For Spring Fling 2002, the Student Activities Council (SAC) brought the Boston area-based band Guster to Lasell Gymnasium. Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner, two vocalists/guitarists, and Brian Rosenworcel, a percussionist, formed the band now known as Guster at Tufts University in 1992. The band is in the process of completing their fourth album.
I interviewed Miller by phone a few days before the show, and as anyone who has seen Guster perform knows, Miller is definitely a free spirit. This made for a very confusing and disjointed, but hugely enjoyable, conversation.
The band had just arrived at St. Bonaventure University in snowy upstate New York (“somewhere near Canada”) after a long bus ride from the sunny South. He began by telling me about his newly single status and the merits of match.com in discovering what girls look for in men. One woman said that she liked it when guys had odd quirks, like the girl who loved breaking the creme brulee in the movie “Amelie.”
Miller had searched for his own eccentricity, and decided on a piece of apparel. “I like my winter coat,” he said, and was thrilled to show off his sexy outerwear in Jamestown, NY.
Miller asked me next about my future plans because, he said, I must be smart, since I was accepted to Williams and he was not.
I quickly changed the subject and asked him what he would be doing if he were not a member of Guster. One day, he believes, he will “use [his] brain” and make a documentary, host a radio show in New York, or travel and write a “Lonely Planet” guidebook for Botswana. But he loves his current situation. “I guess we’re sort of rock stars. . .it’s a good life; I have no complaints,” he said.
After a foray into his hatred for musical theater (complete with a sample rendition of a melodramatic song entitled, “I’m going to the store right now”) and into his desire to have a wireless microphone and dance on the speakers at a concert, Miller apologized and asked, “Have I given you anything you could write about?”
We started to have a slightly more serious interview, and I inquired into how the experience of writing and recording the new album was different from earlier ones. Miller said that the band has “changed so much” and that they “continually have evolved.”
“We seemed to be in a bubble, so we tried a lot of different kinds of things,” he explained. Though traditionally a vocal/guitar/percussion trio, each member experimented with new sounds in the studio. Miller played bass, Gardner laid down keyboard tracks and Rosenworcel added a drum kit on some songs.
Though they may demonstrate their new abilities during future performances to “expand the palette,” the band recognizes that “what we were doing before [in live concerts] really works.”
However, to the dismay of old Guster fans, they hate playing almost all songs from their first and second records, Parachute and Goldfly. According to Miller, songs like “Window” are not fun to play and even more boring to listen to if unfamiliar with the songs. On the other hand “What You Wish For” and “Happier,” off Lost and Gone Forever, have “dynamic changes, mood changes” and are much more vibrant and fun for both the band and the audience. Their goal for the fourth album therefore was to “sculpt newer songs. . .fuller songs that [were] more subtle, that [had] more depth.”
It was impossible to keep Miller serious for too long. When I asked him, “What is the one question you always wished an interviewer would ask you?” he responded with, “Will you marry me?” Since I knew that if I had posed that question he probably would have been terrified, I got him to qualify his statement to only if the interviewer was Christina Applegate. However, at the thought of her new movie, “The Sweetest Thing,” he changed his mind and briefly preferred Parker Posey.
“No, I know who,” he finally decided, “Aisha Taylor from ‘The Fifth Wheel’ and ‘Talk Soup.’ She’s gorgeous and brainy.”
For the first time he expressed embarrassment and offered an apology for being girl-crazy. I reassured him that it was not unusual and that everyone thought about it all the time, and that he was brave to be discussing it with me when it could be published. “Smart, funny, pretty. That’s what I need,” he proclaimed.
“Nearly-30” Miller and the rest of Guster will be touring colleges (filled with “all the pretty girls – then I talk to them and I realize they’re only 19!”) until May 18, when they return to the studio to finish mixing the new album tentatively entitled Come Downstairs and Say Hello.
After the album’s completion, they are planning to start their fall tour, performing with John Mayer. Both the album and the tour promise to be a new and improved Guster experience, while they try and discover the “indie rock kids at heart” that they are.