Guided by Voices Guitarist Doug Gillard Explains Band's Myriad Side Projects

Guided by Voices fans don’t get ruffled by lineup changes.

If they did, it would have affected the band’s popularity long ago. Turn up at a GBV show, now or at any point the past couple decades, and the jam-packed rooms are a testament to the fans’ trust in Bob —Robert Pollard, that is, GBV’s afro-sporting, leg-kicking, beer-loving founder and front man. Loyalists know that Bob’s not gonna put his enormous catalog in the hands of collaborators he deems less than perfect to deliver his indie rock gems that employ a lot of rock 'n' roll “P’s.” Pop, punk, psychedelic, and prog are all styles and sensibilities that have a place in the overall GBV sound. Anthemic, post-punk heartbreakers delivered with force, and often brevity, are also a specialty.

The recent roster shakeup is one that has everyone excited all around. Doug Gillard, who was in the band for a good decade or so (mid-'90s to mid-2000s), is back in the fold. Towards the end of this current tour’s last leg, the GBV tree shook, and then-guitarist Nick Mitchell was no longer in the band. A phone call to Gillard to fill in at the Cincinnati show led to an invitation to jump back in as a full-time member, which he happily accepted. Gillard’s been sharing his excellent guitar work with the world for many years. Prior to his time in GBV, he was in legendary Cleveland post-punk band Death of Samantha and also Cobra Verde. Both bands had shared the stage as openers for GBV. He's also the founder of pop-rock band Gem, and continuously engages in solo efforts.

In between his rehearsing for this leg of the tour, and learning a slew of new Guided by Voices songs, we caught up with Gillard for a quick chat.
New Times: So less than a month ago, you re-joined GBV while they were nearing the last leg of their tour. How’d that happen?
Doug Gillard:  So, they were touring, and someone who was employed by the band [became] no longer employed by the band, so I was called to see if I could fill in on guitar, since I already knew most of the songs. I was available and happy to do it. It was great fun, as expected. After that, the question was if I wanted to join up, and I said “sure.”

Thanks. There were a few different stories flying around the Internet.
Was I in league with the Kardashians as an internet topic?

I don’t know if I’d say you were trending, but there was some chatter.
Maybe trending in some marginal, online indie rock circles.

You’re on the tour and then what, as far as GBV goes?
I’m not sure. I’m here for what Bob wants to do. We’re gonna record a new GBV record in several weeks; that’s in the works.

You also have a separate project with Bob, right?
There’s another project called ESP Ohio that we worked on earlier this year. We have a recording we’ll release in the fall, most likely in November. That also includes Mark [Shue]; that will be released in the fall, probably November, maybe earlier. That also includes Mark Shue, who’s currently playing bass with GBV, and our friend Travis Harrison on drums. We recorded at Travis’ studio in New York. These are all songs that Bob wrote.
Will that band be doing any touring? And what does it sound like?
Probably not as that project, but we’ll put some of the songs in the GBV live set. It was a little hard to describe the sound at first, but it ended up sounding like a combination of the record Bob and I did together in 1999, called Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department, and the GBV record, Do the Collapse.

Did you jumping on to the tour have any effect on the set list?
It didn’t change much at all, if anything. There’s a couple new songs that were actually dropped. We are playing a lot of things from the album Please Be Honest, which was released earlier this year. I’ve had about 30 new songs to learn.

You’re playing in Nada Surf, right? And what else?
Yes. I’ve been on the last couple of Nada Surf records. I will continue to work on solo records next year. I’m always writing. Ira Elliott from Nada Surf and I are also in a band called Bambi Kino, with Mark Rozzo from Maplewood, and Erik Paparazzi from Cat Power. We cover Hamburg-era Beatles, mainly playing the covers they did for those years in the early '60s. We wear leather jackets and Beatles boots.

That sounds like a pretty good time.

It’s really fun. We have one album out on a German label that we released in 2010. We got together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles in Hamburg. We went to play there at the Indra Club, the place they first played. We did four sets a night for four nights. We also played in Hamburg another time, and we play in NYC a lot. Well, when time permits, as everyone is busy with other projects.

GBV fans seem to be happy you're back. What's the best part for you?
It's fun for me to play the newer songs and see what I can bring to the table. I've played with Kevin, and Mark, and of course, Robert before, and now Bobby Bare, Jr., who is a new friend.

Last time GBV was here, Bare was the opening act. Now he's in the band. You haven't worked with him before, right?

No. I'd met him and hung out with him via our friend Richard Buckner. I'm excited to play together. I'm also excited to play in Phoenix again. It's been a while since I've been in any outfit that has. I think the last time was ages ago, we played with BMRC at Nita's [Hideaway, now closed]. I did play in 2006 with Richard Buckner, but that was in Tucson.

During the time you've been away from GBV, were you thinking about new things you could add to the songs if you got to play them again? And will you be doing any of that?
Maaybeee. I tend to do that sometimes. The older songs. I haven’t really thought of anything new to put in, but it could happen. The songs are so musical that you can’t help but throw in a little new lick here or there between lyrics. I haven’t really explored the older songs much because I know them. It’s like riding a bike, and I’ve been working on learning these 30 new songs and having fun with them. I might be throwing in some extra stuff on those, but I have Bob's blessing on that — he tends to enjoy things I throw in. They seem to not offend him.
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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young