Guided by Voices
w/the Thermals
Wed Nov 17, Neumo's, 9:30 pm, $17.50 adv./$20 DOS.

Gearing up for what will be his last tour with the band that won him his unlikely fame, Robert Pollard is in a reflective mood. He's calling from the house he's just bought in his native Dayton, Ohio, and the experience of moving all of his many things, his most obscure demo tapes, the memorabilia that serves as every GBV fan's own Holy Grail, has gotten him thinking.

"I've invented my own realm in music," he marvels with very little ego. "I started having recurring dreams about being the only person in this big record store in Cincinnati, and there would be racks of 45s and albums on the wall, fictitious records I'd made up in my dream. When I'd wake up and it wasn't there, I'd feel really frustrated. So I decided I'd just start making this shit up in reality, making album covers, writing songs, inventing pseudonyms and fictitious band names. When we were actually discovered, back in 1993, I had a stack of maybe 100 album covers that I'd designed, and I threw them all away because I was afraid someone would discover them and think I was completely out of my mind."

The laugh that accompanies this story is tinged with no little regret. Earlier this year, Pollard announced that Half Smiles of the Decomposed, Guided by Voices' 16th album, would also be their last, and that the loveably shambolic touring unit they'd become over the years, akin to an indie rock Grateful Dead with beer where the bongs should be, would finally be retired. This has obviously prompted a thoughtful period for Pollard; he's mulling over the band's meteoric rise--from weekend hobby-band of a beer-drinking, dreamy-eyed teacher, to one of indie rock's most beloved cult icons--and what might be an uncertain future.

"I wish I hadn't thrown that shit away," he rues. "I didn't realize that our hardcore fans really love the obscure stuff better. The crazier, the goofier, the... worse that it is, the better they seem to like it. I wish I'd kept that stuff, because it's going for a lot of money on eBay."

Like former GBV guitarist Tobin Sprout, Pollard has recently been making cash on the auction site, selling off prized GBV memorabilia like copies of the original run of their 1993 breakthrough album Propeller, each with its own individual, hand-made sleeve.

"It had one of the covers I designed, I signed it and everything. I was asking $800 for it but I ended up getting $6,200," he marvels. "I got $115 for a copy of Sandbox [GBV's second LP], and I was kinda disappointed. To be disappointed about getting $115 for one record is ridiculous. It's weird, but it's kinda gratifying, that you can generate that level of obsession. It gives me a little bit of a sense of job security--if things don't go to well for me in the future, it's good to know there's going to be at least a thousand people who'll spend that kind of money on the shit that I do."

Don't mistake cynicism in Pollard's idle career-projection. As a rock fan, Bob's been the obsessive himself a bunch of times, and knows the exquisite pleasure of owning your favorite band's catalog in every available color of vinyl. But that same fandom Bob's grateful for also precipitated GBV's split.

"I've been trying to end it for a long time, since Propeller," he reveals. "The name was so established, it was difficult to progress, to take new directions. It was like we had to please all these different factions, and what they expected of each album. I was getting sick of it, I want to be able to put it to bed, and maybe return to it in 10 years and see if it really did mean anything."

Embracing this spirit of moving forward while looking backward is Pollard's next solo double, due next year; his first post-GBV release is composed of 11 new songs and 15 developed from ancient demos discovered in the move. "I've been burning all these undiscovered demos to CD," he adds, an audible glimmer in his eye. "I'm only a 10th of the way through and I've already got 20 80-minute CDs of songs, ideas, and jams. I've had to stop; it gives me migraine headaches looking through it all!"

editor@thestranger.com

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