Kept It Together:
The Guster Interview.

Brian Rosenworcel is the drummer/percussionist for Guster. Brian recently took time to call in and discuss being Guster’s worst instrumentalist, playing with the Boston Pops and playing a free show for 45,000 people.

You played bongos with the band for a long time. How did you settle on bongos? 
It was a very organic decision. It wasn’t like a grand vision for a band without a drummer, which is what we were for our first eight to ten years. I went to college, met these guys and became friends with them. They happened to play acoustic guitars, and I happened to not really play an instrument. I just had this pair of bongos that I brought with me to my dorm room. Whether it was laziness or just having fun writing songs in the dorm room. For whatever reason, that’s the way we developed. That’s the way we kept it for years before we finally felt like we hit a wall.

Do you remember when you first met your band members?
I remember we all met even before school started. It was one of those orientation weeks. We were on the camping one and met on the bus back from one of those trips. I remember us all lamenting our recent departures from our high school bands, which were of varying quality. That’s how I remember it. We played our first show maybe six months later as Adam, Brian and Ryan at the coffeehouse. We had a lot of friends and brought a full house.

When you were starting out, did you mostly do covers? 
At that show, we played a few covers, but we also played a few of our first original songs as well. It was about songwriting for us. We put an emphasis on songwriting from the beginning. It’s still true now. Over the years, nobody’s really gotten any good at their instrument so we’ve honed in on the craft of writing songs.

Who do you feel is the worst instrumentalist in the band? 
That would be me.

Without a doubt. There’s a difference between drummers and other people. We call them musicians.

Do you have a favorite track off of the new album? 
Off of the new album, which is the one we’ve been working on so far this year. It should come out early next year. I wrote about (the recording process) a lot in the studio journal on our website. We will probably do some remixing and maybe a little rerecording since we have the rest of the year to polish this off.

You’ve been road testing some of the new material. I’ve heard some bootlegs of the stuff. How are the fans reacting to the new songs? 
I’m sure our bootlegs sound like shit.

No, they sound great.
Well, it’s been going over well. It’s exciting for us to have some new, fresh material. It’s a new direction for us. The new material livens up the sets as well. When we play with the Boston Pops in two weeks, we’re doing two nights with them; I think we’re going to play a bunch of new stuff with them because it is all so adaptable to orchestration.

How did working with the Boston Pops come about? 
I really don’t know. I often wonder that myself. Apparently they got in touch with us because they want to expand genres and try some new things. I’m just honored and flattered that they found us worthy. It’s gonna be pretty epic.

What’s the biggest misconception about Boston? 
That it’s affordable. That is a misconception. It’s a great city and I really enjoyed living there. When I was in college and my early twenties, it was the perfect place for a young person to be. Over time there was a gravitational pull to New York, so I eventually moved out here.

What advice would you give to bands just starting out? 
I never expected I would still be a drummer in my thirties. We toured our asses off and took our business in house. We did everything our way. Well, in order to do it that way you need to have years to devote to the process. We were fortunate to be able to do that and it has made a big difference. We created a foundation. A lot of fans that were attracted to our first album are eagerly awaiting our fifth studio album. I commend them for rolling with our changes and I think we learned a lot along the way.

Do you have a certain method to creating music as a band? 
It’s a constantly evolving process for us, every time it is different. When we made “Lost and Gone Forever,” we were living in Summerville (Massachusetts) and we just had our instruments set up in our living room. You couldn’t get to the kitchen without walking past the PA system. That album was organically written and conceived.

So, you recorded the album in one of your houses? 
We recorded it in San Francisco with Steve Lillywhite actually. As far as the writing goes, we were touring the songs live and we lived in a house together and made music. Ryan was doing a lot of writing in those days. With “Keep It Together” the process changed because we wanted to change up the instrumentation. We had to learn new instruments. We made a studio effort that didn’t sound like a trio where our last record sounded more like a trio. Everything’s different every time. You get in a room and you sweat out a song. Sometimes it goes quickly; sometimes it just takes months of agonizing and nitpicking. Sometimes it’s worthwhile that way too.

Have the new songs evolved as you’ve recorded them?
Where a song first starts out and where it ends up when we record it is not quite the evolution or experimentation that you get from the Beatles. They used to record a country version of a song and then a rock version of a same song. Over time we are pretty critical. If something’s not feeling right to one person or if a person’s alarm goes off then it gets changed. We make it better. You’ll be living with something you’re uneasy with and suddenly you change it. You feel a lot better and you realize that there are a lot of second efforts and second drafts that can help you out.

Do you remember your first concert?
There was an open mic night where we played a few songs. I remember getting really into it and being really excited to be onstage.

What’s been your craziest gig? 
We played at that Woodstock ’99 festival which was pretty crazy. This was before “Lost and Gone Forever” had ever come out. We were playing to way bigger crowds then we were ready for. Radio City Music Hall was a lot of fun. The show we played in Boston on the day “Keep It Together” came out was probably the most insane thing we’ve ever been a part of. It was a free show, radio promoted it very heavily, and it turned out to be a nice day. There were 45,000 people that came to Government Center to see us…that was pretty crazy.

Describe Guster’s music in three words.
Melodic wuss pop.

For more info on Guster please check out

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