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Here for the Beer - From Brainsoap.com
By Patrick Berkery
GBV's Robert Pollard brings his unruly entourage to town for the second time in six months. And this time, it's all about the openers.
Today must be my lucky day. Guided By Voices chairman Robert Pollard has blown off every interview this morning to plug his band's upcoming tour with Sloan and the American Flag. Every interview except mine.
"Oh, man, I've been down recording," an amped-up Pollard apologizes halfway through the answering machine message from his Dayton, Ohio, home. "This is the first time I've ever had a 4-track. Dave Shouse gave me a 4-track that the Grifters recorded all of their stuff on. So I'm kind of excited, because I'm multi-tracking as I write and I've never done that, except for jamming with Toby [ex-GBV guitarist Tobin Sprout] and my brother [part-time GBV guitarist Jimmy Pollard]."
These are heady days for the 41-year-old
former schoolteacher, who has probably tracked an album's worth of new material
on his new toy.
Pollard's ever-shifting band has made its well-documented first step toward the big leagues with their TVT debut, Do the Collapse, a spit-shined collection of pop charmers produced by Ric Ocasek. The label is expecting big things from the anthemic new single, "Hold on Hope," which hits radio on Monday. So it's understandable if Pollard's mind is racing in 100 different directions at once.
He tells me how he'll be putting his Rockathon Records imprint (which he co-owns with Pete "Manager for Life" Jamison) to bed this summer. The label's swan song will be a compilation--featuring Rockathon bands Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, 84 Nash, the Tasties, the American Flag and GBV--entitled Long Live Rockathon. He says the cover will feature each GBV member sitting in a football stadium. "That'd be pretty cool-looking, wouldn't it?" he asks with the laugh of someone who's been up all night working on his pop guile and 16-ounce curls.
Before I even offer my opinion of the album
cover, the conversation turns to Pollard's other passion besides rock: beer.
Pollard recalls the time Budweiser asked him to write them a commercial jingle,
for which he would have received enough money to buy the lizards, the
Clydesdales and his own never-ending stash of the Beachwood-aged brew. He spent
all of 10 minutes trying to pen them a tune (which was to include the signature
"This Bud's for You" line) before realizing it was a ridiculous
proposition. The prolific beer-drinker goes on to tell me that, believe it or
not, he didn't have a
secret stash tucked away in case of any Y2K mishaps.
"I didn't really think about it," Pollard says sheepishly. "We actually joked about it in my garage [the Monument Club, clubhouse to Pollard and his Dayton drinking buddies], but we never really did it."
When I bring up the pending tour with Sloan and the American Flag--which kicks off at the TLA Thursday--Pollard pauses just long enough to make the following observation about the hook-heavy triple bill. "That's a lot of Canada there, man," Pollard says with a buzz-saw laugh, referring to each band's status as neighbors to the north (Sloan from Nova Scotia, AF from Toronto). "We try to bring good bands out with us, man. This is gonna be bad."
"Bad" is probably the biggest understatement of this nascent millennium. Tomorrow night is a flippin' wet dream for lovers of loud, hook-heavy pop. Beginning with the American Flag's bubble-gummy meringue of chirpy choruses and retro instrumentation (on fine display on their self-titled long-player on Champagne/Rockathon) continuing with Sloan's lo-fi bash 'n' pop, right on through to GBV's workmanlike histrionics and hooks, the show promises to be all killer, no filler. It's the kind of bill you'll be telling the young ones about with a tear in your eye years from now. One other such bill stands out in Pollard's mind: AC/DC with Cheap Trick at the Columbus Veterans Memorial.
"My brother and a bunch of guys, we all went to Columbus to see AC/DC and Cheap Trick, my favorite band at the time," Pollard remembers. "We get up there and the sign said, 'AC/DC sold out with special guest Cheap Trick,' and that was our favorite band so we were freaking out. We had a bunch of big guys with us, and we kind of bullied people into selling us their tickets. That was probably the greatest bill I've ever seen."
Pollard got a chance to get up close and personal with his teen heroes when GBV co-headlined a tour with Cheap Trick last fall. Pollard thinks some of the old-guard Cheap Trick faithful took issue with his band's extended opening sets (which clocked in at 75 minutes--or several coolers of beer, whichever was up first). But reports were that GBV got on just fine with the pride of Rockford, Illinois. For the most part.
"They were cool, but they were a little bit over-fatherly," Pollard recalls with another buzz-saw laugh. "Telling us, 'You shouldn't drink so much,' or, 'If you come up onstage and sing with us, you should be in pitch.'"
Sensing a smooth transition, Pollard goes back to singing the praises of GBV's openers on the pending tour.
"They pump me up," he raves on about Sloan and the American Flag, the latter which he discovered in Toronto during a tour with Urge Overkill in 1995. "You want good bands to open for you because they pump you up. If not, you're just sitting around with your thumb up your ass waiting for the show. Like I said, we bring good bands with us, man."
Guided By Voices - Thurs., Jan. 13, 9pm. $13.50-$14.50. With Sloan and the American Flag. Theater of the Living Arts, 334 South St. 215.922.1011 www.electricfactory.com