Courtesy of Tell All Your Friends PR
Last year, the long-running indie rock act Guided by Voices entered yet another era as singer-guitarist Bobby Bare Jr., a guy who’s held down a solo career for the past two decades, joined the band at the request of its founder, singer Robert Pollard.
Bare, who in our interview with him at the time described 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.
Doubting that they could follow-up Nashville Pussy, a band that plays, as he puts it, “a million miles a minute speed metal,” he was shocked when they “came out and destroyed the universe.”
As the reconstituted group toured last year, guitarist Nick Mitchell left the band in the middle of the tour. In the wake of his departure, Pollard recruited former Clevelander Doug Gillard, who had played with local rock groups Death of Samantha, Gem and Cobra Verde before joining the group in 1997.
Speaking via phone from the Phoenix area, where he was taking a few days off before the band’s appearance at the Coachella festival, Gillard reflects on how he came to first join the band some 20 years ago.
“We’d been friends with the band since 1993 or 1994,” says Gillard. “I think I first met Bob in 1993 when he got signed to Scat Records. When they would come to Cleveland, either Cobra Verde or Gem would open for them. We all got to be good friends. I had jumped up on stage with them a few times to jam. I was a fan of the music and a friend of Bob’s.”
Gillard joined at a particularly good time. He and members of Cobra Verde backed Pollard on 1997’s exuberant Mag Earwhig!
, and Gillard would soldier on with the guys as they signed to TVT Records and delivered 1999’s Do the Collapse and 2001’s Isolation Drills, albums that nearly delivered the pop/rock hit that has always eluded the band.
“We certainly had a good time making Mag Earwhig!
, which we recorded in Cleveland,” says Gillard. “When we worked with [the Cars’] Ric Ocasek on Do the Collapse
, he made the record sound like he wanted it to. We didn’t have a lot of say so with that one, but Bob wanted to see where it would go. Then, when we worked with Rob Schnapf on Isolation Drills
, it was an organic and natural process. He let us be us. He had great ideas so that was a good experience.”
After a 2004 farewell tour, Pollard put the band back together in 2010 to play the Matador Records 21st Anniversary celebration in Las Vegas. The group toured and recorded until disbanding once again in 2014, only to reunite again last year and issue Please Be Honest
, an album Pollard recorded entirely on his own.
When Pollard needed Gillard to fill in for Mitchell at a Cincinnati festival, Gillard, who tours and records with the indie act Nada Surf, worked the gig into his schedule.
“We had to really scramble, but I got a flight and made it to Cincinnati in time to play the show,” says Gillard. “After that show, Pollard asked me to rejoin the band. There was a lot of thought and discussion that went into the decision. It has all worked out well.”
Gillard says Bare Jr. has proven to be a good addition to the band.
“He sings some backup vocals and is really useful in that respect,” says Gillard. “He takes care of the guitar on the other side of the stage.”
For the just-released August by Cake
, Pollard recorded five of the songs on his own before bringing the band together to complete the disc. He wanted each member to write at least two songs for what would become the band’s first double-disc. The riveting Who-like “5° on the Inside” opens the 32-song album with a bang as Pollard then continues to exploits his British Invasion obsession with songs such as “Fever Pitch” and “What Begins on New Year’s Day.”
“It’s a double album on vinyl but only a single CD,” explains Gillard. “It was initially just a batch of songs for a new album but at some point, Bob decided it should be a double album and we set out to do that. It wasn’t a last minute decision. It was a mid-way through decision.”
Gillard says the album features a “more diverse” set of songs than other GBV albums.
“Bob just keeps at it,” says Gillard, adding that the band tends to play about 12 songs from the album. “He keeps writing fresh songs. He has a great sense of melody and comes up with interesting titles. Most of the cover art is his collages. All that combined makes for an intriguing package and this album runs the gamut. We all sing a little more. I like the diversity of sounds coming from the different studios we used too. I always liked albums that weren’t homogenous.”
In typical fashion, Pollard still drinks heavily while performing as he embraces the rock lifestyle with enthusiasm.
“We’ve cut back a bit on the drinking,” says Gillard. “If we can, we still have the cooler of beer on stage. It’s not just a prop — it gets used.”
Guided by Voices, Mirrors, 9 p.m. Saturday, May 6, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216-321-5588. Tickets: $32 ADV, $35 DOS, grogshop.gs