Robert Pollard

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For other people named Robert Pollard, see Robert Pollard (disambiguation).
Robert Pollard
Pollard singing into a microphone
Robert Pollard performing at SXSW 2006
Background information
Birth name Robert Ellsworth Pollard, Jr.
Born (1957-10-31) October 31, 1957 (age 56)
Origin Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
Genres Indie rock
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, guitarist
Years active 1983–present
Labels Matador Records
Merge Records
Fading Captain Series/Luna

Robert Pollard (born October 31, 1957)[1] is an American rock musician and singer-songwriter who is the leader and creative force behind indie rock group Guided by Voices. In addition to his work with Guided by Voices, he continues to have a prolific solo career.

With more than 1,700 songs registered to his name with BMI,[2] Pollard is among the most prolific songwriters of his time. In 2006, Paste magazine listed him as the 78th greatest living songwriter.[3] In 2007, he was nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize.[4]

Early music and Guided by Voices[edit]

Robert Pollard performing with Guided By Voices in 2014
Main article: Guided By Voices

Robert Pollard began his musical career in a heavy metal cover band in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio called Anacrusis. He had also been writing his own music non-stop and recording demo tapes in the basement of his home. Many of these recordings ended up in the boxed set known as Suitcase. He named the band, which involved dozens of revolving members, Guided by Voices. Using a loan taken out from a local credit union, Guided by Voices produced a number of self-financed releases. Getting very little response at home, Guided by Voices released Propeller in 1992, which was to be their last album before Pollard committed to teaching 4th-grade full-time. The album eventually found its way to Scat Records, however, who signed the band to a recording contract. "In the early days of Guided by Voices, when no one was listening, I was impatient," Pollard wrote in 2005.

I used to tire of people in the band very quickly. I had physical altercations with them. I even resorted to bullshit tactics, like telling the band I was quitting and we were breaking up, then forming again a month later with new members. I have learned to allow people to exist, grow, and find out who they are in the band, to give them all the time they need. As long as they are enthusiastic about the music, they can do whatever they want.[5]

Between 1987 and 2004, Guided by Voices released 16 full-length original albums as well as a large number of EPs and compilations, with the line-up constantly varying, and on various different record labels. Although known as a lo-fi band that relied on home recordings, in later years the group relied more on professional recording studios and worked with producers such as Ric Ocasek. In August 2004, the band released Half Smiles of the Decomposed, which would be the their last album. In 2004, on New Year's Eve, Guided by Voices performed their last show at The Metro in Chicago. In 2010 the main 1990s line-up reunited for Matador Records' 21st birthday. A full tour followed and the band remained together until September 2014.

Guided by Voices released its first album in seven years on January 1, 2012, Let's Go Eat the Factory. On January 3, the band appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman to promote the LP.[6] They released their second post-reunion album, Class Clown Spots a UFO, on June 11. A third album, The Bears for Lunch, came out on November 13. The fourth post-reunion album (and twentieth Guided by Voices album), English Little League, was released on April 30, 2013. Motivational Jumpsuit and Cool Planet followed in February and May 2014, respectively. In September of 2014, the band announced they were disbanding once again and cancelled all remaining dates on their tour.[7]

Solo career[edit]

Pollard began releasing solo records in 1996, alongside regular releases from Guided by Voices. These albums were typically recorded with a small group consisting of current or former Guided by Voices members, and they were generally considered to informally be part of the Guided by Voices canon, as that band would regularly perform selections from the solo releases in concert.

