Kim Deal?
DL: It was. The first time that we played on stage we had a woman temporarily filling in. Kim Shattuck played, and it was interesting because all I had known in the band for all these years was Kim Deal, being in my rhythm section and being to my left.
It was a weird, weird thing. Even though the bass-playing wasn’t that different, it was just the personality, that whole idea of something different was kind of alien at first. But it’s definitely different now.
Do you ever miss being more of a cult band, like you were in the nineties?
DL: Oh, that’s saying that – I think we still are a cult band! People say that we have influence, we’ve influenced bands, that we’re legends and this and that, and it doesn’t really ring with me.
I’m just David, I’ve done this forever; I’ve played in the band forever. It’s just a simple little band. It’s nice to be acknowledged but it doesn’t weigh heavily, I don’t think about it much in that way.
So things like, for example, Nirvana citing you guys as a huge influence, Radiohead – you just take that in your stride?
DL: Yeah, I mean it’s nice them giving us the nod, it’s definitely helped us in a real way, but… I’m just Dave, it’s not a big deal. I just play drums, I’m very down to earth and everything. It’s cool, it’s cool to hear it, but, you know.
Why did you guys decide to get back together? What was the trigger for that happening?
DL: I think what happened was, Charles [aka Black Francis] did a radio spot. I think it was in England, he did something on the radio. It was more of a joke but it kind of went viral. Because of the impact of it, it made him think. So he contacted Joe, Joe contacted Kim, Kim contacted me and boom, there it was. We decided to get back together.
But I would have never dreamed that this band would ever have gotten back together once we broke up. I think about it also, in hindsight, I’m actually glad we broke up. We wouldn’t have had the same opportunities we have now, I don’t think. I don’t know what would have happened to us, if we would have imploded or whatever back in the day.
Watch: Pixies – Greens and Blues
Were you surprised when the band broke up?
DL: Not really. I mean it was a surprise, but it also wasn’t. Because we were working hard, it was tough, there’s all these things that go on. It wasn’t really very far away in my mind.
What’s the dynamic like between you guys now?
DL: It’s interesting because when Kim left, that left only the three guys, and because of that there was a different… a stronger bond began. Because this all started in the studio, in mid-session when Kim left, it was a big, very shocking thing that we all were going through. We didn’t know what to do.
I think just that bonded us a little more. Myself, I took on more vocal duties because we’re trying to compensate for the lack of Kim being there. But the dynamic is… it’s definitely a stronger dynamic, I think, nowadays.
Do you feel like that’s reflected in your new material?
DL: Possibly… definitely in terms of my drumming. The reason I say that is that I never really liked recording all the Pixies albums. I liked the first one, because it’s something that I knew very well. But as every album got quicker and quicker to do, I became very frustrated, having to get these drum beats exactly as I intended or wanted them to be.
I’m not dissatisfied with anything that I’ve done, but I would always get more comfortable with it two months down the road into touring. So this album was different in the fact that I had a long time to learn these songs. I had honed them down in pre-production, so when I went into the studio I felt very comfortable with it.
So then when the shit went down with Kim leaving, the work ethic had definitely increased. I was there to work and work and work and work. I had a different mindset on it, it was all work intended and just enjoying it. It was a great experience.
Now that you’re back with the Pixies, do you miss being a magician at all? Because that’s a pretty cool thing to do.
DL: [laughs] Thank-you. I still do magic! I don’t force it on people. Maybe backstage, or in bars I’ll always do magic. The only thing that’s suffering right now in terms of magic is that I’m not able to do my stage show, which is a little grander. Being in the Pixies, and also being a dad right now, [magic] is on the back burner. But I’m still doing close-up magic, that intimate style which I think is the strongest.
We read that you were thinking about performing your show in Sydney – are you still probably going to do that?
DL: Oh, the magic show. If I do anything it’ll be a short little thing. I don’t have anything intended right now, but you never know. I’m ready to do it at a moment’s notice! [laughs]
We just wanted to finish up by asking, what do you think it is about the Pixies that’s touched so many people?
DL: The only thing I know that I can honestly say about the Pixies is that we have good songs. I think that’s all that it really is about us – good songs. That’s the touching thing, I think, about everything. Not personas or anything like that, it’s just good music and good songs. That’s what does it.
What kind of music are you into personally? What are your influences, and are there any current bands you like?
DL: My influences are the typical stuff like Rush and Steely Dan and Led Zeppelin, back in the day. Now I listen to the bands that are just like us. I listen to a lot of alternative and college radio. I don’t buy a lot of stuff, I just listen to the satellite radio that those channels are on. There’s so many bands out there, you know. I like everything [laughs]
Fair enough. Did you see anyone else at Coachella?
DL: No, I actually didn’t. Last Saturday it was a sandstorm. It was a really, really bad sandstorm. We were playing at nine o’clock at night and we got there at four in the afternoon. From that point on, it’s just breathing sand. It’s in your eyes, it was a hardship. It was really something.
When we did our set, my drums were sandblasted pretty much. After that, we just had to get out of there, it was just crazy. This Saturday it’s going to be the last show before we head to Australia, so I might have a bit of time to watch something.
Are you excited to come to Australia?
DL: [laughs] Absolutely. Five days in Sydney, it’s going to be amazing. I’m very much looking forward to that.
Watch: Pixies – Magdalena