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David Sprague

Former Cars Man Ric Ocasek Helps Drive Guided by Voice's Big New Sound

Guided by Voices leader Robert Pollard estimates he's written more than 2,000 songs over the past 30 years -- a backlog his ever-fluctuating band has yet to put a dent in, despite racking up more releases than the Beatles and the Who combined. On DO THE COLLAPSE, Pollard and his newest lineup -- keyed by ex-Cobra Verde guitarist Doug Gillard and ex-Breeders drummer Jim McPherson -- are rendered larger than life by producer Ric Ocasek, who emphasizes the latter half of GBV's "lo-fi arena-rock" sound. In conversation with Pollard, bn.com's David Sprague gets the lowdown on GBV's new hi-fi sound and finds out that sometimes bigger really is better.

barnesandnoble.com: Did working with Ric Ocasek have a great deal of impact on the way you approached DO THE COLLAPSE?

Robert Pollard: Not to be too cryptic, but yes and no. I knew going in that we would do things differently, not because we were moving to a bigger label and working with a big-name producer but because I was tired of doing things the same way all the time. I wanted to expand our horizons. At the same time, when you're working with Ric Ocsaek, you're working with someone who worked with Roy Thomas Baker. So, like one of those six degrees of separation things, you're going to sound a little more like Queen.

bn.com: This is also the first time you've done a full album of songs that most people would consider standard, in terms of both structure and length. Did the jump to the "next level" have anything to do with that?

RP: A lot of it has to do with the band I'm playing with now. Since Doug [Gillard] is such an amazing guitar player, I'll write more songs that have breaks in them so that he can play solos -- which is purely a selfish thing for me, since I like listening to him play. I'm also growing up a little bit, admittedly a little later than most people, so I'm getting more patient with the way I write. I'm not just throwing every idea I have onto tape as fast as I can.

bn.com: You still do that with your side projects, though.

RP: Oh, yeah. See, I have to be doing something all the time or else I go crazy. I just finished a new solo album that we'll put out on Rockathon later this year. That will be my fifth album of 1999.

bn.com: So in Dayton, are you viewed as some sort of guru, or are you ignored more than you would be on the road?

RP: I'm definitely less conspicuous here, which is the answer I'm sure you'd get from most people who come from smaller towns. People from New York or L.A. are just fascinated by these old guys playing these weird, fast pop songs, where here people just say "Oh, you again? Yeah, we remember you...."

bn.com: Even closer to home, your own children have pretty much grown up with GBV. What do they think of the band?

RP: My son is 18, and he came on the road with us for the first time. He's finally starting to like what GBV does because he's gotten really into classic rock, like the Doors and Led Zeppelin, and I think he hears the similarity there, He's got a band now too, but I'm not allowed to hear it. From what I understand, there's spoken word and some guy doing Indian chants.

bn.com: GBV in general -- and you in particular -- drink an awful lot of beer onstage. Is there any chance that you'll be pursuing an endorsement from one of America's finer breweries?

RP: I'm still working on that one. Rolling Rock turned me down, which was a drag, but we almost had something going with Budweiser. They wanted me to write a song for them, and I tried, but they insisted I use the phrase "This Bud's for you" in it, and I just couldn't make myself do that.