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Brewing up a party
It's an idea Bob Pollard has been toying with for some time -- a book
devoted entirely to rock band names.
"You know how you can get these books for baby names if you can't think of
what to call your newborn?" says the frontman for lo-fi alt-rockers Guided
By Voices over the phone from the band's Dayton, Ohio, base. "I was serious
about doing a book of nothing but band names. But then I thought, 'Damn,
this is gonna take too long.'
"I only had about 1,000 of them and I was going to have to come up with
about 7,000 names."
Some of Pollard's wacky choices -- Groovy Lucifer, Approval of Mice, 1st
Joint, Fake Organisms and Urinary Track Stars -- can be found on Suitcase:
Failed Experiments and Trashed Aircraft, a four-CD box-set of 100 unreleased
gems available by mail order only (go to www.gbv.com for details).
"I love to write songs -- and I write a lot of them," the prolific Pollard
says. "And you've got to put them on records. What else are you going to do
with them? Sit there and play them on the porch?
Even though GBV, who make their Ottawa debut tomorrow night at Barrymore's,
aren't quite the household name in mainstream alt-rock
circles, why the cloak of secrecy?
'Just having fun'
"Guided By Voices has always been about confusion, I just want to screw
everybody's heads up," says Pollard, a former fourth-grade school teacher.
"But seriously, it's just us having fun."
There's an element of truth to the confusion. The 40-ish Pollard remains the
sole member and arguably the mind, heart, and soul of GBV since forming in
1986. Despite more than 40 musicians wandering through at one time or
another (eclipsing Spinal Tap's mythical 37), all have shared in Pollard's
vision of creating melodic lo-fi mini-epics.
In 1993, GBV's Vampire on Titus album grabbed the attention and peer support
from the likes of The Breeders, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and the
Beastie Boys. Signing to New York's Matador Records label a year later, GBV
pricked up mainstream critics' ears with 1994's Bee Thousand and '95's Alien
Lanes before inking a deal with the Universal-distributed TVT Records last
Though GBV have technically improved their own sound with 1999's Do The
Collapse, produced by former Cars leader Ric Ocasek, Pollard doesn't mind if
he, guitarists Doug Gillard and Nate Farley, bassist Tim Tobias and newly
recruited drummer (and Torontonian) Jon McCann draw comparisons to
The Who, The Beatles and Wire.
"Those are three of the best bands of all-time," Pollard says. "We get
comparisons like that all the time. But if you're gonna sound like somebody,
you might as well sound like the best ones.
"But we've been also compared to the Grateful Dead, for different reasons.
The Dead had its hardcore following of fans that do acid. We have this
hardcore following of fans that drink."
Over the years Pollard, who cites Budweiser as his barley-and-hops brand of
choice, has earned a reputation for his on-stage antics, mostly inspired
drunken banter which has garnered the band low-brow nicknames such as Guided
Mind you, the band plays up to the rep -- a mock headline on their website
reads, "The Robert Pollard All Beer Diet" -- and have their
own group of Deadhead-like devotees, Postal Blowfish.
"We open up our shows as one big party," Pollard says. "The bars love us,
because you can't watch a band that drinks like we do and not want