This summer, the Denver Botanic Gardens will host Guster, the long-popular indie band that now performs as a four-piece. Newest member Luke Reynolds is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who has previously performed with the band and recently collaborated with the group on the album Evermotion. With elements of Beach Boys harmony, trombones reminiscent of tooting grass blades, and steel drums, Evermotion demonstrates yet another step in the evolution of Guster’s sonic identity. Over the years, the band has been described as purveyors of indie, folk, pop — even as a jam band following its tours with Phil Lesh, Galactic and Widespread Panic.
Adding to this sonic variation is singer Ryan Miller’s recent foray into composing motion-picture scores. On whether he felt that score composition contributed to the textural diversity of Evermotion, Miller says, “Yes. Yes is the answer to that question. The fearlessness that comes with scoring, it definitely helps. I’m writing strings parts and horns parts, and all of these things hopefully end up serving the film, but also we were experimenting a lot more sonically. We were getting chops, filling up space in ways I hadn’t thought of before. It [scoring] was valuable to songwriting.”
For a founding member of a band with a career spanning three decades, Miller possesses a comical modesty on his musical aptitude: “I play the standard — started on guitar and can fake my way through piano and bass and banjo. For us, at least, the three founding members — none of us are very good at our instruments! I can play a lot of things poorly.”
At this stage in Guster's career, Miller seems less concerned with mastery of every instrument than with writing songs that the band likes. While wanting to be "a band that rips live," Miller says of songwriting, "I serve as a conduit for songwriting. It underscores that, at this point in our career, it's about the songs."
In addition to its reputation for continuously changing its sound, Guster has long been known to followers for its quirky sense of humor. Whether assigning fans official nicknames or giving away tickets, the band is involved with its fan base on a level more intimate than just a re-tweet.
Recently, a fan in Fort Collins, David Bashford, posted a video he made, featuring his and his brother's cover of Guster’s single “Diane." Upon seeing the YouTube video, drummer Brian Rosenworcel enlisted Miller's help in making a parody of it; that video depicts the two members covering the cover of their original song. The members also managed to film Bashford’s reaction to the larrikin tribute. Video below.
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Laughing through the phone, Miller explains the intention behind the production, “That idea was, it seemed like a stupid thing to do and people would think it was funny. We saw that, and it was ridiculous, and we wanted to do a ridiculous thing that’s sort of germane to our band; it’s a part of our personality. We are four grown-up men and lifelong artists and lifelong creative people.”
Finding the temptation to participate irresistible, Miller explains, “We saw it, and there’s something that was really sincere in their performance, and we wanted to shine a light on it and have fun with it. Something like that comes from a place of acknowledging that someone would take the time to make something like that.”
Guster performs at Denver Botanic Gardens on Friday, July 15.