Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller and Brian Rosenworcel, better known as Guster, met during their freshman orientation at Tufts University in 1991. Known for its unique sound and vocal harmonies, the band built a fanbase with its underground albums “Parachute” and “Goldfly” before going mainstream with “Lost and Gone Forever” in 1999. The band has found continued success with its latest efforts, “Keep It Together” and “Ganging Up on the Sun,” and has taken on a new member in Joe Pisapia.
p. Guster will perform this Saturday as part of the College’s Homecoming festivities. Rosenworcel, Guster’s drummer, sat down with The Flat Hat for a pre-show interview.
p. **Flat Hat: Is there a reason you play a lot of college tours?**
p. **Brian Rosenworcel:** We like to play schools this time of year. … We really like the college crowd, and we have a lot of fans that are that age.
p. **FH: How did the band form?**
p. **BR:** We met when we were at college. We got started by playing in one of our rooms, but when we formed the band we didn’t really have any aspirations of doing this in our mid-30s. But here we are.
p. **FH: Guster is known for its live shows. Why do you think that is?**
p. **BR:** I don’t really know why we’re known for our live shows, because we’re not very good at our instruments as far as having any chops. We write pop songs and we arrange them and we’re good at tracking them, but we’re not great players, except for the new guy Joe. We tend not to take ourselves too seriously on stage, and we play with a lot of energy. We play the songs that we’re really inspired by in our set. We’ve been doing it a long time, and we do whatever it takes to keep it interesting.
p. **FH: You definitely like to have fun on stage. Any reason that you sometimes joke around with the audience?**
p. **BR:** Ryan will every now and then just kind of go off into a land of his own. We did a show with the Barenaked Ladies, and a lot of people thought, well yeah, they’re like the Barenaked Ladies in that sense, but those guys are like improvisational geniuses and comic geniuses, and we don’t go for that. We play our songs, and every now and then we’ll go off on some tangent, but it’s not like the comic element is a real part of our live shows.
p. **FH: How did you develop your unconventional barehand style?**
p. **BR:** I brought my bongos to college with me and met these guys, and we became friends and wrote songs on the instruments we had. It wasn’t until recently that I learned how to play a regular drum kit. It just became part of the show and people liked it, so right now we’re at a stage where our live show is very eclectic. We’re switching up for every song, and I’m jumping back and forth between a percussion kit and a regular drum kit. So these days we feel like there’s a lot of [stuff] going on, and it’s cool, and it makes for a more eclectic show.
p. **FH: Where did you get your nickname “Thundergod”?**
p. **BR:** I took that from Rick “Thundergod” Allen of Def Leppard. I had the opportunity to meet him once, and it was pretty awesome. We probably have a lot in common in that we both play hand drums with a lot of electronic triggers, and we both play with three limbs since my left foot doesn’t really do anything. But yeah, I stole that from Def Leppard.
p. **FH: Have you noticed that your fan base seems to vary a lot age-wise?**
p. **BR:** Our fans really are kind of all over the place. We’ll play a show in New York over the weekend for some high school kids, and then we’ll play a show out on the West Coast and we find that our fans are almost 30. It’s definitely the college demographic that’s always been there; that’s where it started and it hasn’t left us, but we can fit in with a lot of crowds. Like we played with Modest Mouse and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs last week, and then next week we’re playing with Willie Nelson.
p. **FH: Do you guys make a concerted effort to be fan-friendly?**
p. **BR:** I think, yeah, we make an effort to be good to our fans. We always have. We’ve always sold our T-shirts as cheap as we could, we communicate well with fans on our website and otherwise attempt to be accessible. And I think we really try hard to keep the college students at heart. I think people take that as thanks to our fans who helped us to distribute our CDs before we had national distribution. We have a lot of fans who have been with us since the beginning, and we really appreciate that.
p. **FH: What makes for a great show?**
p. **BR:** Well, it depends who you ask. We’ll come backstage after the same show and one of us will think we were amazing and one of us will think we sucked. I think if we play well, to me nothing else really matters, and I tend to feel good. But Ryan is all about if he’s connecting with the crowd. I’m pretty much oblivious to the crowd; I tend to keep my eyes closed. But yeah, there are a lot of factors.
p. **FH: Is there a particular show that you’ve performed that stands out in your mind?**
p. **BR:** I’d say the Woodstock ’99 Festival, well before we were ready to be playing in front of that many people. That was a scary one. I think that this weekend when we play FarmAid, that will be pretty memorable. Neil Young and Willie Nelson are two of my heroes.
p. **FH: Do you have a favorite Guster song?**
p. **BR:** Favorite Guster song? You know, I tend to enjoy the ones that are freshest, so these days I’m enjoying playing “Hang On” from the new album. I always like to play “Manifest Destiny” and there’re a few old ones that have been with us for a while that I still really like, so that’s exciting.
p. **FH: What about a favorite Guster album?**
p. **BR:** I know for a lot of people “Lost and Gone Forever” is the quintessential Guster album because it was the first time we really captured the acoustic guitar sound. Since then we’ve kind of reinvented ourselves. I think “Ganging Up on the Sun” has been my favorite so far, but we don’t really ever feel satisfied with what we’ve done.
p. **FH: When can we expect a new album?**
p. **BR:** We’re going to do this tour, and after the last show we’re going to take the better part of the year off to record the new album. So this is your last chance to see us live for a while since we’ll be taking a studio hiatus.