“As a magician the best thing is the element of surprise,” Lovering said. “You want that wonderment ... kind of like Christmas coming.”
The biggest surprise came two weeks before the release of “Bagboy,” when the band announced the departure of bass player Kim Deal, who’d been with the Boston quartet since its inception in 1986. Her breathy background vocals and endearing stage presence provided a foil to Thompson’s aggressive delivery.
Deal broke the news to Thompson and guitarist Joey Santiago midway through the recording sessions one late morning in a coffee shop.
“I believe Joey and I got up in the next moment and went immediately to a pub and kept drinking ... to kind of soothe the shock that had occurred,” Thompson said.
The band was left with four weeks of booked studio time and a decision to make.
Following a period of mourning, they proceeded with production.
“That just gave us all the initiative and really the get-go to go for it,” Lovering said.
The new-look Pixies enlisted the help of Simon Archer to play bass on the unfinished tracks and then recruited Kim Shattuck of the Los Angeles band the Muffs to play bass on the current tour.
The new songs are immediately catchy, with more emphasis on traditional song structure and less of the quirky and frenetic nature of earlier songs. “Andro Queen” and “Another Toe” are more classic rock than punk, while “Indie Cindy” and “Bagboy” have more of the classic Pixies formula, with Thompson’s uncanny half-spoken sermons and odd time-signature changes.
Overall, the new material is absent the loud, quiet, loud dynamic — sparse and quiet verses juxtaposed against infectious, feedback-drenched choral eruptions — that came to define the Pixies sound. Thompson said he’s never understood why they get credited with pioneering the musical technique.