This is an Interview stolen from Consumable Online...

INTERVIEW: Guster - Daniel Aloi

Hot off of an appearance on the last Conan O'Brien show of 1999, the acoustic pop trio Guster is finally going beyond its Boston-area roots after five years of hard work. "

The three of us just moved out of Somerville in August, so we're out of the Boston scene," says guitarist Adam Gardner, calling from aboard a tour bus recently in Southern California. "I figured since I'm on the road 10 months of the year, why am I paying rent? So I went for homelessness, and when I'm off I go on vacation - I just went to New Zealand for a month."

"We've always felt outside of the Boston scene, especially when we were just starting out," Gardner says. "The local scene just didn't accept us. I felt just ostracized. Bands like The Push Stars are just starting to make it."

The band is now on tour in support of their third album and major-label breakout, 'Lost and Gone Forever' (Sire). They're starting the current tour on the west coast to "follow up some radio play we've been getting," Gardner says. It gave the onetime college friends - Gardner and Ryan Miller on acoustic guitars and vocals, Brian Rosenworcel on percussion - a chance to play smaller cities, and try out new songs and equipment. Not that Guster would consider adding a wall of Marshall stacks and synthesizers.

"I don't think we have any particular allegiance to acoustic guitar and hand percussion itself," Gardner says. "What I like about the acoustic guitar is it fills more of a dynamic range and frequency range than the electric guitar."

Their first two albums, released independently, allowed the organic Guster sound to flourish (The second, "Goldfly," was eventually picked up by Sire).

"'Parachute' is very acoustic, there's hardly any electric sounds on there," Gardner says of their debut. "At the same time, there was a drum kit and a bass player, outside musicians. It sounded like us, but it wasn't really our energy."

"It's certainly the thing people notice about us," Gardner says of the acoustic format, sans conventional rhythm section. "A lot of people who didn't see us said, 'Oh, they're a folk act, a hippie act.' At the end of the day, we're a pop band. We like pop melodies and choruses."

That's evident throughout 'Lost and Gone Forever', an album filled with infectious pure pop elements. Gardner says the song "All the Way Up to Heaven" is the album's "most obvious nod to the Beach Boys, from the fact that it's very falsetto-ey to the theremin, which Page (McConnell, of Phish) came down and played. We weren't even hiding our influences there."

While Sire has sent the latest upbeat Guster single, "Fa Fa," to radio stations, the album itself ends on a decidedly dark note with "Rainy Day": "holes uncovered/the walls will crumble/it all spells trouble."

"It's definitely very depressing," Gardner concedes. "I can't imagine putting that track anywhere else but last. While at the same time, it's sort of a sad way to end a fairly upbeat, happy record. I think it fit the title so well. While the songs are upbeat, the lyrics aren't."

The song "Barrel of a Gun," goes beyond the obvious associations. "That has nothing to do with Columbine. It's more about a kid fantasizing about a movie star and masturbating," he says.

Producer Steve Lillywhite saw Guster play to full houses at Irving Plaza in New York, and at first considered having the band invite additional musicians into the recording studio.

"Then he saw us a few more times and said `you don't need anyone else, you're covering the sounds. Let's take what you've got first, and then see what we've got. He said, `Brian, you're playing your percussion like a drummer anyway, so let's just find a way to keep this.'"

Lillywhite helped them add some punch to their sound, but kept its key elements - acoustic rhythms and tight harmonies - intact.

"Tony Levin played bass on a track, which was amazing, but it wasn't necessary to go and hire the best bass player," Gardner says. "Tony has a place in Woodstock, near where we were recording the second half of the record with Steve, and they ran into each other at the grocery store. Steve told Tony who he was working with, and Tony's wife said `Oh, Guster, I love Guster!' Steve said `Come by the studio - oh, and bring your bass.'"

Gardner considered Levin a hero, for playing with both Peter Gabriel and U2 - "the bands that inspired me to go into music in the first place. It was amazing to sit there, a very powerful day for me." Levin ended up adding bass and Chapman Stick to three songs.

"On our record, we want to pick up and play electric guitars - whatever will get the sound we're looking for, I'll play," Gardner says. "We're actually experimenting; I've got a MIDI pickup on my acoustic guitar, so it plays the bass parts through the MIDI."

Still, Gardner doesn't see a radical shift in style coming. "I don't think Brian will end up playing an actual drum kit and I'll pick up an electric guitar exclusively anytime soon; it's just part of our sound."

The fans like them just fine the way they are. In fact, some are hardcore enough to follow the band to see shows night after night. A few of the fans won a contest to come into the studio and whistle on "All the Way Up to Heaven." It's a very tight-knit, grassroots group of supporters the band has come to see as "their crowd."

"We're people's little secret, and they wanna keep it that way," Gardner says. "Now there's response to being on TV, and people were worried about hearing us on radio. They are calling the stations and requesting it, so they're part of it and trying to contribute to it. Obviously, these are good problems to have."

Signing with a major label and going on television, selling out club shows and booking larger venues sometimes cause the fans concern, Gardner says. "But people who know us know our intentions, and we'd like as many people who might like our music to hear it. I don't think we're going to make any enemies with our fans by succeeding. Signing a deal, it wasn't a clash against our ideals. We wanted to get our music out there."

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