Dayton, Ohio’s Guided by Voices burst onto the indie scene in 1994, though obsessives and the faithful will note that they’d been together 11 years by that point. After decades of chaos and ever-shifting lineups, the classic five-man lineup is back in action since 2010 and still breeding lo-fi masterworks like the proverbial lagomorphs. (The latest one’s Cool Planet.)
“I kind of like the amp buzz,” comments guitarist Tobin Sprout on the band’s classic recording techniques. “We don’t spent a lot of time getting sounds or changing mics. We set up and go, try to get the energy of the first or second take. Laboring over a song isn’t something that works for us; if the song is there it comes out right away.
“In the older days, the four-track cassette was new and a great way to get out songs on tape without spending time and money in a studio. It also allowed us to experiment with different ideas without worrying about time. I don’t really think I ever had control; it was get mics set up, record, bounce tracks, record vocals and overdubs, and mix to two-track. All while a party was going on. I used headphones to mix so I could hear over the talking. Playback was always a highlight of the day. Lately we’ve been recording at Cyberteknics, a 24-track analog studio in Dayton, so the recording responsibility is Phil [Mahaffey]’s now.”
- Saturday, June 14, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
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Regarding his convivial rivalry with bandleader Bob Pollard over who sings which song, Sprout clarifies, “I always feel competitive with Bob, but I think it works toward motivation. It’s an art form to write songs as much as it is to paint for me. It all comes from the same place. I think there isn’t anything new. We learn things, bits and pieces, sounds, and learn to mimic the things we like or feel are interesting, then mix them up into our art. Life is new again, but old. I think you need someone as a feedback point. Bob has always been sort of that person to me.
“We are the same people [as before],” Sprout concludes, “but our lives have settled in as far as having families, homes, jobs. I said to Mitch [Mitchell, the band’s other guitarist], ‘Can you believe this? We still get to do this after all these years.’ It is amazing, I couldn’t be happier.”