Robert Pollard Biography
With over 1,200 songs registered to his name with BMI, Pollard is among the most prolific songwriters of his time. In 2006, Paste magazine listed him as the 78th greatest living songwriter. In 2007, he was nominated for the Shortlist Music Prize.
Robert Pollard began his musical career in a heavy metal cover band in Dayton called Anacrusis. He had also been writing his own music constantly, recording demo tapes in the basement of his home (a lot of these recordings ended up in the box set known as Suitcase). He called the band, which involved dozens of revolving members, Guided By Voices. Using a loan, taken out from a local credit union, Guided By Voices released a number of self-financed releases. Getting very little response at home, Guided By Voices released Propeller, which was to be their last album before Pollard resigned himself to a life as a school teacher. The album found its way to Scat Records, 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."
Guided By Voices became a legend in the independent rock scene, with both their recordings and live shows. Through the years, Guided By Voices would record with producers such as Ric Ocasek as well as appear on the legendary TV program Austin City Limits. In August 2004, GbV released Half Smiles of the Decomposed, which would be the last album by the band. In 2004, on New Year's Eve, Guided By Voices performed their last show at The Metro in Chicago.
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. 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 1st, 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.
In May 2008, Pollard announced his intention to form a new band, to be called "Boston Spaceships", who toured in the fall. The new band consists of Robert Pollard, Chris Slusarenko and John Moen, although the live band's line-up also included Tommy Keene on guitar and Jason Narducy on bass. The band's debut album, entitled "Brown Submarine" was released in September '08 and found Pollard re-visiting some older Suitcase songs (including "Go For The Exit" and "Soggy Beavers") as well as showcasing some brand new material.
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 Jim Greer. Soderbergh and Greer will rewrite the lyrics of the songs.
Boston Spaceships is Pollard, John Moen (Decemberists, Perhapst), and Chris Slusarenko. The band's first album, Brown Submarine, was released on September 16, 2008, on Guided by Voices, Inc. The band toured fall 2008 in support of the album. A follow-up The Planets Are Blasted was released on February 17th, 2009 with another album Zero to 99 released in October '09.
Despite continuing to record with other projects (Circus Devils, Cosmos), Boston Spaceships is currently Pollard's primary project.