Singer, guitarist and songwriter Black Francis said he and guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and bassist Kim Deal tried to find the magic that produced an EP and four studio albums from 1987 to 1991. But two sessions — in 2007 and 2011 — failed.
So what happened to help the Pixies create new material after eight years? Francis summed up a big part of the answer in two words: Gil Norton. He was the producer of three of the band’s original albums.
“I think by bringing him into it, we brought in an outside perspective and a little bit of pressure, because a guy like Gil Norton, guys who are good producers, they’re pretty opinionated,” Francis said. “So I think there was a lot of pressure from Gil for me to come up with the right songs for the band.”
In particular, Norton helped Francis get “back to basics” in his songwriting.
“I think when you first start to write songs, there is a little bit of naivete and there’s a lot of simplicity,” Francis said. “With naivete and simplicity come kind of a strength and a clarity. And it isn’t that you’re supposed to stay there necessarily or never become more sophisticated or more complicated or anything like that. But it must be noted that there is this clarity and simplicity with your early work. And I think that Gil was just trying to get me to try to return to that as much as I could because that’s what the band needed.”
Things seemed to be falling into place until last summer when Deal abruptly quit the band. She has not commented publicly about her departure.
Francis, Santiago and Lovering briefly considered pulling the plug on the Pixies, but with a group of songs in hand that they liked, they recruited other bassists for the recordings and for touring.
“EP-2” includes “Blue Eyed Hexa,” a rocker whose sharp riffs and thump may remind fans of the earlier song “U-Mass.” “Magdalena” pulls back on some of the voltage, going more for the kind of space-age atmosphere and disarming melody of tunes like “Is She Weird.” The poppier side of the Pixies’ sound is even more evident on “Greens and Blues.”
Francis said the set lists for concerts tend to vary depending on what is clicking with the audience and the band at the time.
“On the one hand, we try to please the audience,” he said. “But, also, if it’s a song that the audience doesn’t react strongly to and we don’t react strongly to it, it has a good chance of being retired.
“If an audience doesn’t respond to a particular song in a big way, but the band — or at least me, really — responds to the song for some reason and we still like it, it won’t get played as much as the big songs, but it will still get played from time to time. … And if it’s a song that the audience always responds really well to, then … it will get played. If not all the time, it will get played sometimes.”