Ryan Miller, lead singer of alternative rock band Guster, may not know what Clifton Park is, but he has a feeling he’s going to like it. The long-time favorite college-rock band will be rolling into Clifton park to play at the Upstate Concert Hall, Thursday January 14. Miller, also a father of two, squeezed in a Gazette interview while touring to discuss environmental consciousness on the road, covering The Weeknd, and Guster’s latest album, Evermotion.
It’s been 23 years since three Tufts students got together to form a band that would one day be known as Guster. A few short years after forming, the trio released their first album, Parachute. Since then, the band has released six more albums and gained widespread popularity with songs like “One Man Wrecking Machine,” “Satellite,” and “Amsterdam.”
The three original members, drummer Brian Rosenworcel, lead singer Ryan Miller and guitarist Adam Gardner, welcomed guitarist Luke Reynolds into the band in 2010. Reynolds replaced Joe Pisapia who played with Guster between 2003 and 2010.
MILLER MEETS VERMONT, TALKS KIDS
Miller, now 43, moved to the northeast from Texas at age 18. “I’ve always had some sense of wanderlust. I like to meet new people and do new things,” he said.
That wanderlust has carried Miller to Vermont where he has started a PBS Show called “Makin’ Friends with Ryan Miller.”
“I came here and was meeting some people but I was interested in meeting weirder people. The people tucked into the corners of Vermont.” Luckily, a friend of Miller who worked at PBS asked him if he wanted to do a show. “I said yes because I say yes,” explained Miller.
While filming the PBS show, Miller has searched the far corners of the Green Mountain State for “high-functioning weirdos.” He’s met “mad scientists,” folks living off the grid, round house builders, the founder of Circus Smirkus and hot air balloonists. Miller said he has made a lot of friends, “actual real deal friends,” from the show. “It’s kind of the whole point of the thing,” he added.
Miller has a five year old and a seven year old. “They would say seven and a half and five and a half,” he corrected. Becoming fathers has made the band members more careful about where they choose to tour and for how long. “We don’t want our kids to grow up without dads,” he explained.
The band has brought their families along for sections of tours in the past, an experience Miller describes as “good on every level.” The greatest takeaway, he said, is they get to see what he does when he’s not home. “Now when I call them and say ‘I’m doing sound check’, they’ll know what that means.”
HOW GUSTER’S WRITING PROCESS & SOUND HAVE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS
Commenting on how the band’s writing process has changed from album to album, Miller noted the addition of Reynolds in 2010 which he says had added a “new aesthetic, keyboard textures and a new set of musical influences” to the band.
They’ve also been working with a new producer, Richard Swift, who Miller called “kind of an outside choice.” The band loved Swift’s work but had always chosen to work with more established producers in the past, according to Miller. “Swift was kind of out of the box,” he said. Previous records took a year to complete, but Evermotion was done in less than four weeks. “It was a home run in terms of what we were hoping to achieve,” said Miller.
Answering why guitarist Adam Gardner doesn’t sing lead as much as he once did, Miller explained “I just started writing more melodies. In the beginning we were both writing a lot… For him to sing the melodies I write would be like him putting on a Margaret Thatcher mask. Our writing process changed a little bit.”
GETTING WEIRD (AND ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS) WITH GUSTER
Guster’s willingness to get weird is one of the many reasons fans keep coming back for more. The band has been known to skip the middleman and open for themselves in disguise. “We haven’t done that in a while,” laughed Miller. “It’s an extension of us kind of always wanting to do stupid things that will make us laugh and be exciting for the fans. We love jokes that not everyone gets. Sometimes people don’t realize its us opening.” He added, “We’ve been a band for a long time. We have to get weird when we can. We never get bored.”
At the end of each set, drummer Brian Rosenworcel sings a cover of a popular song. Miller explained, “Generally we pick our least favorite song in the world like “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog or “What’s Going On” by 4 Non Blondes.” Recently, Rosenworcel covered R&B artist The Weeknd’s song “Earned it” which was featured in 50 Shades of Grey. “I actually really like the Weeknd song,” said Miller. “But I thought he’d be really bad at it and he was,” chuckled Miller.
After spending many years on the road touring, Guster’s guitarist Adam Gardner and his wife Lauren decided to start a nonprofit called Reverb to combat the negative environmental impact of touring.
Miller explained, “It started off as a way for us to mitigate some of our horrible impact on the planet as a touring band.” Since then, Reverb has expanded and is now on its 150th tour.
A brief Q&A with Ryan Miller of Guster:
Who would you tour with if you could tour with anyone?
I’d really like to tour with The Kinks.
What sort of bands did you listen to when you were first getting started?
I was listening to a lot of the beginnings of alternative music. New order, Depeche Mode, The Smiths. A lot of that stuff which I still really like. Haven’t really grown out of it.
When did you first begin playing guitar?
When I was 12. It was because of that Scorpion song “Still Loving You.” It was a heavy metal power ballad. Saw them in concert when I was living in Texas and I was like ‘Oh, I want to do that.’ I can make no claims for [the song’s] timelessness.