Eating The Factory: Guided By Voices

The return of the lo-fi legends

Guided By Voices aren’t a band to blast into your life.

Instead, they’re a band to be sipped, savoured, adored. If they were a partner, Guided By Voices would take until the third date to charm you, but from then on you’d be hooked – thinking about them at odd hours of the day and night.

So when the band announced their return for a one off show at the Matador anniversary, countless lonely hearts leaped in joy. Guided By Voices turned that one off show into a tour, before deciding to record a new album.

Tracks were laid down, release dates were announced and breaths were held… until now. ‘Let’s Go Eat The Factory’ was given a digital release by Fire on January 1st and – praise the Saints! – nothing had changed.

Effortlessly picking up where they left off, Guided By Voices are set to make us fall in love with them all over again. ClashMusic caught up with guitarist Mitch Mitchell to get clued up on their new album…

– – –

When the phone call came in about the re-union what were your initial thoughts?
I was surprised and happy about it – it made my day, really. I didn’t expect it to ever happen and when it did I really was happy about it.

Did you have any doubts?
Oh no. We’re too good for that! (laughs) Y’know what I mean?

Had there been occasions when you missed being in the band?
Oh yeah, man! I’ve been a fan for as long as I’ve been a member. So the time I had out, I did miss it – I enjoyed the music and everything but I was secretly wanting to be back in there playing it because I love it. Yeah I was a little – not jealous, I wouldn’t say that – but I was anxious to kinda get the opportunity to do it again.

Was it easy to slip back into Guided By Voices?
When we started rehearsing it came pretty natural. It wasn’t too hard, we just came in here, started drinking some beer and rocking it out. It turned out to be pretty cool.

How did you go about forming the set list?
Bob, he had the set all figured out. He makes the set so whatever he puts in the set, that’s what we play. It’s nice and easy for me, I don’t have to worry about it I just have to know what I’m doing and I let him take care of all that stuff.

How did it feel to go back out on the road?
Well for myself personally it was really a lot of fun to get back out and play. I love to travel and tour, that’s one of my favourite things to do. I had a real good time everyday, just meeting people and seeing some old friend, meeting new friends. For me it was a total blast.

Guided By Voices – Doughnut For A Snowman by FIRE RECORDS

There was this outpouring of warm feeling when Guided By Voices came back, that must have been overwhelming.
Yeah it’s always nice to feel loved and to know that your music has meaning. It means a lot to us and I think I can speak for everybody in that it means a lot that people like it and dig it and like us, y’know what I mean? Cos we’re likeable people. (laughs) I take every opportunity to speak to fans, man – any time someone wants to have a drink with me I’m down!

Whose idea was it to record new material?
Well when we first started out there wasn’t any plans for an album or anything. It was mainly to do the re-union thing, kind of a last hurrah and then put it to bed. I think the success that we had, and I think that Bob got inspired to write new material for Guided By Voices. He has his solo career going and the other bands that he’s been involved with, he’s constantly writing songs for this or that band whichever it happens to be. I just think that the response and the amount of fun that we had during the tour inspired him to put together some new material for Guided By Voices. It really was a nice surprise for me to even entertain the idea of doing a new record as I didn’t think we were going to. When I found out we were I was really, really happy about it – real happy about it.

You recorded a lot of the material in your own garage, is that right?
Yeah we did a few songs here and a few songs at Greg’s house and then the majority of the material was done at Toby’s studio, at his house in Michigan.

Did you turn down offers of a studio?
Well I’m not really sure about that but I just know that from past experiences that we’ve had those big, fancy studios and high dollar producers just don’t seem to get what we want to do, or what Bob’s vision of what we want to do is. It’s been a source of frustration for him over the years. We’ve done big studios and it just never seems to work out, it just always seems better if we just did it ourselves. That’s kind of the Guided By Voices trademark anyway, is that we do it ourselves. Eating the factory.

Was the chemistry in the studio as you remembered it?
Yeah pretty much. We might have had as much fun recording as we do playing the songs live. In the studio a lot of the times it’s a real, real relaxed atmosphere, we would have a few beers and we would have some fun. A song would be playing and maybe someone would come up with an idea for something and if it works it would go on and if it doesn’t work then we cut it. It’s very relaxing and it’s a whole different ball game to a live gig, obviously, but we have as much fun in the studio as we do when we play live.

Was it quite collaborative in the studio?
Yeah it kind of works that way. Sometimes things just work spontaneously, like there’s no plan for something. I mean, the song has the structure that Bob has written and the basic tracks were done that way. Then a lot of times things are kind of put on there as we’re listening to it somebody might get an idea or somebody might do something and if it works then it’s on and if it doesn’t work then it’s axed.

What is the set up like in your garage?
Well I’ve got an older digital recorder at my house. I’m not sure what Greg uses. I think we all have old stuff. I don’t think anybody has any of the new stuff – I’m technologically challenged. I got to keep it simple and old, this new stuff is… I’d like to learn how to use it but at this point I’m sticking with the old stuff because it seems to work for me. I’m sure those guys probably feel the same way.

Is that the same equipment you used on the older material?
No. Some of the old stuff was recorded on an old four track cassette machine, I don’t know if that’s still around or not. Nowadays we have mulit-track stuff now so it’s a lot easier to do. The four track recordings were hard because you had to bump tracks, it was just real time consuming and you were limited by the tracks on a four track. Now we have the luxury of using more tracks. I think that adds to the whole dynamic.

How far are you with the new album?
Yeah we’re working on that. There’s a lot of things that are kind of going on with the new record that are gonna be pretty cool but right now I think ‘Let’s Eat The Factory’ is what we’d like to focus on right now. It’s just such a good record that I wouldn’t want it to be pushed into the background in favour of the newer material.

There are a huge amount of pop culture references on there. Is Hang Mr Kite a Beatles reference?
I don’t know, I’m sorry. All the lyrical content of Bob’s songs is all him, he does all that. It could be Mr Kite’s cousin! (laughs) Uncle Kite!

Guided By Voices – The Unsinkable Fats Domino

– – –

Were you able to bring new influences to the table?
Well I think there’s always an influence one way or another whether it’s a newer band or an older band which we’ve been drawn towards. I think, myself, personally I’m drawn more to the older influences of rock music – like garage bands, punk bands and that kind of thing. I’m sure they’re influences – whether they are conscious or not – I’m sure they’re in there. Everyone is influenced by something at some time.

So what garage bands are tickling your fancy right now?
There’s some cool local bands that I like that are kind of garage sounding. I like stuff like The Liars from Boston, I would consider them to be a garage band. Bands like that – maybe The Mirrors. The Bevis Frond I would almost consider a garage band. The guy’s name is Nick Saloman, he’s really a talented guy – his name is Bevis Frond, although I think he might have a few guys behind him to help him here and there. His stuff is really incredible I mean it’s mind blowing to me sometimes. He’s been around for quite a while, maybe as long as we have.

So why were those European shows cancelled?
I don’t know exactly the reason. I’m kind of disappointed we didn’t do it, personally, but sometimes there are situations that happen where you don’t really know the whole reason. I’m not really sure why, so I don’t want to speculate on the reasons. It’s a shame we didn’t do it – maybe down the road there’ll be an opportunity. Other than that I don’t really know.

There were reports that you had split up did you hear about that?
No, I haven’t heard anything like that.

The British music press, eh?
(knowing laugh…)

– – –

‘Let’s Eat The Factory’ is out now.

Photo Credit: Beowolf Sheehan

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.