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June 6, 2014 at 8:00 AM

Guided by Voices back in business | Concert preview

Guided by Voices

Guided by Voices: Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos, Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Kevin March. Photo by Matt Davis.

Discovering Guided by Voices means diving headfirst into a catalog of more songs than there are years A.D. — a daunting prospect, perhaps, but a rewarding one.

The Dayton, Ohio indie lifers — known for their concise pop craftsmanship, surrealist lyrical slant, lo-fi production tactics, and sheer output — play Seattle’s Showbox club Sunday.

Ask three GBV diehards to make you a best-of mix, and they’ll all be different — but most would agree 1994’s “Bee Thousand” and ‘95’s “Alien Lanes” are ideal starting points for novices.

So does Tobin Sprout — the band’s guitarist, and foil to principal singer-songwriter Robert Pollard.

“You might have to get past the quality of the recordings,” laughs the 59-year-old musician, reached at his home in rural Michigan on a phone line rivaling the LPs for clarity, “but those two albums give you a pretty broad spectrum of ideas.”

After a decade with the group, Sprout left it — and Ohio — in 1997 to raise his two children and focus on his other passion, painting. Pollard and a revolving-door supporting cast, meanwhile, soldiered on for seven more full-lengths before calling a hiatus in 2004.

The duo kept tabs on each other — even collaborating remotely on a side project, Airport 5 — but GBV stayed on the backburner until 2010, when the classic lineup reconvened for longtime label Matador’s 21st anniversary festival in Las Vegas.

“It snowballed from there,” explains Sprout. “We’ve done six albums and an EP since.”

This year alone, they’ve issued two: “Motivational Jumpsuit” and “Cool Planet.” Both are natural extensions of vintage GBV, tracks like Pollard’s rousing “Authoritarian Zoo” and Sprout’s Beatlesque “Jupiter Spin,” below, proving they can still conjure imaginative hooks from simple, unpretentious means.

If you’ve ever attended one of the band’s gigs, or seen its ‘04 concert film “The Electrifying Conclusion,” you know the sets go long — often exceeding 50 songs — and the beer flows freely.

In their heyday, Sprout recalls, “we’d leave Dayton at 10 in the morning, load, get a couple 12-packs, drive to New York or Philadelphia, have a party before the show, not even go on until 11:30 at night, get to bed at 5 or 6, wake up at 8 and head out again.”

Admittedly, GBV’s tolerance isn’t what it once was — “these days, we just pack it in and go back to the room” — but their musical intuition is sharp as ever.

“We played ‘Tractor Rape Chain’ [off ‘Bee Thousand’] the other day,” says Sprout. “While I was playing it, I wondered ‘how many times have I played this?’… but I still enjoy it. My hands just know where to go.”

8 p.m. Sunday at The Showbox, 1426 1st Ave., Seattle; $40 (206-628-3151 or

Comments | More in Rock/Pop | Topics: indie, Ohio, Showbox at the Market


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