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Guided By Voices Make Another Unusual Return

Aug. 23, 2016
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It’s not uncommon these days for defunct bands to decide they’re not so broken up after all, to be lured out of retirement either by unsatisfied creativity or a substantial paycheck, so it was perhaps not surprising when, in 2010, Robert Pollard first reunited Guided By Voices after six years away. More unusual though was not the fact that the lo-fi legends were back, but that they were downright busy, releasing six albums before disbanding yet again four years later. Now, just as fans were readjusting to a world without GBV, forced to make due with only Pollard’s prolific solo output and numerous side projects, the band is back together once more, even if, oddly enough, they don’t actually appear on their own triumphant return.

“On this one Bob recorded everything himself, even the drums and the bass and everything, but it truly is Guided By Voices; he wanted to call it that instead of Robert Pollard solo,” says longtime guitarist Doug Gillard, explaining the unusual circumstances behind the new record, Please Be Honest. To Gillard, the solo nature of their initial comeback is more a result of Pollard’s personal vision and bottomless work ethic. “When you’re dealing with Robert, there’s a lot of material, he’s just constantly working, and I think he has the luxury of picking and choosing which project he wants to assign certain songs to,” he says. “There’s never a dearth, there’s never a spell of, ‘Hmm, I haven’t written in a while,’ not with Bob.”

While he’s conspicuously absent from the album, Gillard, along with returning drummer Kevin March, will be on board for the fall tour, which when we spoke had yet to begin. “We have played one show where I filled in,” he says about the prospect of hitting the road with GBV again, “it was a festival so it was short and mostly older stuff, but for me it was like riding a bike.” Live is also where Gillard has a chance to add his spin to the Please Be Honest songs. “I have freedom to kind of add what I want to them or just play them the way they are, so we’ll have to see,” he says. “I’m having fun with them so they probably will evolve.”

It’s probably wise, by now, to expect the unexpected from Pollard and company, but according to Gillard, this new reunion will likely be similar to the first in terms of sheer musical volume, with a group outing due to be completed soon and more on the way. “We’ll finish that at the end of September as a full band and Bob told us that he had another record written to be recorded after that, so we’ll probably do that this winter,” he says, noting a potential change in direction with the group dynamic. “I think this next one will be a lot different than Please Be Honest. Exactly how I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it is going to take shape.” 

One thing you can certainly count on though is that there will be plenty of diehard Guided By Voices fans on hand to greet this incarnation of the group when they pull into Milwaukee Sept. 1, marking the first time they’ve played the city in well over a decade. For his part, Gillard seems glad to be returning to town as well. “I last played Turner Hall with Nada Surf a couple years ago, probably 2012 already, but it was a great place, I really loved it,” he says. “And I’m not surprised; Milwaukee’s always been a great GBV town as far as enthusiasm.” In any case, it’s just nice to have them back in action, no matter how long it lasts this time around.

Guided By Voices play Turner Hall Ballroom on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 8 p.m. 

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