Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
There is a National Public Radio article from 2006 that loads quickly and to the top of the search results lists when you Google Guster. The headline reads, "Guster Graduates From College Band Status," and then starts out by saying, "What would college be without the college band? That group that plays every fraternity party and pep rally. In the moment, the band members are on-campus celebrities -- but after graduation, their stardom fades. The band Guster might be an exception." It's a helluva thing to say about a band. First, to be called a college band, as some form of derogatory distinction, a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of a more mature musical ear, is a weird thing to contemplate. Secondly, here was the idea that this group of guys who happened to meet during their college years needed to do something special to shake the title. It's a funny thing to think of as a real thing. A band, we suppose is nothing but a connotation though, a unit that needs to be placed in some sort of place so that it can be understood.
What the long-running Boston, Massachusetts band - whose core members met while attending Tufts University - might have done to hold onto the college band tag, for 15 years up until NPR released it from those constraints, was insisting on the continuance of being fun-lovers and wise-crackers, then going forth and writing songs about hearts and love. We all know that those songs - about girls and sweet hand-holding - written by boys in their late teens or early 20s (yes, college) often serve a very specific purpose: Rounding up some tail for those extended weekends that started on Thursdays. When Guster arrived at the Horseshack back in the fall, the band was just as playful - and if we remember correctly, talking about boobs at one point - joking and laughing, nut-slapping and ribbing as much as they likely ever have, holding on to a wonderfully youthful quality that they probably had when they were happily taking those frat party and house gigs for all the beer they could drink.
Guster seems to be a group that will refuse to lose their college ways in certain manners, reliving those crazy nights that you know your kids might be having, but never want to hear about if you're parents, but the band of today is not one that would go streaking across the quad grounds. Guster, these days, is a band that reflects happily on experiences and where the days have led them, not on those things that they might do, the people they might get with, or what comes next. Certainly, everything's not decided or figured out, but the band now has groundwork to build upon and it's what comes with years and time. Lead singer Ryan Miller sings lines such as, "These moments, they can never last/Like a sad old man with his photographs/He's wishing for the things he cannot change," and they come from a man who might think that he's closer to being that sad old man than he is to being a dude with fresh skin, staying up until 5 am on the weekends chasing co-eds. The new perception of age happens very quickly as one moves away from graduation. The love songs have changed too, though they still maintain that beautiful, young hopefulness, for instance in "Do You Love Me?" as Miller sings, "I wanna wake you from your dream/I wanna know just who you're talking to when you're singing in your sleep/I wanna find out what it means/Do you love me?" They suggest that they'd had a revelation, that "everything's out of control," and it seems that maybe that revelation is a good enough reason to hang on to most of what you knew and was proven to be fun - like keggers and girls and college.