Guided by Voices & Olivia Tremor Control – The 90’s Return at FYF Fest

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KCRW DJs Mario Cotto and Marion Hodges embarked on a mission to preview this weekend’s FYF Fest — highligting some of their favorites here.  But how could we not mention these bands?  Bonus preview!

Guided By Voices – by Mario Cotto

1994’s “Bee Thousand” is on my short list of important life records. It was one of those albums that was the soundtrack to a period in my life, and although it might not speak to everyone, it is without question a gorgeous and glorious lo-fi masterpiece. They visited my college and played on a tiny stage in front of 40 kids in a dining center, and for that afternoon, they were The Who. The songs, all written by beer-gutted guys pushing 40 in their garages in suburban Ohio at the time when punk rock was becoming MTV grunge, had a psychedelic 60s vibe that wouldn’t actually be popular for another 15 years. The 20 song album clocks in at 37 mins and plays like an abridged history of post British-invasion rock, a hot mess of high hats, power chord hooks, and maudlin choruses. GBVs subsequent (and insanely numerous) releases all have noteworthy moments and they put on a powerhouse show complete with scissor kicks and jumps, and I can’t wait to see them.

Guided By Voices – Gold Star for Robot Boy by Argue Job

Olivia Tremor Control by Marion Hodges

Around the time that Guided by Voices were converting the collegiate masses, one drunken high kick at a time, the future members of the Olivia Tremor Control were somewhere in Athens, Georgia. They were experimenting with other bands, the limits of sound, and I’m just going to take a wild guess here and say some (ahem) substances of the mind altering variety as well. Even the “singles” make no sense in terms of typical song structures.

The Olivia Tremor Control – A New Day by marinak

While they mined a lot of the same territory as GBV, namely British psychedelia, and pushing the limits of home recording, the results still sound vastly different. Guided by Voices were manipulating the English language to create a language of their own, and get their listeners fluent in it right quick. The Olivia Tremor Control were manipulating the English language to create one of their own as well, and then they would throw it out the very next day.

“There are words that we could speak, I write them on my shoes everyday, and when it’s warm we can toss them in the fireplace…”

Again, that’s a line from one of the singles. Though the OTC are usually amongst the bands mentioned when anyone brings up the wildly cult followed Elephant 6 collective, it’s probably no surprise that they don’t bring up quite the same revelatory exclamations as the other founding bands. They weren’t yearning for the better recording technology to make their pure pop songs soar like the Apples in Stereo, nor was there much potential for their odd brilliance to win mainstream listeners over as indie culture has become more prevalent.  The latter seeming to be what has happened to the most celebrated band of the collective, Neutral Milk Hotel.

The music of Olivia Tremor Control still sounds flat out weird, and I love them for that.

Years ago I read an interview from another weirdo with a penchant for pushing sonic boundaries, Danger Mouse. The interview was all about influences, his top 5 or 10 biggest influences, and the Olivia Tremor Control was one of them. I wasn’t super familiar with the band at the time, but I knew about Elephant 6, and I knew enough to know that was an odd choice. It didn’t change my feelings about Danger Mouse one way or the other, it’s just something I always think about when I hear one of his projects. I somehow hope it plays out that the Olivia Tremor Control and Guided by Voices will play back to back on the same stage, and we can all pretend that it’s the 90s, we’re in college, we know more about music, and the way the world works than anyone else ever will, (ever!) And the future is wide open, ours for the taking…