Look at that picture—Robert Pollard’s looking old. Dude’s hair is as white as the beard of Father Time. He’s hoary enough to run for president. And yet he can still out-drink and out-rock pretty much every young buck and commander-in-chief out there. Bottom line is: Pros don’t come more grizzled than Robert Pollard.
That’s why it was shocking when the former Guided By Voices general retired from touring back in ’06. Despite various rock-induced infirmities—and the well-publicized calf injury that finished the job—nobody thought that retirement would stick. Pollard loves rock & roll too much to quit, having already given up one life (as a schoolteacher) for a high-kicking second existence in front of beer-swilling knuckleheads like myself. Sure enough, two years later, Pollard and his new band, Boston Spaceships, are set to embark on a month-long tour.
Pollard can’t wait. “I miss visiting towns, checking out record stores and bookstores, playing smaller clubs, sleeping in cars or vans, being drunk with my ears ringing after shows,” he says. His love for touring is all-encompassing, including even facets others find tedious.
He doesn’t seem worried about aggravating his old injuries. “They’re alright right now,” Pollard says. “I was running two miles a day and then my left calf became tight. You never can tell. I’m 50 years old. It could happen. I hope not. I feel good. I feel like Brett Favre on this question.”
Like Favre, Pollard’s also playing with a new team. Boston Spaceships feature final GBV bassist Chris Slusarenko on guitar, John Moen (of the Decemberists) on drums; noted power-pop journeyman Tommy Keene on guitar and Jason Narducy on bass also join the group for this tour. Slusarenko, Keene, and Narducy have worked with Pollard in the past, but Moen’s a first-timer, just the latest in a long line of people Pollard has worked with over the last couple of decades. Pollard’s not worried about the new guy, either. “I only work with very good and versatile musicians. People who have a connective sense of how I operate and how my brain functions, so it’s not too thought out.”
Their debut album, Brown Submarine, is Pollard’s most consistent record since his earliest post-GBV releases. And there’s been a ton of records since then, about four or five a year, including a handful of “official” solo records released by big-time indie label Merge. Lately, Pollard’s been releasing his own records on a series of start-up labels, the most recent of which is called Guided By Voices Inc. “We have fun now with GBV Inc.,” he says. “We’ve targeted who our audience is, and they like me to release a lot of projects. It makes more sense to keep it in-house now. I can release what I want, as frequently as I want.”
Boston Spaceships don’t have a local connection, but Pollard wished that they did. “Boston had a guy from Ohio in their band,” he says. “I’m from Ohio. I always wanted to be in a Boston band … and now I am.”