KCSU interviews Guster

Apr 092003
Authors: Ab Berendt

His hands are wrapped in dirty-white athletic tape. Brian Rosenworcel seems overly relaxed, knowing that in two hours he will perform in front of 4,800 screaming fans. Guitarists/vocalists Adam Gardner and Ryan Miller are M.I.A., and as a result Rosenworcel takes the reigns of the interview. He’s least vocal of the group. Rosenworcel is used to hiding behind the bongos, beating relentlessly on his hands (hence, the athletic tape).

Guster is opening for John Mayer, and Rosenworcel recalls the days when the singer/songwriter used to open for them. But that’s the way with Guster. Revered as one of the ’90s greatest grassroots successes, Guster sold over 40,000 copies of their independent release “Parachute.” Their popularity grew by word of mouth alone, and in 1997 they were named the Best Live Act at the Boston Music Awards. Guster pioneered the way for grassroots marketing and developed the ‘street team’ as it is known today. Guster has released three albums: “Parachute,” “Goldfly” and “Lost and Gone Forever.” They plan to release their fourth album Keep it Together on Palm/Reprise June 2003.

Interview Conducted by Abby Berendt and Thea Domber Summer of 2002.

KCSU: How has your sound changed since you started?

Rosenworcel: We met in ’91, but we didn’t really get serious about it until we graduated in ’95. Our sound has changed a lot. We didn’t really know how to play our instruments when we started, and we still kinda don’t. But now we play new instruments. I’m playing drum set, and Adam’s playing piano. Ryan’s playing bass on our record. The sound keeps evolving. Each record seems to be a reaction against the last one. The last one was a pretty honest, live sounding album I thought. This new one has all sorts of new elements to it, like string arrangements. We don’t sound like a trio at all. We didn’t care about that. We just wanted to make a record and make it sound as cool as we could.

KCSU: Do you have a title for the new album?

Rosenworcel: It might be called “Come down Stairs and Say Hello,” but we still have a couple of months to think of something better.

KCSU: You said you didn’t really know how to play your instruments when you first started. How did you guys actually form a band?

Rosenworcel: We all played in high school bands, but none of us were that serious about it. We met during our Wilderness Orientation before freshman year. We were on the bus ride back, and we were all sad ’cause me missed our high school bands. We’re not like musicians in a skilled instrument kinda way. We’re more songwriters and live energy, that kind of thing. We couldn’t really decide on any covers to play so we just started writing songs.

KCSU: Are there a lot of influences behind how you guys made your sound?

Rosenworcel: It’s always hard to know that. It’s just whatever I’m listening to now sort of seeps into the parts I write, and I’m sure that’s true for the other guys. A lot of Ryan’s melodies come from New Order, Depeche Mode, and that ’80s melodic sweet stuff. That’s really where we borrow a lot of our stuff from.

KCSU: How did you guys get going? What was touring first like?

Rosenworcel: We would load up every square inch of space in the Chevy Nova, then it was four years in a van, and now it has almost been four years in a bus. We did a lot of shows where we were playing for just staff and crashing on couches.

KCSU: What’s touring like with you guys? Are you all pretty good friends?

Rosenworcel: The bus allows you a bit more independence then the van ever did. But, Adam is getting married in May. It’s not the same as when we were 22 yrs. old, on the road, excited to play for no one. We had a year off last year to record our album, so everyone kinda got used to the benefits of domesticity, and the advantages and luxuries of having a stable life. Getting us on the road is a bit more of an arm twist, but that’s just ’cause we’re older. And spoiled.

KCSU: When you guys record, do you record like a whole bunch of songs and then cut it down to the best 12 or so? Or do you just record 12 songs and that’s it?

Rosenworcel: Well, we’ve signed to a new label, Reprise. We’ve always, until this album, recorded the exact number we put on the album. We never had time or money to record the other ones.

KCSU: Do you guys want to become huge? Is that a goal?

Rosenworcel: I’d like to just maintain some momentum. You know, like keep things progressing the way they have been. Every time we come through Denver we’re playing a bigger place. I don’t need to suddenly be like John Mayer, kind of over night success. It’s probably unlikely at this point. But I wouldn’t mind having another video. Whatever it takes to get your music out to people, like this tour for us is great. Whatever you can do to expose yourself.

KCSU: What’s the video process like?

Rosenworcel: I hated making videos cause I like to have control over things.

KCSU: Could you have any say in it?

Rosenworcel: We got to pick the director, which is more than other bands.

KCSU: But you didn’t get to choose the theme?

Rosenworcel: We talked it through. He was just this great stoner guy who did the early Beck videos. They all looked really cool, and we were thinking we’d end up with something like that. But we ended up with this Hawaiian Luau spliced in with Ryan in high school and this guy from Say Anything with a red wig. It just made no sense. It got some play on VH1, but I watched it recently and I was like “Oh my God. We spent so much money on that.” It was so bad. I want a new video – for redemption.

KCSU: After that, do people recognize you? Or could you walk out into the seats right now, and nobody would know you?

Rosenworcel: We did one show in Rochester, N.Y, where they put down the house light to the show, and we were all in the crowd. And the music to the Price is Right theme came on. And they have a voice over saying “can these names come down,” and we started screaming and the spotlight came on us. Nobody got it, nobody figured it out. One guy wouldn’t let Adam sit in his seat. He was like “Dude, this is my seat.” He was like, “Listen, I’m only going to be here for like 30 seconds.” And they were like “Who are you?”

KSCU: If you could put your motto for life on a bumper sticker what would it be?

Rosenworcel: It would be “Live free or die.” No, no … it would be, “Oklahoma is OK.”

KCSU: Anything else you’d like to add?

Rosenworcel: Let me think about Fort Collins, and what I’ve done there. Um … I’ve been there a bunch of times and I don’t remember it. That speaks well of Fort Collins.

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