By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
Guster is part of the Women’s World Cup, Nov. 23-25, and will be playing Sunday in between runs. I had the pleasure of speaking to Adam Gardner who along with Ryan Miller and Brian Rosenworcel, formed the group in 1991. Joining them in 2010 was Luke Reynolds.
Guster has never played Killington, but Gardner has, with supergroup Yukon Kornelius. He’s joined by bassist Stefan Lessard from the Dave Matthews Band, guitarist/singer Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies and drummer Eric Fawcett from Spymob. They always have some great special guests.
Yukon Kornelius was started for charitable purposes. They were asked to ski in Warren Miller’s “Children of Winter” and play a concert at the Pickle Barrel. Gardner’s a big skier and being in the film turned into a comical highlight in his life.
“My three seconds of skiing the bumps in the movie was the proudest moment for my parents. That’s funny to me because I have this rock band, too. Remember when you saw us play to a sold-out crowd at Radio City? They’re like, ‘Ya that was cool… but Warren Miller!’” Gardner said.
In 2004, he started non-profit Reverb which works with hundreds of bands to green their tours. It started with summer tours, but they’ve had some winter eco-villages. Reverb was one of the charities that benefited from the Pickle show. They were lucky to start up with Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Jack Johnson, John Mayer and Phish. “We’re fortunate that some of our first artists we still work with to this day. It was born out of me feeling badly about the negative environmental impact of my tour and seeing the opportunity to talk with fans about clean air, clean water and clean food. We’ve been lucky to have artists understand what we’re doing and want to be a part. We have millions of fans for this because when it comes from the artist’s voice, people listen.”
Guster formed after the guys met at Tufts University. “It quickly became clearer before we graduated that we’ll be able to do this full-time,” Gardner remembered. Right after graduation they had a tour set up, an album out and quickly released a second one. They gained popularity with a grassroots movement. “It was a steady build. Just us hitting the road and winning fans over, 10 people at a time. We’re still doing that and still growing in some markets which is amazing. We started 25-plus years ago, so we’ve been at it a long time,” said Gardner. They’re currently on a U.S. Tour.
Their eighth album drops in January. NPR just released the title track, “Look Alive” which is now available to download along with two other tracks. Gardner talked about it.
“I’m really excited about this album. The key to why we’ve been able to still do what we’re doing is we keep putting out material that we’re proud of and our fans like. It’s new material; we’re not putting out the same record over and over. If we felt like we’re running out of ideas or just not putting out quality records, we would stop. This is one of our strongest records to date for sure. Every record we’ve made is pretty darn different.”
Gardner has only been in two bands in his life: Royal Flush, his high school band and Guster. Music is written together in a room. “It’s a painfully democratic process. It’s been less painful because we’ve gotten better at it. Lyrics are typically written by Ryan and Brian will help. We’re all dads and all have kids, so that’s one of the reasons we take time between records. We’ll get together for a few days at a time and then go back to our lives. We’ve found a good life balance, but we’re about to hit it hard because of the new record, so next year we’ll be out of balance.”
The guys are a tight-knit group. Gardner elaborated. “It’s more fraternal; we’re more like brothers and family than friends. Like any family, sometimes you love them more than you like them [laughing]. We definitely get along. We’re not doing this because we feel we have to; we’re doing this because we want to. We’re actively choosing to do this every day. Our fans feel it and we definitely feel it. It’s reflected in the music we’re playing. We feel fortunate that we’re still able to do this.”
They have a dedicated following that’s pretty tight-knit as well. People that go to their shows have come for many. “We’re so lucky to have them. They’re willing to grow with us creatively. The ones who have stuck with us would be disappointed if we put out the same thing as last time,” Gardner said.
Gardner loves the interaction with fans, that human connection. “If what we’re doing can make people smile or forget their troubles for the two hours they’re with us, then I feel I’ve done my job. If I can open their minds, their heart to other things that are bigger than our individual lives that affect us all, even better.”
Gardner is looking forward to skiing at Killington. “That’s one of my favorite things to do,” he said. Growing up he had a buddy with a ski house and he would come up most holiday weekends. He learned to ski at Stowe at age three. The guys all ski and ride too and they get to bring their kids and family for Thanksgiving weekend.
Guster members: Adam Gardner, Luke Reynolds, Ryan Miller, Brian Rosenworcel