Singer-guitarist Frank Black is well aware that a breakup did the Pixies good. When the band split in 1993, they had slowly built enough of a fan base to headline theaters and large clubs. But for the most part, the band's reputation among other musicians and music critics far outweighed their popularity among the general public.
One key supporter was Kurt Cobain, who touted the Pixies' kinetic and inventive blend of punk, rock and surf guitar as a major inspiration for Nirvana's own music. A host of other acts, including The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, Radiohead and Weezer, also sung their praises.
The result was a mushrooming fans base that discovered the Pixies well after the fact. And with that came a larger-than-life image for the band and plenty of clamoring for a reunion. Looking back at the acrimonious circumstances surrounding their breakup, last year's Pixies reunion was greeted with surprise, delight-and huge expectations.
Black explains that he and his Pixies bandmates, bassist/singer Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, dealt with the anticipation surrounding the reunion the only way they knew how-by ignoring it.
"We didn't make a big deal out of the band the first time around. We just did what we did," he says. "We just hoped that everybody was right as far as the big myth was concerned, and we just did what we did again. We didn't analyze it. We didn't make a big deal out of it. We just did our little shtick, and everyone seemed satisfied."
That the Pixies are returning to the road this summer is a good indication that reuniting has been both an artistic and commercial success. Black, who went by the name Black Francis during the Pixies' original run (his real name is Charles Thompson), says the four band members get along fine these days.
"I think we always did get along, even when there was stress," he says. "Now that stress really isn't there, so we're able to be cozy and friendly. We used to be cozy and friendly, too, when we first started. But eventually things get messed up. Things happen and people get tired and people start to focus on the stress."
Black released nine albums after the Pixies' split, either as a solo artist or with his backing band, the Catholics. He didn't really consider a Pixies reunion until major changes in his life-including the end of his marriage of 16 years-caused him to gain a new perspective.
"I had the rug pulled out from under me to a certain extent, and a whole new life. Everything was just kind of dumped upside down and shaken around," he says. "Things that didn't seem good before didn't seem bad or like a big deal. I could go, "Well, yeah, I guess I've been making a big deal out of [the Pixies' history] for such a long time.' But you know, you lose something that's important to you and it tends to put things in perspective.
"[I started going], "Oh man, I'm making a big deal out of nothing. And we got an opportunity to make our families happy financially. So, yeah, let's do it.'"
At this point, the Pixies appear to be taking their future one step at a time. Fans undoubtedly hope the band will make a new studio album, but Black is making no promises or predictions, saying he's waiting for the right inspiration, not demand.The Pixies play at Street Scene on July 30. $55. www.street-scene.com.