with Ryan Miller of Guster
By Rory Flynn
you walk around the streets of Somerville outside or inside the campus of
Tufts University, you will still hear the legendary tales of a band named
"Gus." The group better known to many today as "Guster"
has come a long way since Ryan Miller, Brain Roseworcel, and Adam Gardiner
played their first gig on that campus in the fall of 1992.
Guster developed a strong grassroots fan base, especially among college campuses, through relentless touring and an energetic/humorous stage presence. In 1995, Guster was awarded the "Best Live Act" by the Boston Music Awards. They have release four studio albums including Parachute (1995), Goldfly (1997), Lost and Gone Forever (1999), and Keep it Together (2003). Last year, the band released a live concert cd/dvd combo titled, Guster On Ice: Live in Portland.
Exemplifying the friendly and modest attitude that has made them so popular with fans across the globe, guitarist and vocalist Ryan Miller recently talked with Boston Live Magazine's Rory Flynn about the recording of Guster's next release and the band's highly anticipated two-night performance with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall.
Boston Live Magazine (BL): "I hear that you guys have recently wrapped up recording what will be your 5th studio album in Nashville. How did it go and when can we expect to see it on store shelves?"
Guster's Ryan Miller (RM): "Well...basically the record companies have a complicated formula on when they schedule the release of new albums. I guess, it would be a bit of a stretch to get it out by the end of the 4th quarter so it looks like it might be early next year, we really are not too sure yet. So now that we have that extra time, we can write a couple more songs for it but mostly its like 95 or 90% done."
"How has the recording process been different this time around?"
RM: "Well, all of our records have changed from one to the next with each studio album. So, I think its very different from Keep it Together but our progression is still in tact. We added a guy in our band Joe Pisapia that has made the whole thing a lot easier. Its hard for me to talk about what the record really is at this point because I can't. I don't know yet and I haven't played it enough for my friends to be like 'oh it's this'. I mean I definitely think it's a sure thing that it's the best thing we've ever done, best collection of songs, best performances, best lyrics, best writing. And everybody that has heard it seems to agree with that pretty whole heartedly. But if I had to say how its different, it still sounds like Guster in terms of our melodic ability being still in tact and that its mostly pop songs for the most part. But, for expample, our longest song to date on there is like seven minutes and there is some other different stuff."
"Each of your albums had brought a different element to the band, what
direction do you feel this record will bring Guster to?"
RM: "Yea. It's less of the bongo/text party vibe. If you listen to Parachute, its just like Brian banging on bongos for 45 minutes. The progression on this record is more tasteful as we leaned further away from that. Hopefully it just sounds more mature but like I said its hard for me to say at this point what it is that is different. It does feel like an evolution and continuation of what we've done and where we've been.
"Well, the other big news on the Guster front, is this week's two sold-out
shows with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. It is truly a unique show and
sounds like it will be incredible. So, who contacted who to make this happen?"
RM: "Shockingly they contacted us, which we thought was a joke. It's not everyday that someone calls you, saying 'I'm Keith Lockhart and I want to play Guster songs at Symphony Hall'.
"Was this something you guys have been looking to do?"
RM: " I mean we have thought of, in our more audacious moments though, of touring with a quartet We've always added and put these instruments to our records, strings and horn, since the very beginning. We've tried to tour with that but is so expensive to put people on the road. So we have played with string and horn players before but I don't think we ever would have been audacious enough to think that we would play with a full orchestra before we had like one quintuple platinum selling album. The whole thing has just been super flattering and really exciting."
"Especially being a hometown band, did you guys ever imagine something
like this - playing with the Pops- when you were starting out at Tufts?
RM: "Yea, I know its just been crazy experience."
"Have you rehearsed with the Boston Pops yet?"
RM: "No. We talked on the phone with the arranger and talked with the creative director about the show, a few e-mails here and there, so we have had a few conversations so far. But, we're actually not going to rehearse till we get there on Tuesday and we're told we're not going go through a full rehearsal till the morning of the show. So we're putting a lot of faith into the arranger because everybody is doing a lot of different things for everybody.
"Have you talked to Keith Lockhart yet?"
RM: "Yea, I spoke to him on the phone and we're going to rehearse with him on Tuesday but we'v been mostly dealing the nuts and bolts with the arranger and creative director of the Boston Pops."
"After this performance, do you think you'll look at any of your songs
in a different light now?"
RM: "Yea, there are few I think. There is this song we're going to play that we really don't like playing live because we never felt like we could pull it off but we're going to give it another chance with the Pops. And there are a couple of songs from the new album that we're playing that I don't think will ever sound better than they will next week. They kind of have like this super orchestral arrangement on the new record. Basically live, we're always trying to make up for the fact that our albums sound really full and we don't have enough appendages to sort of do it justice at least by the way it is on the record. This is the first time that there is gonna be more than what is on the record, so its super exciting to see what is going to happen."
"Are there any plans on recording the show for a future release - a cd,
dvd, or even iTunes?"
RM: "Yea. There seems to be a bunch of red tape involved with recording it right now with because there are unions and stuff to deal with at symphony hall, its not like we're playing at TT's (TT the Bear's Place in Cambridge) or something. We're fighting really hard to at least get it recorded, and then if we have to work out logistics later, ok. I mean i think for us, it would just be a shame not to do so after all this work. We are going to do everything we can to get a copy of it and obviously we'd love to get it out to the people barring some explosion of sorts."
"Now, since your playing at such distinguished venue like Boston's Symphony
Hall, what do you plan on wearing? A tux?
RM: "[laughs] You know, this is the first time I thought about what i was going to wear. Maybe i should wear a tux, i don't know, but would it be lame of I wore a tux and no one else did. We should talk about that [ BL: I think it would be pretty classic if you guys did.] Do the pops wear tuxes? [BL: I believe they do.] Wow, alright, well that's an idea. Part of me wants to wear a 'Motley Crue' shirt.. or do I class it up? I don't know it wouldn't be the first time we have performed in tuxes but I'll have to check with the guys and we'll see, it's a good idea."
"Any final thoughts on returning home to Boston for these two shows with
the Boston Pops?"
RM: "I'm just super-super glad that this is happening here in Boston and with the Boston Pops. I couldn't imagine it happening anywhere else. I couldn't see the New York Philharmonic Orchestra calling us to do this at this point in our career. We're really flattered and we're really-really looking forward to it, and maybe sort of express the desire that because this is the only time we've played together and after they invested a lot into these arrangements, hopefully this could be something we can do in the future again. I'm super excited about that prospect, its seems like it could be step one of a collaboration that could last awhile.
**Guster will play with the Boston Pops as special guest for the "Pops on the Edge" concerts on Wednesday, June 22 and Thursday, June 23 at Symphony Hall (8:00 p.m.). Both shows are completely sold out.**