The story of Robert Pollard and his rock-'n'-roll band Guided by Voices will go down in the books as one of the most unlikely in '90s indie rock. Led by Pollard--a former Ohio schoolteacher now close to 50--GBV had already existed in the basements of Dayton, Ohio, for more than a decade before dropping the cult-grenade masterpiece Bee Thousand in 1994. In the decade since, Pollard has proved himself a prolific songwriter capable of certifiably classic albums whose songs marry sweeping Brit-Invasion cool with post-punk aesthetics in the time it takes most rockers to decide what to wear to the recording studio. GBV's 15th album, Half-Smiles of the Decomposed, is another to add to the list. But as Pollard announced prior to its summer release, it is also the last before GBV disbands, following the Who, the Kinks and the credible Stones into a rock-'n'-roll afterworld reserved for only the truly mythic rock bands. WW spoke to Pollard about rocking out in Dayton, moving on and breaking up the band.
WW: What's the biggest sacrifice you've made for the band?
Bob Pollard: I got divorced. That wasn't intentional. That's not what I wanted. It got to the point where it was either going to be family life--going home and sitting on the porch or whatever--or continuing to be serious about Guided by Voices. Like I said, it's not something I wanted, but it's something that had to give.
Do you regret that?
I would have had to keep GBV. That was something that was not going to give. I couldn't give it up when there was no attention. So once there became people interested and a growing legion of people that were obsessive about Guided by Voices--including myself--it was something I was not going to give up. I guess I could have salvaged my marriage if I would have said, "I'm giving up Guided by Voices," but it was something I couldn't do.
At what point did you come to the realization that maybe GBV should call it a day?
I didn't have any intention of breaking up the band going into working on the album. That decision was made afterwards. We did the record, and I was really happy with it. I thought it turned out really good. There is just this kind of melancholy, kind of bittersweet feel about the record itself and the way it was done. I just thought, "This sounds like a good one to end it on." Coupled with the fact that, after it was done, I found all these old songs that were really cool and I wrote all these new songs and I recorded a double-album solo record that I didn't want to see pushed aside. This is 15 albums. It's a good time to move on to something else. There are some people coming up to me and saying, "Oh, thank you for all the years of inspiration, and we're going to be so sad when you're gone." I'm not gone. I'm not dead yet.
Guided by Voices plays with the Joggers Monday and with the Thermals Tuesday, Nov. 15-16. Both shows at Berbati's Pan, 231 SW Ankeny St., 248-4579. 10 pm. $16 advance. 21+.