“The thing is, there’s a presumption in rock writing…” begins a spikey Black Francis when asked about the narrative thread running through Pixies‘ seventh album, ‘Beneath The Eyrie‘. “There’s a presumption that there is this overlying concept or theme or whatever, and I’m not saying there isn’t, but you know there is this presumption, ‘Let’s get to the theme/concept part!'”
Watch our full and in-depth video interview with Pixies above
In the three decades he’s spent as a hero of outsider rock in the Pixies and as a solo artist, Francis has always fought against his work being boxed into neat little packages. But please forgive our presumption here. Described in the press release as a place “where tales of witches, Daniel Boone, misfits and other characters fit into the band’s inherent weirdness,” ‘Beneath The Eyrie’ would seemingly be Pixies’ longstanding love of black magic, mythology and the macabre taken to the Nth degree.
Francis, though, won’t paint it with such broad strokes.
“We all like to generalise things,” he says. “But the format is a popular song, you know, three-minutes long. At the end of the day that’s what some guy in a car is listening to when he’s driving down the street. So as soon as you start to make these kind of ‘Is it fair to say…?’ or ‘This time around…’ or ‘You guys are doing this kind of thing…’ it starts to get like – I don’t know. It’s all about the song. Even if it’s a real rock opera, you’re still driving down the street, listening to ‘Baba O’Reilly’.”
He continues: “We haven’t been able to ascend to that status, I don’t think, in the rock music world. I’ve never been to the opera but you know when you go to the opera, you know the opera and you know the story. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know Italian, you know the whole story. I can’t think of a single rock album where everyone goes, ‘Do you know the part where he slays his lover on the castle lawn? I love that part’.”
After talking about dadaism, surrealism, the psychology of art and Donovan’s ‘Mellow Yellow’, Francis eventually explains his new record’s grisly origins.
“I’m still kind of figuring out what the theme is,” he says. “I didn’t write down what the theme was gonna be. Well, I lost my tooth, and I put it in a guitar. It’s very dramatic looking. It’s kinda gross looking actually, to other people.
“I thought it looked quite cool, a black guitar with a tooth in it. Then I told our producer Tom Dalgety and realised that maybe we were working on a kind of gothic thing with this, being kind of silly. As opposed to Edgar Allen Poe, I was thinking Sisters of Mercy. But anyway, goth turned into gothic at some point in the discussion. “Oh, gothic. Oh yeah, that’s kind of gothic,” so you just kinda leave it alone. So, if I’m going to give [‘Beneath the Eyrie’] a theme, we set out intentionally to make a gothic record. But that’s it. What is the concept? Gothic. It is gothic.”
- Read More: How Pixies’ ‘Surfer Rosa’ changed my world
Gothic. Got that? Good. Watch in-depth video interview with the band at the top of the page, where Francis and guitarist Joey Santiago also open up about their creative process, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the seminal ‘Surfer Rosa’ in 2017, what new bassist Paz Lenchantin brings to the band, life on the road, the ’90s band they’d love to see reform, and who else they’re listening to at the moment.
Pixies release ‘Beneath The Eyrie’ on September 13.
The band’s upcoming UK and Ireland tour dates are below. Visit here for tickets and more information.
Friday September 13, 2019 – CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena (United Kingdom)
Saturday September 14, 2019 – PLYMOUTH Pavilions (United Kingdom)
Monday September 16, 2019 – BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham (United Kingdom)
Tuesday September 17, 2019 – LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds (United Kingdom)
Wednesday September 18, 2019 – MANCHESTER O2 Apollo (United Kingdom)
Friday September 20, 2019 – LONDON Alexandra Palace (United Kingdom)
Saturday September 21, 2019 – NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle (United Kingdom)
Sunday September 22, 2019 – GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow (United Kingdom)
Monday September 23, 2019 – EDINBURGH Usher Hall (United Kingdom)
Wednesday September 25, 2019 – BELFAST Ulster Hall (United Kingdom)
Thursday September 26, 2019 – DUBLIN Olympia Theatre (Ireland)