Guster recreates sound, embarks on tour

Adam Griffiths

Boston rock band embraces road blog, communication with fans

Guster breezes into the House of Blues on Sunday in support of its latest album Ganging Up on the Sun. PHOTO COURTESY OF GUSTER

Credit: Jason Hall

Guster is like a toadstool.

It’s a middle ground. For bands. For fans. For music history during the past 10 years.

But all in modesty.

“I don’t feel our footprint is that big,” Ryan Miller, the oldest “Guster” who sings and plays guitar, said. “The Fray were fans of our band, and now they’re bigger than us. John Mayer opened for us. Maroon 5 opened for us. I don’t know if we’ve influenced them. I don’t think we’re making music good enough.”

The fact is, Guster is an oddity. In the golden age of the ’90s when new artists popped onto the scene and fizzled away just as quickly, Guster’s 15-year history is impressive. Miller attributes this permanence to the way the band approaches what it does.

Guster is currently playing a three-week tour that will wrap up next Saturday with a sold-out show at the Electric Factory Ballroom. The band is taking most of the rest of March off before heading out on what Miller calls its “big spring tour.”

Touring is what Guster does best.

“I think major label cycles are to put out a record and then go on tour,” Miller said. “We’re independent of that. We’ve sort of just been touring for the past 10 years.”

It’s what sets the band apart in the recent surge of indie, alternative look-alikes. Guster’s gone through name changes, label changes and the reality of growing up.

“It has a lot to do with why we are a band,” he said. “Touring is how we spread the music and see how people connect with us. All the money we eat with is from going out and playing shows, not selling records.”

And it’s also the way Guster stays intimate with its fans. When the band plays in college towns, band members go to frat parties and play beer pong, even though all of the band members are in their 30s.

“There is some sense of arrested development in the sense that none of us have ever had a job,” Miller said. “I feel connected to kids in college. We were all there. I probably spend 80 days a year on a college campus. We never really left.”

The four band members met during their freshman orientation in August 1991 at Tufts University in Massachusetts. They wrote the first songs that ended up on their debut, Parachutes, in their dorm rooms.

“(College) allowed us to get our training wheels to get our band up and running,” Miller said. “We didn’t come out and have to deal with a day job for money.


Playing with Mason Jennings

Where? House of Blues Cleveland

When? Sunday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m.

How much? $20

And when they say they remember what it feels like to be in college, they really mean it.

“You know how I’m not talking bullshit?” he asked. “YouTube. I waste hours on YouTube. I’m completely addicted.”

Guster’s own presence on the Web is signature in its own right. Its Web site,, features a road journal that has archived entries dating back to Sept. 1999.

“(The Web) is a very natural extension of our grassroots-ness,” Miller said. “None of these things were results of ‘How can we market ourselves?’ There’s a whole life there for people to explore.”

But the band’s true focus is on its music. Its most recent release, Ganging Up on the Sun, received the most critical acclaim of all its albums. The band is finally coming into its own.

“I think there’s a lot of people that still call us a college, folksy percussion band, but there’s none of that in our music anymore,” Miller said. “Our evolution is something that is very purposeful. We’re still striving to make that classic pop record, that classic Elliot Smith record, that classic Beach Boys record.”

There’s a lot of depth, a lot of nooks and crannies to be discovered on Ganging, Miller said. He said it’s encouraging that people are still discovering the album almost a year after its release.

“There’s an expression about penises. ‘Are you a shower or a grower?'” he said. “I always felt this record was a grower. It’s not something you just get the first time you hear it.”

But it’s not about the record sales or the critics review. It’s not about its “footprint.” If anything, Guster is about the music and the people who live with it.

“I think it’s a testament to something that we’re still growing,” Miller said. “Our last two shows were like the best selling shows we’ve ever had. That’s all you can really ask for. As long as we feel good about getting in a bus, in a rehearsal space, and people are coming in numbers, that’s all we really need.”

Contact ALL correspondent Adam Griffiths at [email protected].