Pixies is a rock music group. They formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986 and disbanded in 1993, then reunited in 2004. Pixies found only modest success in their US homeland, but became major stars in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe.
Black Francis a.k.a. Frank Black (real name Charles Thompson) (vocals, guitar), Joey Santiago (lead guitar), Kim Deal (bass guitar, vocals), and David Lovering (drums) have been the group's continual members. Their melodic music is distinctive, but drew upon elements of punk and indie rock, with occasional touches of surf music and other genres.
Francis was the group's primary songwriter and singer. He has a distinctly desperate, yowling delivery, and typically writes cryptic songs about offbeat subjects, such as unidentified flying objects and surrealism. Deal contributed songs as well, and her often feathery voice acted as an oddly effective counterbalance to Francis (Incidentally, the then-married Deal was credited as "Mrs. John Murphy" on the first few Pixies records).
Musically, Pixies were just slightly ahead of their time. Right at the moment they were imploding, Nirvana was recording Nevermind, the album that would break alternative rock into the mainstream. There are substantial parallels between the two groups' sounds and Kurt Cobain was known to have been a fan—in fact, in a Rolling Stone interview he claimed "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was his failed attempt to write a Pixies song. This comment, allied with similar tributes by other Grunge bands, generated a retrospective interest in the Pixies from the mainstream music buying public.
The band was formed in 1986 in Boston, Massachusetts by Joey Santiago and Black Francis (born Charles Thompson IV). Bassist Kim Deal later joined Santiago and Francis after responding to a classified ad Francis had placed, seeking a bassist who liked both folk music icons Peter, Paul and Mary and hardcore punkers Hüsker Dü. She also suggested that they pick up drummer David Lovering, whom she had met at her wedding reception.
They arrived at a name ("Pixies") after Santiago selected the word randomly from a dictionary, liked the definition (although they were originally named Pixies In Panoply for a short time), and began playing shows in the Boston area.
During a concert with Throwing Muses, the band was noticed by Gary Smith, a producer at Fort Apache Studios. Smith became the band's manager and produced a 17 track demo (known as the "Purple Tape", publicly released in 2002). The demo fell into the hands of Ivo Watts-Russell, owner of 4AD, who signed the band. Eight tracks from the demo were selected for the Come on Pilgrim EP, the band's first release. It was followed by their first full-length album, Surfer Rosa in early 1988, recorded by Steve Albini.
4AD was a British music label, and the notoriously rabid/laconic British music press immediately clutched Pixies to their collective bosoms and refused to let go. The band remained unsigned in the US for a while, but after a foray up the UK pop charts and some inroads into American college rock stations, they were picked up by Elektra Records. For the remainder of their career, Pixies remained large-scale stars in Britain and cult figures in the US.
Their second album, Doolittle, featured the prominent singles: "Here Comes Your Man," and "Monkey Gone to Heaven." It was a top 10 hit in the UK and reached the top 100 in North America.
After Doolittle, Pixies went on hiatus and Black Francis temporarily went solo, while Kim Deal formed The Breeders with Tanya Donelly of Throwing Muses. During this time, Black Francis limited Deal's contributions to the band; the first two albums had been partly written by Deal, but when Bossanova was released in 1990, all the original songs were by him. Deal was not pleased, and unilaterally announced an apparent break-up of the band on-stage during the following tour. Pixies were at the height of their popularity, however, and while headlining at the Reading Festival in 1991, they played a highly enthusiastic version of "Debaser" which has become legendary among fans.
Break-up announcements notwithstanding, one more album was to follow. Trompe le Monde, released in 1991 still featured little input from Deal and wasn't as critically well-regarded as their first few albums. Following the release and an uncomfortable tour supporting fans U2, Pixies went on sabbatical and focused on separate projects. In 1993, Francis supposedly faxed an official notice to the other members that the band had split.
After the Breakup
Black Francis renamed himself Frank Black, and released three solo albums. He then went on to form a band with Scott Boutier, Eric Drew Feldman, Rich Gilbert, David McGaffrey, and Dave Phillips called Frank Black and the Catholics, who released six albums with a more stripped down, country tinge than Black's solo work. In 2005 Black released his fourth solo album, Honeycomb, featuring a mellow, Catholics style approach and backing from seasoned Nashville musicians, and is preparing a fifth from the same sessions, The Sicilian, for a 2006 release.
Deal returned to the Breeders, and scored a hit with "Cannonball" from that group's Last Splash in 1993. However, for several years they struggled to produce another album, mainly due to Kelley Deal's struggles with heroin. The album, Title TK, finally appeared in 2002, with only Kim and Kelley remaining from the previous Breeders lineup. Kim Deal has also recorded with The Amps.
Lovering dropped back into obscurity, becoming a magician and making occasional appearances as a "The Scientific Phenomenalist", performing experiments on stage; he also drummed on one of Tanya Donelly's solo albums.
Santiago has appeared on Frank Black's solo albums, writes music for FOX television, and has a band called The Martinis with his wife, Linda Mallari. They released their debut album, Smitten, in 2004.
In the 11 years since the band broke up, there were a number of rumors that would circulate regarding reunion tours. Roughly once a year (often on April Fool's Day) someone would be led to believe that the band had reunited.
It wasn't until 2004 when Pixies would play their first "postbreakup" concert on April 13 at The Fine Line Music Cafe in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota and a 15 concert warmup tour of the western United States and Canada, culminating in the performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Tickets for shows on this tour often sold out minutes after going on sale despite some rather moderately sized Canadian cities such as Winnipeg and Regina being stops. It is rumoured that these dates hold the world record for fastest selling shows ever.
This was followed by a three-month world tour and four-month return to the US.
In spring 2004, 4AD released Wave of Mutilation: The Best of the Pixies and a companion DVD which features a full concert, the music videos, and a documentary on Pixies. A "new retrospective compilation CD" is set for release in the near future. Many of the reunion shows, including that April 13 show in Minneapolis, were sold by DiscLive in sets of 1,000. The entire edition size has now sold out.
Later in 2004, the band released its first song since Trompe le Monde. Penned and predominantly sung by Deal, the song was titled "Bam Thwok." It was an iTunes-only single, and as soon as it was released, the track shot to #1 on the list of best-selling songs on iTunes, a position which it held for many days. While some fans loved the song and others hated it (most of the lyrics, according to Deal, were taken from a children's book), the band's return was generally welcome by fans of Alternative music.
On May 26th 2005, Pixies began their 2005 tour in Portland, OR. Playing two shows that day, once at 7:45 PM and again at 11:45 PM. Pixiesdiscs are now recording and selling their shows. They will be heading this year's Lollapalooza on their North American Tour and also be heading both the Leeds and Reading Festival on their European Tour.
In 2005, Pixies embarked on tour with Weezer across North America.