Guided By Voices, one of Robert Pollard’s high-voltage, raw rock and roll projects with widespread critical and commercial success, will be headlining two nights at The Independent on Monday and Tuesday, August 22 and 23.
Joining Pollard and company will be longtime friend and multifaceted musical partner Doug Gillard. Gillard was in the band in the ’90s and early 2000s before he was tapped as the fourth permanent member of alternative indie rock group Nada Surf.
Guided By Voices is currently recording a new album — the group’s 23rd. They are supported both nights by Broncho, an avant-garde punk rock project that began as a film soundtrack.
We had the opportunity to tap Gillard and get some insight into the mad world of Pollard’s Guided By Voices, Gillard’s own musical journey, and more.
Doug Gillard: Hi, Is this this Joshua?
The Bay Bridged: Yes, this is! Thanks for giving me a call Doug, I really appreciate it.
DG: Oh yeah, you’re welcome. I just got out of a rehearsal, sorry I couldn’t call earlier.
TBB: Oh that’s fine. Given how many projects you’re in, I’m surprised you had time to call me at all.
DG: This week in particular has been really pretty busy.
TBB: You were just playing in Europe with Nada Surf, right?
DG: Yeah, uh huh, I got home on Monday.
TBB: Which group were you in the studio with today?
DG: Guided By Voices.
TBB: OK, nice!
DG: We’re doing some new tracks from the album and also rehearsing.
TBB: Awesome. I’m really curious what you consider one of your most driving forces. What gets you and Pollard and all these guys to dip your hands into so many different projects?
DG: Ha. I’m not really sure. Um, insanity, maybe?
TBB: Is it pure energy?
DG: The offer is there to play, and a lot of times I find it hard to pass up, especially if it’s a good project or band. There are things I turn down for sure.
TBB: Really? You wouldn’t be able to tell with your output. What do you like most about playing in different groups? Is it the opportunity to express yourself with different musical partners?
DG: That definitely is a factor. Sometimes I can do more nuanc-y things with a certain group or more power stuff with another group. Mostly I can do both within the same outfit. I do it on my own albums and everything. I try to be a diverse player.
TBB: That’s one thing I really like about your style with Guided By Voices. You have that aggressive garage style that’s perfect for Pollard’s whole ‘fuck the tuning and play’ attitude.
DG: A lot of that is kinda just playing what was on the older records before I joined, too, knowing the way they played it and playing it the same way on some of those older songs. I know that kind of continued, too, into the era that I was in the band the first time. It’s kind of a tradition, I do enjoy doing that too.
TBB: What kind of perspective do you bring to the group when you are with them, despite the tendency for Pollard to break up the group or do all of something on his own and bring in some people on what feels like a whim?
DG: Well, he sort of wanted me back for several years, but he knew I had another commitment, but we found a way to sort of make both work. There was a vacancy and he acquired members, but he needed someone to fill in on guitar and I happened to be free so I flew out to Cincinnati and played the show a couple weeks ago.
TBB: Very cool! How did you start to get involved with Nada Surf?
DG: Shortly after I moved to New York about ten years ago, I had a residency at a club called Piano’s and Matthew (Caws) came to see one of the shows. I had never met him before and he introduced himself, I thought it was really cool that he came. Turns out he was a fan of my playing from Guided By Voices and so was the whole band, they’d seen us a bunch of times but I’d just never met them. We caught someone else’s show and started talking some more, and they said, “We’re putting out an album of covers, why don’t you come play a couple things?” I said I’d love to. They were doing a song by Bill Fox who used to be in a band called The Mice from Ohio, and I played on two or three songs and then I was also available to play live, come along on some of the promotional shows they were doing and they found out it was a pretty good fit and everything kind of went from there.
TBB: I was lucky enough to have seen Nada Surf years back, before you had joined the band, and again most recently at your San Francisco stop at the Great American and I was pretty blown away. I was really excited to hear that there was another layer of guitar being added to it. I don’t want to say that it was missing that the whole time, but those songs sounded really good with your second layer. I really like what you brought to them.
DG: Well, thanks a lot.
TBB: What inspires you to keep playing and keep coming up with new music? Do you have any contemporary artists that you’ve been turned onto in the last year or so that you can’t get enough of?
DG: No, not contemporary necessarily, but, I don’t know. I’m always turned on by listening to older stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of sunshine pop and arrangement pop from the ’60s, obscure or popular. I always go back to post-punk stuff too, early ’80s British post-punk was tied heavily into my formative years and I keep going back to it. Post-punk and some of the punk rock that sort of became new wave in those days. But I mean I listen to all sorts of things. I’m inspired by classical music. I’m inspired by sound effects, you know.
TBB: OK, but when you’re going to seek music you tend to fall back on what you already know or do you continually try to dig out obscure musicians and acts from that time period that you haven’t heard yet?
DG: Sometimes things take you there, yeah. I don’t actively try to seek them out, but sometimes you stumble onto them as a sidebar and go, ‘Oh, who’s this? I don’t remember this one or these guys but this is neat.’
TBB: Right on! In your opinion, what kind of performance environment best supports Guided By Voices? Do you prefer the small rooms and bars or would you be OK playing a stadium or Red Rocks or something massive like that?
DG: Oh, I’d be comfortable anywhere. Small clubs are fun, but, I mean, big stages are great as well.