Their unique sound that includes all manner of instruments from bongos to banjos, combined with their quirky sense of humor on stage, quickly earned them a spot on the list of some the memorable pop-rock bands. The years have only strengthened their sound and increased their fan base. I interviewed drummer Brian Rosenworcel about their experiences while on tour and their upcoming show.
City Weekly: You guys have been playing for over a decade and have six studio albums out. Did you have a favorite one to record?
Brian Rosenworcel: As far as recording there was only one that was smooth and awesome. It was our third album, Lost and Gone Forever, that we recorded and released in 1999. Steve Lillywhite was our dream producer. Every other album has pretty much been a journey to the dark side and back.
CW: You have been in this band since the early '90s but you all have been playing for much longer than that right?
BR: We all had been in high school bands previously, but Guster was our first legitimate band experience. We met when we were 18 in college. It was never supposed to be more than a couple shows at an open mic night at a coffee shop and then it just turned into something.
CW: You most recent album came out just last year, will you be playing songs of off Easy Wonderful or will you feature others as well?
BR: There will be a bunch of new songs, but we have been around a long time so we know the importance of mixing it up so there will be old ones as well.
CW: With every show you play is the set list always the same or do you change it up?
BR: I actually can't stand it when a band goes on tour and it’s the same list every night. We don't always play all of the hits (when I say hits I'm putting up finger quotes.) We do incorporate the meat and potatoes, (the essential popular songs) but we always try to change it up and alternate the other songs.
CW: You guys are playing at In the Venue. Have you played their before?
BR: It used to be called Bricks and we’ve done lots of shows there. We once played there and water was dripping onto the stage, but it does have a special place in my heart. We have a lot of good memories with some of our great fans from Salt Lake there.
CW: Have fans showed a partiality to older or newer songs?
BR: This [Easy Wonderful] album has been received very well. It hasn't been out long enough for fans to sing along to and memorize, but so far it has gone over well. Whenever you play an album like our Lost and Gone Forever, those albums always go over very well.
CW: While on the road what is everyone's favorite choice of snack?
BR: Sandwiches that have French fries inside them. (Kidding) For a while we had a vegan on our bus and he always filled the freezer with fake and breaded meat like corndog and vegan nuggets, we all ate that stuff at night with mustard. (Try it, just close your eyes and plug your nose.)
CW: What's the craziest thing that's happened to you guys while touring?
BR: Our bus broke down once. The first bus we had. In fact, we had just graduated from a van to a tour bus, they sent us a bus it said BIG on the side. Yeah, it was Notorious B.I.G.’s bus. We also did this show for MTV (back when they played music) we covered the self-titled Violent Femmes record and they came up and performed with us. It was quite an awesome moment.
CW: Your music has been featured in the movies Disturbia, Life as a House, Wedding Crashers and Martian Child (among others) have you seen any of these and do you have a favorite?
BR: I’ve heard about all the above especially Martian Child, but I actually haven’t really seen most of those scenes. I have seen Life as a House because they put us in the opening scene. They formed it around the lyrics to “What You Wish For.” The writer put us in the script and even named the dog Guster. It’s funny that he heard our song and immediately thought of a guy peeing and erotic asphyxiation. (Both in the opening sequence.)
CW: Do you like John Cusack?
BR: I am a huge fan. I think he's awesome.
CW: What's the song writing process like for you guys? Does everyone contribute?
BR: Yeah we don't have a set way of writing songs, Ryan and I wrote all the lyrics with this latest one [Easy Wonderful] but that hasn't been the case for previous records. Sometimes we write songs in a day and sometime it takes months. We have a high bar for what a pop song should be and it keeps getting higher.
CW: Do you have any new material you're working on?
BR: I can't say we've written a song, we are still learning how to play our new ones. We have a new member, Luke Reynolds, so in a sense it’s almost like working on new stuff. He was in a band called Blue Merle that we toured with in 2000. He plays bass guitar, banjo, keyboards and basically anything we ask him to. We play musical chairs with our instruments. Except me, I just play drums.
CW: You guys have toured with many interesting people including Ben Folds, John Mayer, and Rogue Wave (A personal favorite of mine) was there one that you enjoyed playing and touring with more?
BR: Rogue Wave is great. We got along really well with them. Ben Folds is an inspiration he and I played a joint drum solo every night. He just doesn't give a shit. I think we came through Salt Lake when we opened for the Barenaked Ladies. Those guys are hilarious. Generally when we tour with a band we get along with them except for a few cases that I won't get into.
CW: You played all over the country is there a place you like playing the most?
BR: I love Seattle however, it's no hot bed of Guster. All the normal big cities like Atlanta and New York apply, but we do have a lot of energetic audiences in random places like Ohio and Utah as well. (Ohio has great sandwiches)
CW: Is there anything you want your Utah fans to know?
BR: We are playing Sundance this year. We’ve never played it before so we are eager to see what it’s all about. Also, I am a huge fan of Deron Williams. He’s a great point guard. Utah has never been without a good point guard. I am a Knicks fan, but Utah has a special place in my heart and if they won at all I'd be very excited.
Guster @ In the Venue, 219 S. 600 West, Saturday Jan. 15, 7 p.m., $32 advance/$35 day of show