The Pixies, Who Mock Their Cute Name and Cast Their Winning Spell with Lean, Mean Rock
Any pixie worth his fairy dust has mastered the elements of cute—the impish grin, the sprightly manner, the Turkish slippers with bells on the toes. By those standards the Pixies, a Boston rock quartet, could use some coaching. Their repertoire includes the memorably titled "Gouge Away," inspired by the Bible story about Samson's eyes being put out, and the equally stirring "Wave of Mutilation," vaguely about the destruction of the ocean. "People get thrown off by our titles," says lead Pixie Charles Thompson IV, 24, who prefers his stage name, Black Francis. "We're not into violence. It's more abstract. I just use hard physical words because people hear them better. It's like throwing bricks out of your mouth instead of airy smoke."
A hefty chunk of the young music market seems to be in the mood for flying masonry. The Pixies' third album, Doolittle, which Rolling Stone dubbed a "frightening...whirlwind" of intense guitar-based rock, sailed to No. 1 on progressive-rock charts, and the video of their neo-surf single "Here Comes Your Man" is rotating regularly on MTV. A further token of hipness: After an L.A. Pixies concert in July, David Bowie went backstage and shared his aura.
That's heady stuff for four people who got their start in 1986, when Francis and lead guitarist Joey Santiago, also 24, dropped out of the University of Massachusetts. Intent on forming a band, the pair took out a want ad in the Boston Phoenix for musicians and got one response, from guitarist and former Ohio high school cheerleader Kim Deal, 28. Luckily, she brought along a friend, Boston-bred drummer David Lovering, 28. Santiago found the band's name by flipping through the dictionary. "I thought it sounded rock and roll," he says. "I didn't think about other connotations."
The Pixies haven't yet gotten rich from pop, but they've exchanged the band van for a bus, and, says Francis, "I don't have to worry if I've got five bucks to go to the movies." One thing that hasn't changed is where this Pixie communes with the muses. "A bathroom is always the best place to write music," he says. "There's a mirror, good acoustics, and people will leave you alone."