Joey Santiago of Pixies – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, October 23rd, 2020  

Joey Santiago of Pixies – COVID-19 Quarantine Artist Check In

“It is important and a civic duty to keep social interactions to a minimum.”

May 15, 2020
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We are checking in with musicians during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to see how they are dealing with everything. What has their home quarantine experience been like so far and how is the crisis impacting both their career and art? Here we check in with Joey Santiago, guitarist for Pixies.

We’re living in future history right now, unprecedented times that will define our era. At some point we will be living in a forever-changed post-COVID-19 timeline, but right now we’re deep in it. Many have had their livelihood interrupted by the pandemic and included are most musicians, who make a lot of their money by touring and performing, two things they can’t do right now. Most record stores are closed and vinyl factories are shut down, so album sales are depressed too. Our intention with this series is to highlight the challenges musicians are going through right now to hopefully encourage our readers and their fans to rally around and support each musician (financially if you can, but we know it’s tough out there for many people).

We’re all in this together, a whole planet united in this fight, and we hope these interviews will help illustrate that. We put together the same set of questions about the current crisis and emailed them to several musicians and will be posting their responses as they come in.

Pixies released a new album, Beneath the Eyrie, in September 2019 via Infectious/BMG. The band also features Black Francis (vocals, guitars), David Lovering (drums), and Paz Lenchantin (bass). Tom Dalgety produced Beneath the Eyrie, which was written over the course of 2018 and recorded in December 2018 at Dreamland Recordings near Woodstock, NY. The studio was originally St. John’s Church built in 1896. The album’s title was inspired when “Lovering spotted an eagles nest—or ‘eyrie’—right above the studio in a tree.”

Beneath the Eyrie was Pixies’ third album since reuniting in 2004 and is the follow-up to 2016’s Head Carrier (which was the first album to feature Lenchantin) and 2014’s Indie Cindy (which was more of an EP collection than an album). A previous press release said Beneath the Eyrie features “tales of witches, Daniel Boone, misfits, and other characters.” The making of the album was chronicled in It’s a Pixies Podcast, which was produced by the band and hosted/narrated by New York Times best-selling author Tony Fletcher.

During their original run, Pixies cemented their legacy as one of the most important and influential bands of the alternative rock era, releasing four acclaimed albums in a short four-year period—1988’s Surfer Rosa, 1989’s Doolittle, 1990’s Bossanova, and 1991’s Trompe le Monde—before splitting up in 1993. 

Read on as Santiago reflects on his COVID-19 experience so far. He also submitted a photo of himself under quarantine. 

Where are you spending the quarantine and who are you spending it with? If you’re spending it with other people, have you found that the quarantine has brought you closer together or caused tension?

I’m spending it with my kids and girlfriend in Los Angeles. There’s not much tension. We know it is important and a civic duty to keep social interactions to a minimum. Restlessness creeps in on occasion and that’s normal. 

What’s your daily routine been like? Have you spent much time outdoors? And since musicians spend so much time on the road, have you found it hard adjusting to so much time at home?

We have been touring a lot so I could find the silver lining in staying home and hanging out with the family. It takes me about a week to adjust to home life after a tour. I have definitely settled in. I have been cycling daily. Yesterday we did get restless and took a drive to see the poppies in bloom. It was an hour away. That was my first non-essential trip. I’m usually not home when they are blooming so we took a drive out there. Hopefully we will be on tour next time the poppies pop. 

What financial impact has COVID-19 had on you and your band? Have you had to cancel or postpone any tours or festival appearances or postpone an album release because of COVID-19 and how will that affect you in the long term?

We had to cancel our summer tour, which included a bunch of festivals in Europe. We had to leave Australia in March because of the virus spreading. We have rescheduled Australia for later this year or 2021 if necessary. Hopefully we will be down there soon. We will be making up the summer shows that have been cancelled next year. 

How do you think the crisis will affect this November’s U.S. presidential election? Will it make it easier or harder to defeat Trump?

Trump said he would not lose a single vote if he shot someone on 5th Avenue and he ended up winning the election. His base seems pretty strong. He lost by three million votes and still won the election. If he or anyone else for that matter wins the election by losing the popular vote again then it is time to seriously consider amending the electoral college system.  

What do you think will be the lasting effects on society of all this isolated time at home?

People will be better cooks and gardeners. 

If you have school-aged kids, how have you been dealing with homeschooling and how are your kids adjusting to life at home and away from friends?

My kids have been doing online school. You’d think they’d be on time to log in everyday but both have been tardy. Anything is possible. 

What other steps should record labels, music streaming platforms, and other music industry entities be taking to help struggling musicians through this time?

Perhaps streaming platforms should give a better percentage to artists during these times. What are they going to sell if there aren’t any musicians? Hand sanitizers? 

What is the best way fans can support you financially right now? Buying vinyl and CDs, downloading and streaming your music, buying merch, supporting your Patreon page or other crowd sourcing platform (if you use one), or some other means? Is there a particularly cool piece of merch you’d like to highlight?

The best anyone can do is to stay safe. Heed advice from science. 

Which albums, songs, films, TV shows, books, podcasts, live streams, video games, board games, etc, have been helping you get through the quarantine?

I have always been listening to a lot of music so I really can’t do any more. Been doing more TV than I used to before quarantine. I watch Billions, Ozark, and a few docs. I am reading more than usual which means I am reading. Which in turn means I haven’t been doing any reading before quarantine. 

Have you been doing any live-streamed concerts during COVID-19 or do you plan to? A lot of artists have been doing them, do you think it’s a challenge to make them original and interesting?

What?! That’s happening?! Dang yeah we should be doing that. It’s time for a band meeting. Of course we would make it interesting.  

Is there something you’ve been putting off for a long time, but are now doing with this time at home?

I’m noodling around with a classical guitar. Soon to be called a quarantine nylon guitar. 

Has the quarantine been a fertile creative time (are you writing or recording new music, for example) or have you found it hard to focus on creative endeavors?

It’s been about 50 days now and I haven’t had the urge to create anything. Today I set up my workstation and plugged everything in. It’s ready for me. Not sure how long that equipment will have to wait. 

Beyond the obvious items (such as toilet paper), what things have you made sure to get from the grocery store when stocking up? And, also, do you have any toilet paper?

Fresh produce and proteins gets me to the grocery store. I go through a lot of blueberries. That’s the one item I need to have. Yesterday I bought a big bag of frozen blueberries to keep me away from going out. I do have toilet paper. I haven’t seen any at the grocery store for a while now.

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