See Pixies Play ‘Planet of Sound,’ New Song ‘Um Chagga Lagga’
“Are we serious enough?” Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago asks, midway into the band’s chuckle-filled interview with Rolling Stone.
“‘Are we serious enough?!’ We’re Pixies!” frontman Black Francis interjects. “We are by definition Pixies in our temperament: a little mischievous, a little playful, a little not-too-serious, small.” Santiago laughs.
Today, though, Pixies are cucumber cool. Francis has adjusted the office chair he’s sitting in to its lowest position and keeps his sunglasses on most of the time, as his bandmates – Santiago, bassist Paz Lenchantin and drummer David Lovering – lean back in theirs, chuckling at in-jokes with one another around a conference-room table.
The band has stopped by Rolling Stone to play two songs – a brand-new, yet-to-be-recorded number titled “Um Chagga Lagga” and their 1991 Trompe Le Monde single “Planet of Sound” – as they work their way through a U.S. tour. Beginning last fall, the group began woodshedding about 11 new tunes with titles like “Super Lecker,” “O’ Little Cloud” and “Down to Tulom,” some of which they’re test-driving on their current trek. They’re so early in the process that they’ve just started looking for a suitable producer to work with.
“We’re trying to find our sound right now,” says Francis, who had put together a bunch of demos and gave them to the band to figure out which would work as Pixies songs. Santiago says they’ve ruled out doing everything acoustic, but are still experimenting. The songs are so new that when Francis suggests playing “Down to Tulom,” Santiago shudders. “I’m just not ready for that one,” he says. “It’s still in his tummy, that one,” he adds, gesturing at Francis.
As for “Um Chagga Lagga” – a driving little ditty full of Francis’ yelling and moaning – the singer describes it as being “kind of like a road movie.” “It’s a French truck-driving song, about the seedier side of life on the road,” he says. “It’s like going down the Bouches-du-Rhône, the Languedoc, and it’s truck stoppy. It’s about the things that happen at truck stops and gas stations and cornfields.”
The other new tune that the group has broken out on the tour is “Super Lecker,” which Francis takes delight in explaining translates from German to “Super Delicious.” “People seem to be dancing to it,” Lovering says. “Any movement is good.”
When Francis attempts to explain what the song is about, he turns his attention to his phone to look up the name of its inspiration, whom he surreptitiously describes simply as a young Russian woman. “It’s about Elena Ivanovna Diakonova when she was younger,” he says eventually and matter-of-factly. “She was . . .”
“A super lecker,” Lenchantin rejoins with a laugh.
“She was super delicious,” Francis says. “She was married to this surrealist poet guy, Paul Éluard, and she hung out with all those bohos back in the Twenties and Thirties.” He goes on to later describe her as a “muse,” but neglects to mention his inspiration’s more familiar name and association: Gala Dalí, wife of surrealist Salvador.
Instead, when Rolling Stone asks him what makes her song-worthy, he says, “Well, everyone is worthy of a song. Even Paz.” She laughs.