By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Robert Pollard doesn't do phone interviews. The frontman of the reunited Guided By Voices feels, according to his publicist, that he can give more accurate, thoughtful responses via e-mail instead of the immediacy of a direct conversation.
It's an interesting position to take, for a man who reportedly only uses his wife's computer to shop eBay. And this calculated response to interviews is directly contrary to his band's recording philosophy, which basically consists of setting up crappy microphones around the house, getting wasted, recording every idea over the course of a weekend and releasing every second of it.
Calculated and thoughtful, that's not.
Nonetheless, that lo-fi mixture of garage pop and rehashed British Invasion songcraft is how Pollard and his bandmates—Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell and Greg Demos—made their name in the early 1990s.
And, on September 29, that "classic" Guided By Voices lineup will start their reunion tour in Dallas.
"The decision was inspired by the offer to play the Matador 21st anniversary event in Las Vegas," Pollard offers of the reunion. "At first I said no, and then I thought about getting back together with Greg, Toby, Mitch and Kevin and I thought it sounded painless...Since we were going to go through the process of learning and rehearsing, we might as well book an entire U.S. tour around it."
But, see, the boys aren't getting any younger, and the pressures that led to this lineup's breakup haven't gone away: Law practices, family obligations and outside artistic interests still weigh on the members.
Pollard, meanwhile, continues to be one of the most prolific songwriters in rock. Since he originally retired the Guided By Voices name in 2004, he's put out two box sets of previously unreleased material, plus a dozen solo records and numerous albums from other projects like Boston Spaceships and Circus Devils. He even continues to collaborate with other ex-GBV members, namely guitarist Doug Gillard. The pair recently released a 7-inch single.
"It's a collaboration and Doug recorded the music first," says Pollard. "Doug's a fantastic guitar player and writes long songs, so it's naturally going to be a little more elaborate and over-the-top."
This may lead one to ask if fans can expect new music from the old Guided By Voices. After all, there seems to be more than enough music from Pollard to go around. But with all of those other projects, Pollard warns fans to not get their hopes up—although not without teasing them with the prospect at the same time.
"I don't really see it," he says. "But I'm not going to completely close any doors...If I think it might be a good idea to record a Guided By Voices record I will."
So the upcoming tour will have to suffice for those looking to recapture that little slice of the early '90s. The hairs are a little grayer, sure, and the livers are a little blacker. But don't expect the band to have changed too much from the notoriously long and alcohol-fueled shows from the good ol' days. Fans can still expect the booze firmly in Pollard's hand and plenty of enthusiasm from the band.
And then? Although the final GBV lineup has been offered a few shows, Pollard has no additional plans for the moniker any time soon.
"I'm going to let this classic lineup gig play itself out, have a good time and then see what happens next," he says. "I may decide to never tour again...Rock and roll is a lot of fun at whatever capacity one is involved."