Despite his own solo successes, Tobin Sprout will probably always be known as the one-time four-track wizard and songwriting side kick to Robert Pollard in Ohio's lo-fi pop kings Guided By Voices. Though less prolific than his boss, fans of the group were quick to take note of Sprout's irresistible song craft. Relegated to a handful of appearances on each release, the singer/guitarist penned GBV favorites like "Awful Bliss," "Atom Eyes," and "It's Like Soul Man." Sprout left the GBV camp in 1997, pursuing the solo career he launched a year earlier with Carnival Boy.
Born in 1955, Tobin Sprout began playing guitar at age eight, teaching himself on the Silvertone his parents purchased for 25 dollars. In his late twenties, Sprout began making his first appearances on a Dayton, OH, scene dominated by metal acts, cover bands, and the occasional coalition of fiery punk youth, with his band Fig.4. Formed in 1983 with bassist Dan Toohey and drummer Jon Peterson, the group only released one 7" during its existence, breaking up before completing their full-length debut. After the split, Sprout enlisted the help of Dayton resident Robert Pollard to finish the album. A frequent attendee at Fig.4 shows, Pollard's early offer to join the group was (rather ironically) rejected. Needing an outlet for his own growing backlog of compositions, Pollard formed Guided By Voices shortly after. The band's Forever Since Breakfast EP was released in 1986, followed by the full-length Devil Between My Toes a year later. Sprout continued to stay in touch, adding his guitar to a couple of tracks on Devil, but eventually moved to Florida, taking a job as a designer and illustrator for See magazine.
Upon returning to Dayton in the early '90s, Sprout found Guided By Voices hard at work on their fifth album Propeller (1992). Impressed with Pollard's songwriting talents, Sprout joined the group mid-way through the recording, making his GBV songwriting debut with "14 Cheerleader Coldfront." The band began using Sprout's home studio, pleased with the intimacy of four-track fidelity. Eventually a recording reached Scat Records who signed the band for the Propeller follow-up, Vampire on Titus. The group's home until their 1995 signing to Matador, the Scat-era saw GBV honing their home-studio skills, culminating on Bee Thousand. One of the group's best-loved releases, the album was cut entirely on Sprout's four-track. Token Sprout appearances followed on each subsequent album, peaking with his four contributions to 1996's Under the Bushes, Under the Stars. That same year, the singer released his first solo album (simultaneously with one from Pollard), Carnival Boy. Shortly after, weary of the band's increased touring, Sprout moved with his family to Michigan. Though much of his spare time was dedicated to painting, he continued to write, releasing the occasional 7" and two full-length collections, Moonflower Plastic (1997) and Let's Welcome the Circus People (1999). He also wrote a number of songs for his Eyesinweasel project, 14 of which were collected on 2000's Wrinkled Thoughts. Demos and Outtakes appeared in 2001, but Sprout was uncharacteristically quiet after its release, only popping up here and there on hard-to-find 7" singles. During this time he also cut a full-length studio effort in his Leland, MI home studio. The finished touches were collected as Lost Planets & Phantom Voices, which appeared in February 2003. ~ Nathan Bush