As I walked up to Fraze Pavilion, my head was throbbing and I was drenched with sweat. Even though I drank 33 fluid ounces of water on my drive to the show, I had the worst bout of cotton mouth in recent memory. I was a little tipsy with anxiety because Ryan Miller, vocalist and guitar for Guster (which also includes Adam Gardner on guitar and vocals, Joe Pisapia on bass, and Brian Rosenworcel on drums), was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his valuable free-time. This was by far my biggest media coup to date, and I didn’t want to look like Chris Farley on the Saturday Night Live skit “The Chris Farley Show.”
Just seconds after being introduced to Ryan, my nerves were gone. In his polite, unassuming, humble demeanor, Ryan made me feel like he was more interested in talking about me than the band. As we walked to find a seat next to the pond, he asked questions about Blogcritics and my writing experiences. When we found a comfortable bench under the precious shade next to a few ducks, I was able to get Ryan off my incredibly ordinary life story and focused on all things Guster.
What is it like to graduate from touring in a van to a tour bus?
It’s the single biggest lifestyle change for a band. We were in a van for five years and have been in a bus for five years now. In the van, the days are long, and that takes up the entire day. In the bus, we have the freedom to do other things. We can listen to music, read books, hop on the Internet, or anything else you can imagine. For this tour, we actually have two buses, but that won’t last for long.
Why did you bring two buses on this tour?
This is our most ambitious tour to date. We are bringing in our own P.A. and lights. Currently, the band is in one bus and the crew travels in the other bus.
I looked at your Myspace page today and the band already had tons of comments from last night’s show in Indianapolis. Do you read the fan’s comments, and what do you think of them?
I check in to see what the people are talking about. It’s interesting to see the fan’s perspective. But, I do realize that most of the comments we get are going to be positive. Someone that doesn’t like us typically won’t take the time to write negative comments.
Your concerts are known for several unique traditions. How did some of those start?
The funny thing is that they had nothing to do with us. The fans started it. In “Airport Song,” a fan threw a ping pong ball on the stage because that can be heard bouncing at the end of the song. That took off from there. During “Either Way,” the crowd blows bubbles. That kind of stuff is not done as much anymore.
Guster is frequently called a fan-friendly band, where you often provide unique access to the band (i.e. “Joe’s Place”) and regularly sign autographs for fans after shows. Will you explain the band’s stance on fan relations?
We make a point to be accessible to fans. If we see kids around, we try to sign for them. We try hard not to have an ego. We are so lucky to have fans of our music, and we are music fans ourselves.
You appear to be so humble about the band’s status. You guys are huge stars now.
We definitely do not feel like huge stars. Our recent shows have been great, but there are still some markets were we are inconsistent. We have recently become really big in Milwaukee and Utah, but in Philly, an hour-and-a-half from where we live and have played tons of times, we are very inconsistent there. The process can be both frustrating and really exciting.
Are you leery of a big radio hit?
We are not anti-radio, but we, as a band, are against trying to chase after that big song. If we have a huge radio hit, we are at the point in our careers where we are still going to do things the way we want to do them. Personally, money is not the motivating factor. As Guster grows, the things that excite me are the opportunities to collaborate with other artists, contribute on collaborative albums like the MTV2 albums of covers where we covered the Violent Femmes (“Careful,” “Blister in the Sun,” “Kiss Off,” “Gone Daddy Gone,” and “Add it Up”), make television appearances – all those things to reach out to more fans. You mentioned the importance of creating music on your own terms. Has that been a difficult mission to accomplish?