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Gene Park

Doug Gillard has played guitar with Guided By Voices for over five years and he still has the occasional bout of stage fright. But this won't be a problem when the band plays this Saturday at the 9:30 club. Gillard and the rest of the band always have a remedy available.

"We have beers on stage. It [alcohol] is mainly to eradicate stage fright. I discover that if I only have one beer, or not enough or none, I'm a little more nervous than I usually am."

The band's reputation for drinking in their set is well established. But this fact is only one of many components that have allowed Guided By Voices to sustain themselves in the rock world, both on and off-stage.

For instance, fans should anticipate another massive set list at their concert. Most groups play around twenty songs before they call it a night, give or take a few encores. Guided By Voices considers performing 40 songs their routine repertoire.

"I think you become conditioned and you expect to do that many songs," Gillard explains. "We make sure right before the set we're all squared away in the bathroom."

Guided By Voices is also a well-oiled machine in the recording room. The band has never produced an album without receiving accolades from the critics, including "Do the Collapse," and "Isolation Drills," the last two major label releases on TVT Records.

This summer, Guided By Voices are busy promoting their new album, "Universal Truths and Cycles," which premiered in June back on their old label, Matador Records. Free from the pressures of pumping out the next big radio hit for TVT, "Universal" is entirely self-produced under the auspices of veteran frontman Robert Pollard. In fact, the band finished the whole album before Matador signed them.

The end product is a musical collage. "Universal" has its share of tightly- produced tracks such as "Back to the Lake," and the first single, "Everywhere With Helicopter." But there are also songs like "Storm Vibrations" and "Pretty Bombs" which are allowed to wander and experiment with different moods and melodies.

"Universal" also marks the return of the band's short tracks, which are under one and a half minutes. On the liner notes, the lyrics appear as brief poems, but on the speakers, tracks like "Wire Greyhounds," and "Love 1" stand as their own, challenging the idea that a song has to be a certain length.

Guided By Voices is more than ready to plug "Universal" to any fan willing to see them. On several of their recent concerts, the band played through the entire album before moving on to old favorites. Gillard insists that this doesn't make the audience shift in their shoes.

"I think it's a great way to promote it because I've discovered when we do the record start to finish, people are really getting into it."

Most recently, they discovered that The Strokes were fans. Band members Albert Hammond Jr. and Julian Casablancas handed Gillard their CD following a Guided By Voices concert. Pollard was so impressed by their music, he insisted that The Strokes open for them. Together, they played several shows in Los Angeles, as well as a notable concert at the Apollo Theater in New York on New Year's Eve.

The latest collaboration between the bands took place on a game show. The members of Guided By Voices faced off against the Strokes on the set of Family Feud in the making of the latter band's new video.

"It's never going to be an actual episode. There was cussing and swearing in it," Gillard recounts. "We beat them, but then they had to re-shoot a couple of scenes where it looked like they won because, of course, it's their video. We had a blast."

Gillard is well aware that Guided By Voices has played an important, but understated role as a band's band; a group that artists like The Strokes, Green Day and Jimmy Eat World are fans of. He is also convinced that Guided By Voices were instrumental in formulating the sounds of other musicians.

"I think there are a lot of bands that have gotten popular, or had a degree of success, that were influenced by Guided By Voices. I hear elements that I know Guided By Voices put in back in '93 or '94."

Nevertheless, Gillard is modest when referring to the band's impact on its fans and musicians. Although Slash from Guns N Roses and Mike Judge, the creator of "Beavis and Butthead" and "King of the Hill," have attended their shows, he doesn't want to get into the "celebrity name-dropping thing." In fact, he still lives in his hometown in Cleveland, snacking on frozen bean and cheese burritos and driving his 1988 Volvo station wagon.