What was supposed to be a one-night reunion has turned into a reincarnation for Guided by Voices, whose new album marks a return to their classic sound.Back in the early 1990s, Guided by Voices was the unlikeliest of rock ’n’ roll success stories.
Led by then-30-something grade-school teacher Robert Pollard, the band of basement dwellers from Dayton, Ohio, became a sensation, releasing a series of home-recorded masterpieces, including Bee Thousand, the 1994 landmark LP that improbably turned the group into the toast of the indie-rock world. By 1996, Guided by Voices — featuring Pollard, drummer Kevin Fenell, and guitarists Tobin Spout and Mitch Mitchell — was peaking.
“We were just starting to get international attention for being a really good band and a bunch of semi-old guys who could very well have missed the boat,” Pollard says.
But following the release of the group’s crowning LP, Under the Bushes Under the Stars, the classic-era GBV lineup fell apart. Pollard continued on with the group, using a rotating cast for eight years and recording half a dozen LPs before going solo in 2004.
In the summer of 2010, when Matador Records asked Pollard to reunite GBV for the label’s anniversary concert in Las Vegas, the one-off performance quickly evolved into a full-fledged and rapturously received U.S. tour. But Pollard — who’d remained busy with myriad recording projects — wasn’t sure about a return to the studio with the band.
“I was somewhat against it in the beginning,” he says. “But as the year progressed and the chemistry got stronger, I decided that it might not be a bad idea.”
As it turned out, the band’s resulting comeback album, Let’s Go Eat the Factory, was a very good idea. A throwback affair, the 21-track disc captures the besotted spirit and melodic majesty of the group’s earlier iconic LPs like Vampire on Titus and Alien Lanes. Pollard notes that little had changed in the 15 years between records. “We always had a four-track in our basement in the early ’90s,” he says, “and because of the nature and accessibility of the way we did things, it was always a very prolific lineup.”
Today, the band is continuing its prolific ways. Although Factory has just been released, Pollard notes that the reunited GBV has already completed a second album and is currently at work on a third.
“We’ve rediscovered ourselves and are going through a second childhood,” Pollard says. “We’re having fun.”