Guided by Voices' guitarist Mitch Mitchell is in Indy sometimes twice a day.
No, the Dayton musician hasn't relocated. He's a big rig trucker, and has been for 14 years.
"I go to Fishers, Greenwood, places like that," he says when we chat. "They put the foundations down, and then we bring all the lumber for the walls and ceilings, all that stuff. I bring it out and drop it off at the job site. I guess I've got two great jobs. I get to play in a great band and I get to drive a big ol' truck around."
Of course, what those not currently building houses know him for is his legendary band Guided by Voices, helmed by Bob Pollard and still ticking, albeit after approximately a zillion different incarnations, and more than 30 years. Mitchell is a member of the "classic" GBV lineup – those that played together in the '80s and early '90s – that reformed in 2010 for a special show ... and then continued on for many more, plus new albums and festival dates, and on and on. It's surprising even to Mitchell that his old band (which has featured more than 60 members alongside leader Pollard through the years) is back together, but he's just enjoying the ride. And all those rides to and from Indy, too.
They'll play at WARMfest on Sunday.
NUVO: Guided by Voices has announced or mentioned so many "final albums," so many albums where the band says, "This will probably be the last one." But it's never the last one. Do you think there will ever be a final album? What's the future look like for Guided by Voices?
Mitch Mitchell: I think we're just going to take it as it comes. We've had a lot of good responses for the records that we did put out, and I think that's a good thing that we've had good responses to these records. And I'm sure that will help in any further thoughts of more records that will come out in the future. I hope, personally, that we keep doing it. I'm sure Bob, he has a lot of creativity left in him. A few more songs will come our way. I hope so, anyway.
NUVO: I read an interview that said [the process is] that Bob comes to the band and says, "I've written more songs." What's the process of making a record for GBV, now?
Mitchell: Usually, we'd just go and show up and record on the spot a lot. Learn right there and put it down on tape. But recently, the last few records, Bob will do them on the acoustic and give us demos to listen to, then we can learn them through the demos and add our parts, create a thing to those demos. Then, when we go to the studio, we'll rehearse a couple days before we go in the studio, then we'll go in and bang them out like that. It seems to work better that way, having a knowledge of the material and the songs. But I liked the old [way of] going in cold and being surprised. It adds the element of danger to it.
NUVO: I've also read that there are so many GBV releases, that there's a couple even you don't have a copy of. Are you currently on the search for those?
Mitchell: I would like to have a copy of everything. It is true, I don't have some copies of the older material, of older records. A lot of it is because we'd just give it out to our friends and families and not really think about what would happen down the road, as far as the records being valuable, or even being able to find the songs again. That never really occurred at the time. In hindsight, I probably would have kept everything that I ever got, and never would have given away anything, but obviously that's not the case. If I ever see a GBV record that I don't have, or even if I see one that I have, I'd buy it again.
NUVO: Bob has said before that more than 60 different people have been in GBV throughout the years. He's also referred to the band as a songwriter's collective. Have you met everyone that's played in your band at one time or another?
Mitchell: I don't know! That's a good question. We might have to have some kind of a reunion some day, wear name tags, put "I was in GBV from ___ date to ___ date." I don't know. Maybe I haven't met everybody, but I think I might have. Then again, I don't know.
NUVO: You have a beer from Dogfish Head coming out called Beer Thousand and a 10-inch of songs from a live show in '94, plus a release show coming up this week for both. How did that come about?
Mitchell: Yeah, that's where we're heading, the first show we're going to be playing when we leave here. We're going to head out to Delaware. I'm not really sure how that actually came about. I just know we were someplace and Bob told us they were going to do a commemorative beer, so that was really exciting. That's a big honor, to have a beer named after you. It's sweet.
NUVO: I know with Let's Go Eat The Factory, you did some recording at your home, in your garage, maybe? Are you doing any of that home recording still?
Mitchell: I can't remember if we did. That sometimes just happens on the spur of the moment. I don't remember if I did any songs at my house or not. I know there's a couple records where we did that, and that's just one of those things where Bob wants to get a raw vibe and sound, so we do it all together like that.
NUVO: Some bands can be so precious about their records. They work on them for three, four years, do this huge rollout, put out singles and videos and teasers. I always appreciate how GBV seems to just say, “Hey, here's another album! And another album!”
Mitchell: There's no need to mess around. Just put it out, get it on wax and put it out for everybody to have. There's no sense in delaying it. If you get it out, get it out. No messing around.
NUVO: Can you put into words why GBV means so much to so many people? What characteristic of the music is it? It's gone through a lot of sonic evolutions.
Mitchell: I think the main thing is the fact that it's honest. It's the most honest thing you can hear. It's totally without pretense and without any kind of phoniness. It's all real and genuine. The emotions are real. The effort that goes into the record is real. There's a lot of work that goes into them, really, even though sometimes it may not seem like it. All the records are labors of love. They're all as honest and genuine as you can get. I think that's a big plus that's affected people's [relationships with the music]. They know there's no bullshit involved. It's all real.
NUVO: I have a quote from an interview you gave to the Dayton City Paper. You said, “It's time for some good music again. We can't let it die, we've got to make it live.” I wanted to know what “good” music is to you, and I'm suspecting it has something to do with that realness you just mentioned.
Mitchell: Right. I think most people can understand a real band, a real song when they hear it. There's elements of that that people can pick up intuitively, not even knowing that's what it is. Something grabs you, and you may not even need to have an explanation. You don't really care why, you just know that you like it and that it's a good thing. That may be overanalyzing why or what, but I think when you boil it down to the main essence, it's just honesty and goodness like that.
NUVO: I liked this description that Bob gave of you and Greg. He said, “Greg and Mitch are my two little front-of-the-stage gargoyle watchdogs.”
Mitchell: Ha, ha! That's right. When you see us live, you'll see the reference to the gargoyles. We flank him on either side and push out our guitars like they're bayonets to keep back the forces of evil and all that good stuff. We're the protectors. [laughs]