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Love Letter To A Record: Green Buzzard On Guided by Voices’ ‘Bee Thousand’

Written by Paddy Harrowsmith on November 8, 2019

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Paddy Harrowsmith, Green Buzzard – ‘Bee Thousand’ by Guided by Voices (1994)

I still remember the first time I heard Guided By Voices. I was 18, a friend of mine, from a Sydney band called Mercy Arms, played me ‘Game Of Pricks’ in a van when I was on tour with them. It was a completely life changing two and a half minutes, the raw lo-fi sound, the lyrics, the melody, I still think it’s a perfect song. I fell in love with Guided By Voices, and am still very much in love to this day.

It wasn’t a few years later until I heard Bee Thousand. I was 23 by now, and had just moved to my parents farm in Oberon. I was learning to love playing guitar again. With no one else to hear me play really loudly with a bunch of fuzz pedals except some poor cows. I spent a year at this farm working on what was to become my first Green Buzzard songs. The whole time was soundtracked by this album, Bee Thousand. It had completely and utterly blown my mind, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It changed my entire perspective and philosophy towards music.

Suddenly, less was more, I relished in and welcomed making mistakes, I took on a real “warts and all” approach to songwriting and recording. I even named my band, in part, after the song ‘Buzzards and Dreadful Crows’. The songwriting of Robert Pollard was so exciting and schizophrenic , he seemed to almost intentionally ruin great songs by leaving recording errors littered throughout the album, it was true anarchy, real punk attitude.

Songs like ‘Tractor Rape Chain’ were real game-changers for me. That song in particular inspired me to write the very first Green Buzzard song ‘Phantasy Girl’. I read somewhere, that Robert Pollard would think of song names before he wrote a song, create fake bands and even create the artwork before even writing a chord. I loved that and copied it completely. I thought of a comic book hero called Green Buzzard and his side kick Phantasy Girl, I decided the planet he lived on had a great house band and the song they played would be ‘Phantasy Girl’. I mocked up artworks of distorted coloured Mars-like landscapes and imagined what the song and band would sound like. All ideas inspired by Pollard’s approach to songwriting.

There was also the most important discovery from Bee Thousand, which was a chord that Pollard uses all throughout the GBV discography. It involves dropping the low E note down a semitone, creating this really dark sounding “in between” sort of chord. I found out as I was learning to play all these songs that he uses it in just about every song, and of course, I copied it. Since then I have also used it in most of my songwriting. I love showing my fellow guitar playing friends this chord, whilst they try to work it out with confused faces – I’ve lovingly called the chord “The GBV Chord”.

All in all, I think this album is perfect in all of its imperfections. Thats the point, it’s ugly, it’s schizophrenic, it’s got issues, but under it all it is a masterpiece in songwriting and originality. I connect with this album in more ways than one. Before Bee Thousand there was nothing, it changed everything for me.

Green Buzzard’s debut album ‘Amidst The Clutter & Mess’ is out now. Listen here.

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