Before Nirvana took the world by storm, a band from Dayton, Ohio, called Guided by Voices was creating innovative post-punk rock—what would come to be known as “alternative rock.”
Guided by Voices will finally be appearing at Coachella for the first time on Friday, April 14 and 21.
The history of Guided by Voices is a bit hard to explain. Robert Pollard founded Guided by Voices in 1983. The group, amidst varying lineups, broke up in 2004, reunited in 2010, broke up again in 2014, and reunited last year. The prolific band has produced music that one could call lo-fi, psychedelic rock, garage rock, punk rock and post-punk rock. The group has released 23 albums (not counting various “unofficial” releases), at one point putting out as many as three albums in one year.
The current lineup includes Robert Pollard (lead vocals), Doug Gillard (guitar), Bobby Bare Jr. (guitar), Mark Shue (bass) and Kevin March (drums).
During a recent phone interview with Doug Gillard, who was a member from 1997 to 2004 before rejoining the band in 2016, he said the band still calls Dayton home.
“I’m personally from Cleveland, so I still love Cleveland, even though I don’t make it back there that much, but Bob (Pollard) still lives in Dayton,” Gillard said. “That’s kind of where we’re still based. We still rehearse there, and that’s where we start every tour. We still like Dayton, but there are not a lot of venues for Guided by Voices to play, or the venues are booked.”
One of the best-known and least-lo-fi albums from Guided by Voices’ heyday is Do the Collapse, from 1999, which was produced by Ric Ocasek, guitarist of The Cars. The album received a mixed reception.
“We were a four-piece back then,” Gillard said. “We did the basic tracks, and that left Bob and I doing most of the overdubs; we came back to oversee the mixing a couple of weeks later. We even did some recording at Ric’s house, because he had a tape machine there. The rest we did at Electric Lady Studios in New York. We had a pretty fun experience at that time. I personally wasn’t down with some of the production things that were happening, but Bob sort of wanted to see where it would go. That’s the record that came out—but I personally had fun recording it.”
Amid all of the lineup changes and reunions, I asked Gillard what keeps Guided by Voices going.
“I think Bob enjoys touring, and touring with the band behind him,” he said. “He does enjoy putting out records under the name Guided by Voices, so it’s sort of like, ‘Why not just use that name all the time?’ He still records solo albums, (has) solo ventures and (has) side bands, too, but under Guided by Voices, we can do the whole repertoire and the whole history. We can play all the songs from the records that have come out, all the fan favorites—and Bob is always writing. He writes songs every day. I’d say Guided by Voices is probably the best outlet for most of the stuff he writes.”
Last year, Guided by Voices released a new album, and will be releasing yet another new album on April 7.
“That’s pretty much Bob solo under the name of Guided by Voices,” Gillard said of last year’s Please Be Honest. He recorded everything himself. … He even played the drums and was going around the studio in Dayton playing everything. We have a double album coming out in April, August by Cake. We recorded that in New York as a band, and five of the songs are songs that Bob did in Dayton by himself, one-man-band style. I added some guitar to those finished mixes. Eight of the songs are two songs each by the other band members to fill out a double album. That was a lot of fun. … It’s kind of a sprawling double album.”
Gillard said the seemingly continuous recording process doesn’t burn him out—but that touring does at times.
“I love recording. That’s probably my favorite thing to do—record and create things in the studio,” he said. “Sometimes, you get tired when you’re touring of the live shows, and we tend to play long shows. We try to take a day off in between each show, and that helps.”
Guided by Voices has been on many Coachella fans’ wish lists for many years. Gillard said he’s not sure why the band has never played the festival in the past.
“I’m always up for playing festivals,” Gillard said. “In my tenure with Guided by Voices, we’ve played quite a few. I don’t know if the band has been asked to play Coachella in the past or not, but maybe it was during a time when Bob was on a hiatus from touring. I know we’re very excited to be playing.”