Pixies frontman brings new band back to Boston

BMS talks with Frank Black and wife Violet Clark about their new music project

, Staff Writer

Grand Duchy is the newest musical excursion of Pixies frontman Frank Black. Joined by his wife Violet, the pair have recently put out their first album, Petit Fours, and have embarked on the second leg of a national tour. The two were kind enough to speak with Boston Music Spotlight about together as a married couple, as well as the creative drive behind their album

Boston Music Spotlight (BMS): How do you guys feel the first leg of your tour went?

Violet Clark (VC): I’ve got a bit of a Michael Jackson hangover; had to ween myself from the whole thing – it was starting to destroy me a little bit. But other than that, we’re great. We did some shows in Ma, and we have stuff coming up in July. A fun time was had by all – the shows went really well. We wish we could do super long tours, but we can’t.

BMS: Do you guys have a stage band?

Frank Black (FB): Yeah, we do. We have a drummer and keyboard player who help recreate those moments on the album in a live setting.

BMS: I ask because you’ve talked about the naïve quality that comes from you two playing instruments you’re not entirely familiar with. Is any of that lost with the inclusion of a stage band?

VC: Yes and no: The drums are definitely stronger, which I think is great for a live show – and our drummer is phenomenal. He tries to play with restraint, keeps the same forms as what’s on the record, but he’s just so great that he adds a lot of charisma to his drummer. Having said that, our keyboard player is actually a bass player. She’s experiencing what maybe I experienced while making the record, trying to play the drums. She brings her own qualities to the keyboard. It’s naïve, but not in comfort. It’s new and fresh for her, so it’s great. People are reacting very enthusiastically.

BMS: Would you ever consider playing a Pixies song at a Grand Duchy show?

FB: No, I don’t think so. We wouldn’t play a Pixies song, unless for some reason we covered one as Grand Duchy, and then we’d have a legitimate reason. Otherwise it would make no sense, you know what I mean?

BMS: There’s a big 80s sound to Petit Fours. Was it difficult for you, Charles, to reconcile that aesthetic with the very anti-80s aesthetic you became known for through the Pixies?

FB: Not really, no. I listen to all different kinds of music. I’m pretty open-minded, [and] don’t really have that many rules. The big rule I have is that I don’t like to go too Top 40-sounding, but that’s less production and more the kind of song I would write. I probably wouldn’t be very comfortable doing a song like “Candle In The Wind”.

BMS: Was there any kind of creative tension working together in the studio?

FB: The real problem isn’t any sort of creative tension. The real problem is whatever the problem of the song is, you know? Every song has its problems, and some are small and not a big deal, and the song comes together quickly. Other songs are just full of problems and take a long time to finish – I think that’s more the problem – when do you call a song finished? At the moment you could describe it as very post-production oriented. It’s all about when you call it finished, and that’s one of the greatest challenges with songwriting.

VC: I have much more patience for this kind of, like, tweaking. Charles is – you know – it makes his skin crawl, so I’m happy to do all of that.

BMS: Would you say, then, that there’s a pretty good balance between Charles’ spontaneity and Violet’s production on the record?

VC: That’s probably what gives the record a certain tension. There are aspects that are slicked out, and others that are left kind of undone.

FB:& [For the next album], I think we’d like the luxury of being able to spend less more time on [the record] than we did last time. We [want to] bring more production into it – make it less raw.

BMS: Will there be any differences on this leg of the tour?

FB: We’re gonna figure that out as it goes, I suppose. We’ve only really done one small tour, and it was all on the left coast, so I guess we’ll see.

VC: We don’t really wanna talk about it – I don’t want to jinx it!

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