After the dissolution of Guided by Voices in 2004, Robert Pollard launched his official solo career with the release of From a Compound Eye in February 2006. Pollard's recent studio work has eschewed the live-band format, instead relying on the multi-instrumental talents of Todd Tobias, who produced several Guided by Voices albums. In 2006, Pollard resumed touring with a new band informally dubbed "The Ascended Masters", which featured Tommy Keene on lead guitar and keyboards, Dave Phillips on guitar, Jon Wurster on drums, and Jason Narducy on bass, but subsequent to the cancellation of some 2006 dates due to a leg injury, Pollard announced his retirement from touring.[8] Despite this, Pollard performed two shows in support of his new albums. The first show was on November 31, 2007 in Chicago at The Metro. The second was on December 1, 2007 in Newport, Kentucky (across the Ohio River from Cincinnati) at the Southgate House. After releasing Superman Was a Rocker in January he announced that he would be leaving Merge Records to form Guided by Voices, Inc., his own record label that will produce his entire musical library.

Other bands and projects[edit]

Pollard has also issued recordings under a variety of other band names and in collaboration with former GBV colleagues and other musicians. In 2008, he formed a new band, Boston Spaceships, comprising Pollard, John Moen of The Decemberists and Perhapst, and Chris Slusarenko, who played in the final incarnation of Guided by Voices. The band's first album, Brown Submarine, was released on September 16, 2008, on Guided by Voices, Inc., and was followed by a tour in the fall of that year. A follow-up, The Planets Are Blasted, was released on February 17, 2009 with another album Zero to 99 released in October 2009. Our Cubehouse Still Rocks was released in September 2010. Boston Spaceships released their fifth and final album Let It Beard on August 2, 2011.

In October 2008, it was announced that Guided by Voices' music would be used for a 3-D film musical based on the life of Cleopatra to be directed by Steven Soderbergh with script by former GBV member James Greer.[9] Soderbergh and Greer will rewrite the lyrics of the songs.[10]

Discography[edit]

Solo studio albums:

Other albums/EPs:

Side projects[edit]

Fading Captain series[edit]

During the mid-90s, in addition to GbV albums appearing annually, Pollard's prolificacy typically was vented onto innumerable singles, EPs, compilations and other side releases. However, once signed to a major label and constrained to the expectation of producing only a single album per 18 months, Pollard began the self-financed and released Fading Captain Series, a series of releases both under his own name, and a wide variety of pseudonyms. In addition to solo and archival releases, Pollard began collaborating with fellow musicians and friends by mail via a process dubbed "postal rock" - Pollard would receive completed musical backing tracks, and add his own lyrics and vocals. Albums under the Airport 5, Circus Devils, and Go Back Snowball monikers, among others were produced in this fashion.

In December 2006, Pollard announced that the Fading Captain Series was being concluded with the release of Crickets: Best of the Fading Captain Series 1999–2007, a 50-song "best of" collection spanning from 1999 through 2007.[12]

The bands that used to release works in the Fading Captain Series now release records on other labels, such as The Takeovers' Bad Football coming out on Off Records and the Circus Devils Sgt. Disco coming out on Ipecac Records. In addition the Pollard albums Kid Marine, Motel of Fools and Fiction Man were all released in the Fading Captain Series although Pollard's other solo albums were not.

Acid Ranch: (archival recordings featuring Robert Pollard, Kevin Fennell and Mitch Mitchell)

Airport 5: (Robert Pollard and Tobin Sprout)

Circus Devils: (Robert Pollard, Todd Tobias and Tim Tobias)

Go Back Snowball: (Robert Pollard and Mac McCaughan)

Hazzard Hotrods: (Recording of informal 1990 performance by Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, and Kevin Fennell)

  • 2000 - Big Trouble (re-released as Bigger Trouble 2005)

Howling Wolf Orchestra: (Pollard and various GbV members)

  • 2000 - Speedtraps for the Bee Kingdom (12" EP/CD)

Keene Brothers: (Robert Pollard and Tommy Keene)

Lexo and the Leapers: (Robert Pollard backed by The Tasties)

  • 1999 - Ask Them (12" EP/CD)

Lifeguards (Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard)

The Moping Swans (Robert Pollard, Greg Demos, Jim MacPherson and Tony Conley)

  • 2005 - Lightninghead to Coffee Pot (12" EP/CD)

Nightwalker (pseudonym for archival GbV recordings)

Phantom Tollbooth:

Psycho and the Birds: (Todd Tobias supplementing Pollard solo demos)

The Takeovers: (Robert Pollard and Chris Slusarenko)

Other record labels[edit]

When Pollard announced that the Fading Captain Series was being concluded he also announced that he was starting up a new record label, then called Record Company Records[12] but later re-titled as Prom is Coming,[13] which is named after a song off his first solo album Not in My Airforce. The first (and thus far only) release on Prom is Coming was Silverfish Trivia.

