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Interview and Concert Review: Guster

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.  

The Interview

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?

About M.D. Sandwasher

  • http://www.djradiohead DJRadiohead

    MD, it’s great to see another member of the BC Cult of Guster (me and Saleski being two of the others- we should get t-shirts).

    Great interview. I am thrilled to hear there will be another run of dates in the fall. I need to see them again. They were fabulous in Birmingham.

  • http://www.sandwasher.blog.com M.D. Sandwasher

    DJ Radiohead,

    Thanks for the great compliments. I’m very appreciative.

    I thank I owe you a great deal of gratitude for securing the interview. When Ryan and I first started the interview, he asked me if I was the person from BC writing all those nice things about the band. I said, “No, that would be DJ Radiohead.” That led to a long discussion about BC and bloggers in general. Ryan even went on to say, and I’m paraphrasing, that he often trusts and respects bloggers work more than the traditional press, citing that our work is often more insightful and well thought out.

    So, if you didn’t write those great Guster articles, I don’t think I would have been granted the interview. Thanks so much!!!

    And, I’m all for the T-Shirts. Let’s send a design to the printing press.

  • http://www.djradiohead DJRadiohead

    MD, that’s one of the coolest things I have read/heard in a long, long time. My feet might not touch the ground for the rest of the day.

    T-shirts are a must now. Well done! And thanks for passing that along. That’s just all kinds of cool.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    md, this comes close to braggin’, but you might want to check out the current issue of the magazine “american songwriter”. i wrote a feature on Guster.

    spoke to both Ryan and Adam…yow, two of the nicest “rock stars” you’d ever want to yak with.

    nice interview.

  • http://www.sandwasher.blog.com M.D. Sandwasher

    D.J. Radiohead-
    I was trying to figure out a way to put that into my article, but I couldn’t get it in sync with the flow. Work like yours, Mark Saleski’s, Sussman’s, and others, gives me instant credibility. I just ride on your coattails into the interview room.

    Mark-
    Thanks for the compliments. I found your article. Due to the log in/subscription difficulties, I had trouble reading the entire article. But, if the last half of the article is anything like the first, my article doesn’t hold a candle to yours. I’m definitely interested in reading your interview with Adam and Ryan.

    I agree with your comments about Adam and Ryan. Both are incredibly nice and humble individuals.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    the web version contains just about all of the intro…the rest was interview.

    c’mon, you’ve gotta give yourself more credit. this really was a fine interview.

  • http://www.sandwasher.blog.com M.D. Sandwasher

    Mark-
    Thanks so much for your compliments. That means a great deal coming from a professional, experienced writer like you. I have a very difficult time rereading my own work though. It gives me the creeps, like hearing your own recorded voice.

  • http://www.sandwasher.blog.com M.D. Sandwasher

    I wanted to pass on that Guster will be appearing on Conan O’Brien with the Boston Pops. Here’s the release from Guster’s website (guster.com):

    “Put your cassette tapes in your VCRs and program them to record next Thursday night, August 10th, as we’ll be making an appearance on the Conan O’Brien Late Into The Night Television Show on NBC along with our old friends, the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra (or, as many of them as we can fit on stage with us — probably about 10 of them).”

    That’s what I call “Must See TV!”