9:30 INTERVIEW: Guster
Guster is a band on the move. They’ve been working on their seventh studio record, releasing numerous live albums, and getting ready for their very own retreat, Camp Guster, in the woods of Maine. The 9:30 Club sat down to talk Guster’s Luke Reynolds about the new album and what they’ve got in the works.
Asher [9:30]: First and foremost, Camp Guster, September 14th, sounds like it’s going to be great. You’re pulling a pretty bold move, keeping it very intimate, limiting the tickets. What is this, if not a music festival? What is the idea for Camp Guster?
Luke Reynolds [Guster]: Camp Guster is something the band’s been wanting to put together for quite a while. We’ve got a new record that’s coming out, and promotion for it, so we’re trying to think of ways to help turn fans on to the music and create a real experience. So holding something in Maine, where everyone could come together and be a family for three days, was the best way that could happen.
And you won’t just be playing up onstage – you’ll be hanging out, doing some archery with the people that are there.
Yeah, we’re gonna be paddleboarding, kayaking, art, hanging, cooking. Especially Maine in the summertime, it doesn’t get much better than that.
You have some dedicated fans by now, who you probably expect to make the trek up there.
Exactly. I’m the new guy in the band, I’ve only been with them for four years. These guys have been a band for twenty years; it’s pretty awesome seeing some familiar faces in the crowd. Especially in the first few rows, those are the diehards, you know, people who are teachers and spend all their teacher vacations traveling around, seeing music, friends we’ve gotten to know over the years. It’ll be cool. To put myself in a fan’s shoes, if one of my favorite bands was holding this really cool retreat in Maine, in the summer, something with no walls, between the hang and the band, that would be something I’d be really excited to experience. We’re hoping we can make it really cool and enjoyable for anyone who’s making the effort to come.
You guys have a fairly active community of people who tape your shows, and you’ve always been pretty gung-ho about that. Having tapers is usually something that goes along with the jam band community, more than what you guys do. Do you have any thoughts on that?
I mean, to be honest, technology has changed so much that I don’t feel like there’s that many tapers at a show anymore. What I think is important is that people get to hear the music; they should be able to hear any different version of whatever song they’re looking for. They should be able to find it quickly and easily, whether that’s a bootleg off the board, or an unreleased b-side. Whatever it takes for people to find music easily, that’s where it’s at these days. Like I said before, Guster’s been around for twenty years, so earlier on, when it was harder to trade music, live taping was a way for fans to spread music around the community. Nowadays, everyone’s got an iPhone, shooting videos and putting them on YouTube; it’s like the iPhone is the new taper.
Sure. So you want to make sure music comes out to everyone, for the right reasons. Does that kind of tie in to the new album and its connection to Pledge?
For one, our new record Every Motion, is the most exciting Guster record I’ve ever heard. Everyone is confident that this is the best music the band has made it its career. We’re very ready to share it. That said, we want to make it easy for people to engage in the music as early on as possible, so we use Pledge Music. We’ve already paid for the record ourselves; this is just a way for the long-term fans to support the band, champion the album, giving back and engaging them. For us, it was really just a rallying point to help turn fans on to the music. We’re really, really stoked about the new record. It feels like the most adventurous, spontaneous sound, very new, very exciting.
That’s great! We all heard “Long Night,” and it’s different. Guster has definitely made their own territory musically over their career, and “Long Night” isn’t just the comfort zone – it’s continually looking forward, trying new things. It sounds very fresh, very alive.
Thanks man. Yeah, everyone always wants to feel that you make a record because you have something to say. The way I think about it is that every time you make a record, it should be the last record you’re ever gonna make. So make it count. So for us, part of making it count was facing the fear, stepping out of our comfort zone, really experimenting in the studio. The producer that we worked with in the studio, Richard Swift, was a perfect fit for that. He’s very free. It was pretty unconventional, in terms of the recording process, compared to early Guster albums. This one was very spontaneous, the whole thing happened very fast, and it was directly through working with Richard Swift and the environment he helped us create.
It shows a lot of focus, especially when you consider that this is Guster’s first new studio album in four years.
That’s the thing, man. I met these guys in 2003, over ten years ago, when we were recording across the hall from each other and we had the same booking agent. Keep It Together was my first with Guster, and then Ganging Up On The Sun was a new development, and Easy Wonderful felt real cool. I was joining the band, and felt real good about making new music, but a record takes a long time to write. We wrote it for almost three years, started writing it in the fall of 2011. It was a very long process, longer than we expected, but you can’t rush a record – all you can do is show up and keep chipping away. We just kept chipping away until we had a body of work we felt very confident about. Then we took that body of work and we brought it to the producer that was very inspiring to us, and worked it out very fast, not thinking too much. Not overthinking it was really good, and made it exciting to work that way with everyone.
It’s very cool that you’re continually moving forward, you know, with the new record, the multiple live albums, the Camp, you’re constantly busy. You’re not just resting on your laurels, which is very respectable.
Well, it’s like David Bowie always says, as musicians get older, the focus becomes more on finding ways to stay hungry, stay creative, and not live in comfortable territory. All of us have projects and lives outside of Guster, and we’re all creative people, and we all work really hard to fill up our lives, so when we get together to play music, we have something to say.
What are you all listening to these days? What are you listening to when you’re not listening to Guster?
We all listen to a lot of different music. There’s the FKA twigs record that just came out that I really like a lot. I was up in Vermont raising a barn this summer, and my girlfriend and I spent the whole summer listening to Deerhunter and Clams Casino. We wore those records out.
So you’re all over the place.
Sure. I listen to a lot of music, doing research about records, old bands, discovering music, learning about it… there’s a lot of listening constantly.
The day before Camp Guster, September 13th, is the show that we’re covering. It’s the Route 29 Revue, and you’re playing with a bunch of other artists – Trombone Shorty, Trampled By Turtles, a lot of big names next to yours. If you could share a bill with any artist, who would it be?
You mean at this festival?
Any festival, any time in the world, ever.
If I could put a festival together, it’d be with bands I was excited to see… Let’s see, Stephen Reich would be really exciting to play with, Thurston Moore, I would love to play a festival with him. Beyonce, that would be rad. Why not, dude? And then the Cocteau Twins. That sounds like a pretty great festival to me.
I mean, I would go!
[Laughs.] Me too, man, let’s do it!
So when the album comes out, will there be a support tour?
Yeah, man, I’m looking at our tour schedule and getting scared, I mean, we’re gonna be gone, not coming home for a long time. North America, Europe, we’re gonna be working really hard.
It shows. It’s coming out great.
Thanks, man. Thanks for taking the time. I’ll see you at the Revue!
-Asher Meerovich (@Bummertime)
Guster plays the Route 29 Revue at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, September 13th, along with Trampled By Turtles, Trombone Shorty, and Iron & Wine. Get tickets here!