After making good their recording return after a 13-year break back in 2014, and one key line-up change later, indie rock legends Pixies are all creatively fired up. This month sees the release of their third album in five years, Beyond the Eyrie. Amy Flower tried not to squeal (too much) in fangal glee when speaking about the record with guitar god Joey Santiago.
The second album with Tom Dalgety producing and Paz Lenchantin playing bass, there was no case of difficult second syndrome with Beneath the Eyrie. “It came through completely naturally,” says Joey. “Obviously we wouldn’t have done it with Tom again if we didn’t get along with him on Head Carrier, and Paz is a keeper – she’s great!”
The new album was recorded in an 1800s church, in Woodstock no less. Was that at all freaky? “Nothing really freaky happened, other than it was already a freaky atmosphere,” claims Joey. “Recording in a church, the dead of winter, cold, bleak – especially coming from Los Angeles! That atmosphere had something special about it to create, to get into yourself, and do something with your head, because you can’t really walk around anywhere, unless you want to freeze!”
With the departure of original bass Pixie Kim Deal, the remaining band members have found a freer vibe with the arrival of Paz. “It’s kind of unified us,” Joey enthuses. “I guess, in hindsight, someone important left and we did think ‘What‘s going to happen now?’, ‘What are we going to do?’, ‘We love what we’re doing, we’ve got to keep going – is this going to be possible?’ and then along came Paz and it was like, ‘Holy crap! This is great!’ She just has this light atmosphere around her, and makes us take chances and allows us to be ourselves, too. It’s liberating – a liberating vibe now.”
Paz has co-written three songs with Charles on the new album, including first single On Graveyard Hill. While Joey doesn’t share any writing credit, he still has a huge influence in shaping the Pixies sound. “Well, the guitar parts I come up with and just being that other element in the sound, another guitar on it, I like to think that does give it a signature sound – you know, a special icing on the cake.”
Beneath the Eyrie: Track-by-track
We put Joey on the spot and asked for a sentence or two summarising each track on the new album.
In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain
“For that, it’s the awesome drumming, and the spy kind of riff on the top of it – I tried to make it spy-sounding.”
On Graveyard Hill
“A song where, hmm… it’s weird, it’s filtered through to me that it sounds kind of like Joy Division and New Order combined.”
“Oh yeah, it’s just pure pop.”
This Is My Fate
“It sounds like a cabaret.”
Ready for Love
“I get a lonely feeling with that song.”
“Yeah, spaghetti western for sure – I tried to channel Ennio Morricone on that one, so that’s basically mission accomplished, I think.”
“I’m surprised that people love this song. I love it too, but I’m surprised that it’s the one that sticks out to a lot of people. It’s fooling around with just one note from the beginning.”
Los Surfers Muertos
“That one was going to be an instrumental. I spent some time writing the lines on that one, trying to make it like this Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac – he had this one song called, shoot, I forgot! – I was trying to channel that.”
“It’s like psychobilly to me, and it pretty much summed up the atmosphere at Saint Nazaire. You know, tattoos, a hard environment – in the sense that there was this big structure where the Nazis housed the U-boats.”
Bird of Prey
“It’s just fun. Charles wrote it on this big organ that has a lot of silly sounds, so we more or less had it in our mind to have this light feel to it. It’s like a kids’ song – kids would love it!”
“This is my favourite track off the album. It’s got a very magical feel to it, and a lot of the guitars that I did with the drums were kept – I’d say most of it was kept, so that’s good. I didn’t do any overdubs on it other than the EBow.”
“When we play it live, the shapes of the chords are just about almost Here Comes Your Man, so it would confuse me live if I don’t really pay attention to it, because I’m using the same shapes. It could make a nice mashup.”
Beneath the Eyrie by Pixies is out September 13 via Infectious UK.
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