Guster interview

Christine Beaderstadt

After restlessly finishing recording their fifth studio album just three weeks ago, Guster is back on the road, headlining at venues and colleges across the country. Last Wednesday, Guster performed at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center with Better Than Ezra and those hockey-obsessed musicians The Zambonis.
Guster experienced some commercial success with their song “Fa Fa” on the 1999 album “Lost and Gone Forever.” This public success helped broaden Guster’s cult fan base to a more widespread following. The hit song helped them rise from the underground music scene and gain recognition as a mainstream rock band.
After the hype over “Lost and Gone Forever,” their third record, Guster faded back to their former status, unknown to many but still supported by faithful fans. In 2003, however, it seemed as though Guster might have once again reached the height of “Fa Fa” with the first single released off of “Keep it Together.” “Amsterdam” seemed to garner success similar to that of 1999. The song received some radio attention, but failed to capture the attention of the more prominent radio stations in major cities.
With this latest album – set to be released later this year – they hope to gain more attention than their previous records, although guitarist Adam Gardner admits, “These songs are even more radio-unfriendly.” Instead of following mainstream music popularity, the members of Guster feel it is more important to expand as musicians, hoping that this new record will also coincide with what people want to hear.
With a new record label and a new member in the band, they hope to expand their fan base and bring their music to larger audiences. Gardner confesses, “I wouldn’t mind if we got more airtime; our records seem to be getting less and less radio-friendly… [But] I wish to have a good time all the time and to get better [as a band]. I want to continue to grow as an entity.” Will this new record satisfy longtime Guster fans and gain the media attention they feel is overdue? The band certainly hopes to stay true to their unique, defined sound, as well as create new and interesting music that is fulfilling to them as musicians.
On this album, Joe Pisapia, the most recent addition to Guster, helped in the songwriting and recording process. Having formed in 1991, the band was grateful for fresh ideas and a different personality. The writing and recording, according to Gardner, happened quickly and was done as purely as possible; the record was self-produced in Pisapia’s house in Nashville, Tenn. Gardner says, “It was a lot different than recording in a huge mansion that sleep[s] forty with our own personal chef. We kept it real on this record.” The band agreed that they didn’t want to spend a lot of money, as they had on “Lost and Gone Forever.” This reduced the amount of pressure, without the backing of a major recording studio charging hundreds per hour.
Last fall, Guster opened for Maroon 5 during their U.K. tour. Ironically, Maroon 5 had opened for them only a few years ago. This reversal of opening and headlining, unfortunately, has not been the first for the band: Guster has also followed John Mayer, who now headlines some of their shows. “Watching the Grammys was a little tough,” Gardner says with a forced laugh.
Will Guster be successful this time around? They seemed to have made all the necessary changes – new record label, additional member’s insight, pushing of musical limits, etc. – but it is ultimately the listeners’ decision whether Guster hits the big time in the musical world.