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Time Out London
BOB RULES Guided By Voices mainman Robert Pollard talks with Manish Agarwal Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard has been America's most prolific songwriter for nearly two decades. Inspired by a broad rock spectrum - from cryptic psychedelia to zesty new wave - the Dayton, Ohio native has penned hundreds of noisy, pretty, funny, sad, direct, obtuse and concise nuggets, all delivered in an intuitively catchy voice akin to a Yank Paul McCartney. 'I've always wanted to make music that has '60s melody and a '70s heaviness to it,' says Pollard, in London to promote GBV's thirteenth studio album 'Universal Truths And Cycles'. 'That was the music of my youth. I kind of want to be heavy metal, but not to be that type of band. To be somewhat cerebral. I've always dug the lyrics of the '70s - like Pete Townshend and early Peter Gabriel. I want to combine all that stuff together. It keeps it from being too garagey or Merseybeat or bubblegum or whatever.' Marking GBV's return to powerhouse independent label Matador, 'Universal Truths And Cycles' is certainly diverse: a 19-track, 46-minute gem glinting with hooks both immediate and buried. It's the band's strongest album since their early '90s purple patch ('Propeller', 'Bee Thousand', 'Alien Lanes'), mixing the polished sound of recent LPs with the very basic recording style of their initial, self-pressed releases. The lo-fi thing is part of GBV's legend, but has also become a bit of a millstone. 'We haven't been lo-fi for a very long time yet we're stuck with that tag,' says Pollard. 'In some countries they call it "lo-fee"! We were only lo-fi because we couldn't afford to go to a studio. But I was kind of addicted to the sound and warmth of the four track. So even when we started making big studio records we still had four track songs. There's a couple on our new album. You come up with ideas on the spot. There are very few songs we didn't do in one take.' Surrendering to the moment is a feature of GBV's live shows, which definitely aren't lo-fi. The band exude the power of Cheap Trick and The Who, while Pollard is known for his athletic left leg high kicks and prodigious drinking. 'Your job is to party every night,' he says. 'In the States we tend to play big bars, and they love us because they have record nights in tips. We're a travelling beer blast!' Last time you played London you gave out cans from the stage. 'I get in trouble for that. Sometimes it's an all-ages show and they say don't hand out beers. But people beg for them and I feel sorry for them. They're the ones who fought to get down the front, they can't get back, so they deserve a beer. For the most part we don't attract kids. We've taken bands out on tour like The Strokes and Phantom Planet, who attract young girls. Then we come out and play and you can tell they're perplexed. 'What the fuck? It's my dad up there. And he's drunk!' Didn't you used to teach kids? 'It overlapped for about a year around "Bee Thousand" and it was rough. We had to play Friday, Saturday, Sunday and come into work on Monday. I'd be worn out: looking like a wreck and smelling like alcohol. Seeping from my pores. The kids would know too. But I had a principal who was really understanding and I told her that I'd be leaving to pursue a musical career. Which people thought was pretty funny at the time!' Guided By Voices were the first band to take The Strokes out on tour in America. Does it bother Pollard that the New Yorkers have become so big so quick, while his group are still a cult phenomenon? 'No. First of all I think they're a good band and secondly they're young. They got the looks. Chicks dig 'em. We went through that phase. We're tired of that shit!'