Interviews #1


By Randee Dawn

Talk about Guided By Voices and a lot of numbers come up. Eight years of obscurity. Two thousand songs (well, written if not recorded). Robert Pollard, the oldest burgeoning indie star at the age of 36. Two minute punk-pop slivers. In fact, Guided By Voices have long been ruled by these numbers--until one more cropped up: 1994, the year they were finally "discovered." "It was a hobby," explains Guided's primary Voice, Robert Pollard, about his band. "We were never so ambitious to think that something could happen with it. Now I look off into the skies with a tear in my eyes--I can't believe I get to do what I want to do."

Which is write songs for Guided By Voices, who were "found" by the media this year and have finally begun to get some attention outside of their native Ohio. Suddenly, songs that sound somewhere between the Dentists, the Beatles, and complete anarchy are fashionable again. So is Voices' style of recording 'low-fi'--on four tracks, a lot of hiss--a la Pavement. After all, say Pollard and the rest of the Voices (who include guitarist Toby Sprout, guitarist Mitch Mitchell, drummer Kevin Finell, and guitarist Jim Pollard, who does not tour), when it's just a hobby who needs to spend lots of money on production values? So goes Bee Thousand, their ninth album in eight years, packed with twenty songs of witty, obscure observations on everything from tractors to peepholes, ranging in style from psychedelia to punk.

"We're a pop band," explains Pollard, "but a strange pop band. We're otherworldly. There's something for everyone in there." Listening to a Guided By Voices album is like driving in a car with a very impatient friend who has control of the radio. Don't like this one? Here's another. And then there is Pollard's voice: the Midwestern roughness disappears when he sings, mutating into...."an English accent," says Pollard. "That's how I sing. That's just the way I learned to do it when I was a kid. Up until the early '80s I was listening to nothing but English music because I thought it was the greatest music--and it was."

That early English '70s progressive rock got Pollard into his first band, a heavy metal cover outfit, and back out again when Devo and punk came along a few years later. Entranced by the whole DIY ethic, Pollard was soon cranking out originals, and by 1986 fronted Guided by Voices for the fun of it, collecting gigs and albums like some people collect model aeroplanes. But it was only after their last two albums that Voices have had any recognition--and thanks to great press, this year they plan to sign to a large indie label, get their friend Kim Deal to produce them, and maybe even go hi-fi one of these days.

And Pollard is very, very optimistic about that future. "I'm kind of glad it has taken us this long," says Pollard. "Now we're tight, we know how to play. I don't think we could have handled it years ago. And that's part of the mystique, that it took this long and nobody knew about it. People like that."

(C) Copyright Critics' Choice 1994. All Rights Reserved. Transmitted: 94-09-09 10:28:27 EDT