Adam Gardner says he’s seen musicians who, after 20 years of the music business grind, start “phoning it in.”
And, the Cape Elizabeth resident says, he worried that might happen to Guster, the band he helped found in 1991.
“You’d think this late in our career we might be tired, and start phoning it in, we’ve seen it happen. Too many bands get worse at this stage of their careers,” said Gardner, 41, the band’s guitarist. “We actively decided we didn’t want to be that way. Before this last album, we had a conversation about how passionate we still are, how much more do we have to say, musically?”
The answer came in the form of Guster’s latest album, “Evermotion,” which was released in January. It’s a departure from their alternative rock style and has been described by band members as “acid-soaked chamber pop.” The album was made with less acoustic guitar tracks than Guster normally uses, and more emphasis on drum and keyboard tracks, plus some atmospheric sounds that don’t lend themselves to easy musical description.
People can hear the new Guster sound for themselves Saturday when the band is slated to play the State Theatre in Portland. Kishi Bashi, a violinist, singer and composer, will open.
It’s fitting that Guster’s new album emerged after the band members found a renewed sense of energy and purpose. Gardner’s other passion, and other job, involves finding renewable and reusable solutions to the various problems involved in the live concert industry.
Gardner and his wife, Lauren Sullivan, started a non-profit group in 2004 called Reverb. The Portland-based organization works to make bands and tour sites greener, while educating music fans on what they can do as well. The group has worked on more than 150 major concert tours, by artists like Barenaked Ladies, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. The group has also reached some 17 million fans at the “eco village” Reverb sets at up at tour or festival sites.
Gardner credits his wife with the idea behind Reverb, saying “she was an environmentalist before I met her.” But he says that when Guster became big in the 1990s and started touring a lot, it didn’t take him long to realize how much waste there was in the live concert business.
Batteries were one of the first things he noticed. Batteries are everywhere on stage, in all sorts of equipment. So using rechargeable batteries not only saves the need for getting rid of old batteries, it makes it less likely that a rock musician will face a dead battery on stage, Gardner said.
Besides finding green alternatives like rechargeable batteries, Reverb works with bands and tour promoters on how to recycle refuse, how to compost on tour, how to hydrate musicians without plastic water bottles, or how to find locally-sourced food.
When Reverb is working with bands doing large outdoor shows, the “eco village” might have ten or more tents set up, with information or representatives from various environmental groups.
For Saturday’s indoors show at the State Theatre, the Reverb outreach to fans will probably come in the form of a table or two in the lobby, Gardner said.
Still, Gardner is excited to play the State, in his backyard. Gardner and Sullivan moved to Maine in 2005 to start a family, after living in Brooklyn, New York for a while. Sullivan is from Wells originally, and the pair met at Tufts University near Boston. Gardner said he “fell in love with Maine” around the same time he fell in love with Sullivan, and the couple both felt it would be a great place to raise a family. They now have two children.
Family is important to all four members of Guster – Gardner, Luke Reynolds, Brian Rosenworcel and Ryan Miller. The band recently took seven of their children on tour with them in the Midwest.
The three oldest children of band members were born four months apart, Gardner said.
“The wives all got together and conspired to have children at the same time,” said Gardner. “It’s been great. All the kids get along.”