Music

The Weekly interview: Guster drummer Brian Rosenworcel

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Guster visits the House of Blues with Kishi Bashi on January 22.
Annie Zaleski

Guster began in the mid-’90s as a folk-leaning trio fond of busking in Harvard Square. In the years since, the band has moved on to more traditional concert venues, and augmented its plaintive acoustic guitar-and-bongo songs with instrumental color. New LP Evermotion adds shimmering keyboards, blocky synths, twinkling percussion and psychedelic-pop flourishes to the palette.

One day after the city of Boston honored the band by proclaiming January 15 Guster Day, we caught up with drummer Brian Rosenworcel.

You guys finished Evermotion last April, and it just came out this month. Why the long delay? That’s so annoying. In this day and age, where the day after we finished it, we could’ve just put it up on the Internet, it’s hard to sit on your record when you’re so eager to share it. But we had to find a home for it; we were kind of free agents, recording this on our own. We had to see if we wanted to be on a label [or] if we wanted to release it ourselves. In the summer we signed with Nettwerk Records, which is an independent label that did a joint venture with us, and it felt really good. But they just couldn’t get it out by October—and if you don’t get your record out by October, you wait until after Christmas. So that’s what happened.

It must’ve been frustrating too, because you guys recorded the record in, like, three weeks. I know. We could’ve recorded 10 records between the span [of finishing the album and releasing it]. We made the record in record time, and it was good for us. The record has an exciting, raw feel, and we felt totally empowered that we didn’t have to get into the minutiae; we could just believe in ourselves and add a bunch of weird, crazy psychedelic overdubs.

Why was this music conducive to putting everything together so fast? We gave ourselves over to this situation where we were in Cottage Grove, Oregon, which is a remote town near Eugene, in the home studio of [The Shins’] Richard Swift, our producer. [We decided] we’re going to do things his way—whereas in the past, we’ve produced ourselves and we’ve collaborated with people, and always gotten into micro-managing things and second-guessing and re-recording and rewriting. We got out there, we did full takes of our band, and we stepped away from the canvas and kept the big picture in mind. I really love what we have.

I love his production on the records he does; it’s very warm and evocative. How did he influence the music on the record? We love the sounds of his records, too. What we discovered when we got there, it’s not from any specific engineering standpoint. He has, like, one microphone—“Drums? Yeah, you put the microphone over the drums.” He’s super lo-fi about everything, but he’s like a walking record collection. The man knows everything about pop music, soul music, everything. He just understands what needs to be done on a song to make it connect, and to make the drums speak and whatever. He’s super-talented that way, so we trusted him. The sound of the record’s definitely more lo-fi. It doesn’t stand up next to Taylor Swift on the radio. But it feels more classic to me; it feels like we did the songs justice.

You took a long time writing songs for this album. What inspired them this time around? We made a lot of kids, so we had that to contend with as far as schedules. When we get together a few days a month, we come back and reflect on what we’ve written, maybe embellish it. We’re not treating it like the daily grind of a day job, and that helps us always be motivated when we’re together. It really worked out; we had 15 songs that we went in with. They were all in really good shape, even if we weren’t sure of the groove here, or this or that there. We pretty much had these songs written. We did a good job with the writing. That’s really all that matters to me at this point. We’ve done a lot of things, and all I want to do is make great albums.

That’s interesting, because a lot of songwriters need that day job mentality, where they say, “I’m going to wake up and I’m going to do four hours of writing.” I think that would be so hard, and you’d write so much crap, too. (Laughs.) That record for us is Keep It Together. We pretended it was like going to school every day. It’s not always the best way to create. Sometimes you bang your head against the wall until you have an awesome song; sometimes you just bang your head against the wall until your head hurts.

January 15 was Guster Day in Boston. What did that involve? We were on the cover of the Boston Globe, [with] the mayor. He’s wearing a Guster sweatshirt. And we played an event with the mayor, where we promoted Greenovate, his plan to help with the climate change situation and to reduce emissions in Boston in the upcoming years. It’s a pretty aggressive agenda, and it connects with our own activist side.

We also busked throughout the city—which is how we got our start, busking in Harvard Square. In the snow, 20-degree weather, we were out there playing at Copley [Square], at South Station, at Harvard Square and at Twin Donuts in Allston.

I looked at some of the videos, and I thought you guys looked so cold and miserable. Having fun, but … Some of them were better than others. Harvard Square was really fun, because a guy in a bear costume came and played keytar with us. We walked into that Harvard Square spot where we used to busk when we were just out of college, and it felt like 15 years hadn’t passed—or maybe 20, I don’t even know how many years it had been. It was just like, “Here we are again.”

Guster With Kishi Bashi. January 22, 7 p.m., $27. House of Blues, 702-632-7600.

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