There are two ways of listening to Beneath the Eyrie, the seventh studio album from the Pixies, which dropped in September.
You could proceed as normal, spinning the LP with zero context whatsoever – and, of course, still find it enjoyable. For a more immersive and intriguing experience, however, you could pre-empt your listen with It’s a Pixies Podcast, a comprehensive one-off series in which every waking moment in the studio was recorded while the legendary alt-rockers made their new album.
“Of course there were concerns at first,” says Joey Santiago, the band’s lead guitarist. “We were worried about our privacy and we were worried that the creative process was going to be compromised in the process. Would we be stifling ourselves? Would we have to be on our best behaviour, knowing that we were being recorded?”
As it turns out, that wasn’t the case at all.
“The microphones were so small, and so hidden – they were definitely the smallest piece of equipment in the studio,” Santiago says. “Tony [Fletcher, interviewer and host] was a real professional about the whole thing, too. On the rare occasions we’d need him to leave the room, he would do it without any issues at all.”
When questioned about how the documentation process would have gone while the Pixies were in the studio making any of their classic-era albums, Santiago is the first to acknowledge that the group’s infamous hostility would’ve made for a truly uncomfortable listening experience.
“Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde were definitely the dark years of the Pixies,” he says. “We wouldn’t have let anyone in around that time. Even if we did, you wouldn’t have gotten anything. We were barely even talking to one another. Beyond Dave [Lovering, drums] saying ‘one, two, three, four,’ there was next to nothing.
“It would have felt as uncomfortable as what I imagine The Beatles would have been like while they were making Let It Be. You know what I mean? It’s like having a baby to save a marriage – it ain’t going to work.”
The irony of Santiago’s recollection isn’t lost on him. Despite acrimoniously splitting in 1993, the Pixies famously reunited in 2004 and have remained together ever since. In fact, the Pixies have been reunited nearly twice as long as they were originally a band – something that Santiago himself could have never seen coming.
“Initially, in that first year, I thought we’d have maybe two years of doing it,” he says. “Then, when we reached that two year mark, we had these promoters and stuff grinning at us every time we came to town. They’d say, ‘You guys could do this forever!’ I just thought, ‘Really?’ I wasn’t sure about that at all. But, lo and behold, they were right. We just had to take it one tour at a time.”
In 2013, shortly after the departure of bassist Kim Deal, the Pixies began releasing new music for the first time in over two decades. The intervening years have given us three new studio albums from the band – 2014’s Indie Cindy, 2016’s Head Carrier and now Beneath the Eyrie.
At first, critical response was divisive – particularly around Indie Cindy – but with each release, there’s been a greater understanding that the Pixies aren’t just cashing in on nostalgia anymore.
“It’s given us life,” says Santiago on making new Pixies music. “This is what we love to do. We knew, after a while, that we had to go and make an album – for anything, to entertain ourselves. We couldn’t put our hearts into doing the same set every day again for a year.
“We love making new music. This band has become our pet project again. We have no desire to start new bands or tour with anybody else.” He laughs, before concluding, “We can do this forever.”
Pixies are playing at the Palais Theatre on Monday March 9 and Tuesday March 10. They’re also headlining Golden Plains 2020. Beneath the Eyrie is out now.