Guided by voices that are still working hard
No one in the world currently makes more great music than indie rock heroes Guided By Voices. Led by Dayton, Ohio native Robert Pollard, they’ve released six albums in the past two years alone — with a new one, “Crystal Nuns Cathedral,” dropping this week. The rest of this album has already been recorded. The same goes for about half of the one that follows.
Each of these albums is packed with meaty guitar leads, cleverly surreal lyrics, and mile-wide pop hooks. But the new one is just a little different, according to lead guitarist Doug Gillard – the longest-serving band member next to Pollard.
“We all strived for a slightly fatter sound on this one, starting with the drums and a lot of backing on the rhythm guitar and leads. Not that we’re a stadium band, but we wanted the sound to be more stadium-appropriate.
The band is now on tour, having had to reschedule dates due to COVID.
“We all stayed creative, and it seems like Bob is firing on all cylinders,” said Gillard, an on-and-off member of the band since 1997 (another longtime member is drummer Kevin March, once of Boston band The Dambuilders ; rhythm guitarist Bobby Bare Jr. is the country legend’s son).
“When you first join this group, you have to be sure that you can learn 60 songs at once. We’re now putting some of our old classics back in the expansion, so at least we’ve learned them already. But I still have to go back and learn songs that we haven’t played since they were recorded.
It takes a strong work ethic to be part of this group. Members received a steady supply of raw demos from Pollard and began to come up with arrangements.
“He gets up and likes to be creative in the morning. This might involve writing a few songs, as well as working on his art and collages. All his demos are on tape and he saves them in the boom box, then he can put them on CDR so he can edit new parts. And that’s where we could put some creative magic into it. I always try to develop the right melodic guitar elements depending on the song.
Some of his guitar inspiration comes from a certain band in Boston.
“I was 13 when The Cars came out and I was like, ‘That’s it, this is my band now.’ I was still of age as a guitarist and I was very attached to what Elliot Easton did with them.
There have been many incarnations of VBG over four decades, but the current roster is the most stable in its history, with no personnel changes since 2016. And Gillard says that has made a difference.
“I would say that Bob writes more complex texts than before, because he realizes how much we can do. For example, we all grew up with the same FM radio, and we all have prog in our record collections. Beyond that, we all get along really well, so that helps too.
The band may be legendary for projecting a party vibe on stage, but the current lineup has also proven to be remarkably tight.
“I wouldn’t say we’re more disciplined, though. I’m a little older than before, but that’s about it.