It still seems a little surreal to be writing about the reunion of Guided By Voices' classic line up in 2010. We just assumed that after Bob Pollard disbanded the final incarnation of the band in 2004, that would be that. So when it was announced that GBV was reuniting, let alone the 1992-1996 line up we were more than a little excited. This weekend marks the final weekend of The Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Tour and tomorrow night the band (finally) return to Boston for a sold -out show at The Paradise, the very same room where we saw our first GBV show back in 95'.
Along with Bob Pollard, Tobin Sprout played a pivotal role in the sound of the band during this period as the bands resident 4-track engineer, multi instrumentalist, and he also contributed a bunch of timeless pop songs to the GBV cannon. It's hard to imagine what albums like Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes would sound like without his contributions.
A few weeks ago we were given the opportunity to interview GBV's Tobin Sprout and we jumped at the opportunity to talk about the current tour, Tobin's career as painter, childrens author and solo artists as well what it's been like to be back on stage with Bob Pollard, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennell, and Greg Demos.
A big thank you goes to Tobin for taking the time to answer our questions and granting our request for this interview, hopefully I didn't come off like a total fan boy.
*Spoiler alert: the following interview contains set list information, so if you're going to either the Boston or New York shows this weekend , you've been warned.
Bryan Hamill: What inspired the reunion of the classic GBV line up, was the Matador @ 21 show in Vegas the catalyst for getting back together?
Tobin Sprout: I don't think the reunion would have happened without Matador asking us to headline their 21st anniversary show in Vegas. After that was in play the tour just made sense in that we would be practicing for one show, so why not do more? We were getting some lucrative offers from around the country, everyone in the band was ready and willing to do the tour. Bob sent out the set list and a month or so later we were together at Mitch's (Mitchell) practicing. There were a few big GBV fans in the room so when we had trouble remembering how to play one of the songs they would show us. I think they knew the songs better than we did. For the most part we had played the songs so many times on tour that it was like riding a bike, my hands just knew where to go. When Bob asked me if I would be interested in playing the shows I didn't even have to think about it, how could I say no to the time of my life? We're all still healthy, we have nothing to prove, the GBV fans are wigging out, it's gravy.
Bryan: How much time went into rehearsing for the Matador show and the subsequent tour?
Tobin: Bob sent out a song list to all of us,my son made a CD of all the songs to use to practice, but later I used the the internet. I could just go to YouTube and watch myself play them. For the most part they came back pretty quick, we had played them so many times during the tours in the 90's. The rest of the band got together a few times without me. I drove down to Dayton a couple of weeks before the tour to practice with the band and we also practiced the day before we left for the tour. Dallas and Austin were a bit rough here and there, but each show got a little tighter.
Bryan: What has it been like playing shows with Bob, Mitch, Keven, and Greg after all these years?
Tobin: It feels like we've picked up where we left off. Except for physical changes, we're all the same people. We all got along then and we get along now. I think it's easier now because we're all established in our own lives. We also have Rich, Darryl, Taz, and Steve (our road crew) to make life a lot better.
Bryan: With all the line up changes over the life of Guided By Voices, what makes this incarnation so special?
Tobin: There were line ups before this one, but this is the line up that was introduced to larger audience when Propeller sort of launched GBV into the rock world. From the first shows in Dayton, Columbus, CBGB's to the Scat tours and on until the last at Edgefest 96. This is, for the most part the line up on Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under The Bushes Under The Stars. I think people want all the pieces in place, all the original parts. Not to take away from the line ups after 96, it just seems to me the first line up becomes the face of the band.
Bryan: You wrote some of my favorite Guided By Voices songs, which ones have you been preforming on this tour?
Tobin: Gleemer, Dodging Invisible Rays, and A Good Flying Bird. We also do an acoustic set which includes Awful Bliss into 14 Cheerleader Coldfront. Keeping the harmonies going we go into Quality Armor (a Bob song). I've also done Atom Eyes alone in Austin or Dallas.
Bryan: With the release of your first childrens book, Elliott and your recently released album, The Bluebirds of Happiness Tried To Land On My Shoulder you have been keeping busy, how do you decide where to focus your creative energy.
Tobin: Right now the energy is going to music. I hadn't written a lot of music for a few years. Mostly I focused on painting and the writing of Elliott and the chapter book I hope to follow up called April and Elliott. About a year ago I made myself sit down and write songs. I think I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do it anymore. But after a few days it began to come together again. Elliott was my first attempt at writing a book and it was a learning experience for me. I think what I learned has improved the way I write lyrics. You only have so many lines in a song, so every word counts.
Bryan: Do you have any plans to record another solo record or perhaps compete a sequel to Elliott in the near future?
Tobin: I just released a single and I plan to write a lot of music after the GBV tour. Being away from writing music for awhile makes it feel new. I think you have to focus on what's exciting to you, because it shows in the work. Right now music excites me, next month, year, whatever, art or writing will.
Bryan: The newly launched GBV Digital is offering live recording from the current tour, does the band have any other plans to release additional recordings either from this tour or from the archives?
Tobin: All the shows are being recorded and can be downloaded at GBV Digital. There are also tentative plans for the release of GBV live shows that could include what ever I find when I go through hundreds of 4-track tapes I have as well as some remixes, outtakes, and unreleased tracks. At this point we have no plans to record new material.
Bryan: What's been the biggest difference between playing shows on this tour and the GBV tours you played on 14 years ago?
Tobin: Sleep number beds, we've been staying in really nice places.