The latest release from the Boston Spaceships
By Benjamin Dale
Guided By Voices officially split in 2004, but Bob Pollard’s musical output hasn’t slowed at all. In fact, it’s increased. Since the end of GBV, he’s released over 12 solo albums, seven EPs, five records with his side project, Circus Devils, and the upcoming Let It Beard from Boston Spaceships will be his ninth effort with that group. The word prolific hardly seems strong enough to describe the man, with over 1,300 songs registered to his name and a career that spans almost three decades.
Boston Spaceships is Pollard’s band with drummer John Moen from the Decemberists and Chris Slusarenko, also formerly of Guided By Voices. Their new album, Let It Beard, drops August 2, just as the reunited “Classic Lineup” of GBV finishes up the last of their summer tour dates.
I got the chance to speak with Chris Slusarenko about the new album. Here is what he had to say…
So I’ve been hearing all kinds of chatter about the new Spaceships album. Is it a rock opera, is it a collage, what is it? And how is it different from previous Spaceships releases?
It’s a double album in the vein of The White Album or Quadrophenia. It’s not a rock opera but after it was finished we definitely felt there were some loose threads running through it about the state of rock and roll. It’s also a bit more sprawling than the earlier records, but it had to be. You can’t repeat yourself on a double album. [Chris Slusarenko]
What is the state of rock ‘n’ roll?
I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but I miss the days of being able to walk into a store and just being shocked that there could be three or four completely amazing records out any given week. You would be shaking with anticipation and would be struggling with which one to purchase and take home and make your own. Also, nowadays it seems really easy to judge a band’s entire catalog by streaming 20 seconds of one song and then writing them off. Some of my favorite records were ones that did not hit me on first listen, but I kept coming back to it. [CS]
What’s the process for compiling all of the music for albums? You and John Moen both live in Portland, right?
I’ve lived in Portland since I was a 1-year-old baby. John lives here too and we met when we were teenagers making music in Portland.
The Boston Spaceships albums start with Bob sending me boom box cassette recordings of his demos. I spend months just listening to the song until I know all the intricacies of the album. The little pauses and strange quirks of the demos — some of which might be accidental — I try to keep them in when we start recording the basic tracks.
John and myself go record with Jonathan Drews (Last of the Explorers Studio) and just bang out eight to nine basic tracks in a day. I don’t let John hear any of the songs before we go to the studio because it really allows him to have very spontaneous moments with his performances. Some of them are just insane and he sounds like he knows the song inside and out already when he just heard it for the first time a few moments ago.
After John is finished, I go back and labor with all the bass parts, solos, etc. It takes quite a bit of time because I want each song to sound different from the last so we tend to break it down after each song and re mike it for the next one.
After it’s all mixed, I send the songs to Bob who has been working non-stop on lyrics. Bob spends a lot of time writing and writing. Often times the entire lyrics will change three or four times by the time I’m done with just one song. After all the music tracks are done, Bob goes up to Cleveland to do his vocals with Todd Tobais and it gets mixed together from there.
A strange way to make records but I think most people assume we are in the same room making this record together. It definitely sounds like we are a band who is creating it at one moment together. [CS]
Will there be any touring or shows in support of this album?
No plans right now. Bob and John are both wrapping up their tours currently. You never know but it would depend a lot of the response and the reaction from Let It Beard and how many people want to hear it live. [CS]
Reach DCP freelance writer and editorial intern Benjamin Dale at BenDale@DaytonCityPaper.com.