When singer-guitarist Bobby Bare Jr., a guy who’s held down a solo career for the past two decades, found out that he’d be joining a reconstituted version of the indie rock band Guided by Voices for the current tour that includes a stop at the Grog Shop, he met privately with new bassist Mark Shue (Beech Creeps).
“We hung out in Brooklyn and got to whisper about how amazing it would be to do Guided by Voices,” says Bare during a recent phone interview. “He’s the youngest guy. He’s 32. [Drummer] Kevin [March] has been in the band for 20 some years. He’s amazing. If he wasn’t there, we would have had to rehearse a lot more. If you’re putting together a great rock band and you have a great drummer, 80 percent of your great rock band is put together. There’s no such thing as a great rock band with an average drummer.”
Bare, who describes himself as a “huge, obsessive Guided by Voices fan,” first came across the guys back in 1997 when he saw them perform with hard rockers Nashville Pussy in Austin.
“I was watching this six-foot-seven blonde girl [in Nashville Pussy] with big fake boobs blow flames and playing a million miles a minute speed metal,” he says. “I thought, ‘How the fuck are five guys from Dayton, Ohio going to follow up this boobage action?’ They came out and destroyed the universe. They were amazing.”
GBV founder Bob Pollard recorded the band’s latest album, Please Be Honest
, entirely on his own. He played every instrument on the disc. The album commences with “My Zodiac Companion,” a track that again reflects with Pollards’ affinity for British garage rock, particularly the Who. Songs such as the shimmering “Come On Mr. Christian” and “Glittering Parliaments” sound like vintage GBV as Pollard adopts a British accent and strums madly on his electric guitar while filtering in bits of feedback.
“’Zodiac Companion’ is just the shit,” says Bare when asked about his favorite songs on the album. “When I first heard it, it’s like Wembley Stadium, and we’re Queen. I get it. There’s a lot of big rock songs that are a lot of fun.”
Bare says the new songs sound even better live.
“Because [Pollard] played everything on the album, he never heard the songs as a band,” he says. “He heard them pieced together in a studio. When we did our first rehearsal, I thought it would hit him pretty heavy because he’s never heard it live pointed at him with four guys and four cabinets.”
In keeping with the epic nature of GBV shows, Bare learned over 50 songs for the tour. And then, Pollard will throw a wild card at the band.
“My biggest fear of any show, including my own, is not having a set list,” says Bare. “We didn’t rehearse ‘Baba O’Riley,’ which we played at the second show in St. Louis and it was the second encore. As we were walking to the stage, he said, ‘Let’s do “Baba O’Riley.”’ The bass player had never played it. I did it with my back to the audience and screamed the chords to the bass player. Bob thought it sounded great.”
In typical fashion, Pollard still drinks heavily while performing as he embraces the rock lifestyle with enthusiasm.
“You know, it never gets dark or weird but there is an unspoken two-hour pregame,” says Bare when asked about Pollard’s tendency to indulge himself. “I can’t drink before the show and not have to pee during the show. I can’t drink beer. I’ll sip some whiskey before the show. During the show, I’m trying to not drink. Once we get past the halfway point, then I’ll start drinking beer. My nightmare is that I have to pee during the show. [Pollard] is a conditioned athlete, so he’s drinking the whole show. We do the rehearsals with the songs one after another like the shows. We’ve even learned when [Pollard] is going to lunge for a drink.”
Guided by Voices, Nap Eyes, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 14, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216-321-5588. Tickets: $32, grogshop.gs.