In spring 2007, Pollard began a singles collection called the Happy Jack Rock Records Single Series in which one 7" record was released per month for 12 months starting June 22, 2007. All the records featured an A-side from Bob's dueling Merge releases that year (Standard Gargoyle Decisions & Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love) and a non-album B-side. 1,000 of each 7" was pressed.[14]

Pollard's album Superman Was a Rocker was the first LP released on Happy Jack Rock Records (although the vinyl version of Circus Devils' "Sgt. Disco" had been released on the same label in 2007). Pollard continues to release 7" records on the label. June 2009 will see the first release from a new Happy Jack project Cosmos, a collaboration with Richard Davies titled Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks.

In 2008, Pollard announced the forming of yet another new label Guided By Voices Inc., named after his former band Guided by Voices. The first album release on Guided by Voices Inc. was Robert Pollard Is Off To Business, preceded by the 12" EP "Weatherman And Skin Goddess". Pollard's first two Boston Spaceships releases have been on Guided by Voices Inc.

EAT and Town of Mirrors[edit]

In the fall of 2003 Pollard released EAT, a literary magazine consisting of original poems and collages by Pollard. As of December 2011 EAT is on its eighth issue.[15] Pollard's collage art is featured on many Guided by Voices albums (notable exceptions being the two released on TVT Records).

Robert Pollard's collages were collected and published in Town of Mirrors: The Reassembled Imagery of Robert Pollard. Town of Mirrors features roughly 150 collages, 20 of which were created specifically for the book's release.

Side projects mentioned by Pollard that have not yet happened[edit]

  • Red Explosion (mentioned back in 1996 or so)
  • Polymorph Orchestra (mentioned around the time of Isolation Drills)
  • Frozen Sissy (allegedly a collaboration with his brother Jim Pollard)

Personal life[edit]

Pollard was a fourth-grade school teacher for several years prior to the release of Bee Thousand in 1994. In James Greer's book Guided by Voices: A Brief History: Twenty-One Years of Hunting Accidents in the Forests of Rock and Roll he states that Pollard's days teaching inspired songs such as "Gold Star For Robot Boy," "Teenage FBI" and "Non-Absorbing".

During high school Pollard was a tri-sport varsity athlete. His most notable athletic achievement was throwing the first no-hitter in the history of Wright State University. Pollard has stated that he and the other members of GBV beat Beastie Boys and Billy Corgan in a basketball game, noting as well that Kim and Kelley Deal were cheering for them, and that Steve Drozd was riding on a bicycle during the game.[1]

Much of the inspiration for Pollard's work has come from time spent hanging out with his high school friends from Dayton, a group he calls "The Monument Club".[16]

He has two children (Erica and Bryan) with his ex-wife Kim and wrote a song about each, with "Your Name is Wild" being about his daughter and "My Son Cool" being about his son.[17] He remarried in 2007 and still lives in Dayton, Ohio.[18]

"I’ve never considered myself to be a runaway success at anything I’ve done, including parenthood," Pollard wrote in 2005. "But I’ve at least allowed my children to pursue their own interests without too much interference, and I think they both turned out pretty good."[5]

Pollard cites The King of Comedy, Blue Velvet, Psycho, Husbands, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Big Night, Last Night at the Alamo, Goodfellas and O Lucky Man! as his ten favorite movies.[19]

In April 2010, along with his brother Jimmy, Pollard was inducted into the Northridge High School Hall of Fame for excellence in football, baseball, and basketball.[20]

References[edit]

External links[edit]