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"I told Swift that our last two records took a year each to make," laughs Guster's Ryan Miller. "He told me he'd never spent more than nine days on an album." The band and producer got together anyway and the result is 'Evermotion,' an album of raw acid-soaked chamber pop, and a stylistic departure that no one saw coming.
Guster sought out Shins keyboardist/Black Keys bassist Richard Swift based on his work with Damien Jurado and Foxygen, giving themselves over to the full experience of recording at Swift's Cottage Grove, Oregon studio for three weeks in January 2014.
"It wasn't hard to figure out where we overlapped with Swift," adds percussionist/drummer Brian Rosenworcel. "It was just a matter of trusting ourselves to go big and commit. Richard is the type of artist that's always standing back and taking in the whole canvas."
With a new looseness and swagger, Guster pushes the acoustic guitars into the background, instead exploring deeper drum grooves, keyboard textures and atmospheric noise -- a language they shared easily with Swift. The band that emerged from this session sounds like one that is no longer evolving, but has evolved into something else entirely.
"Richard helped us figure out what was important about recording," says guitarist Adam Gardner. "We had just one microphone over the drum kit, used whole takes, didn't obsess over vocals or really edit things at all -- it's a raw version of our band, mistakes and all, that feels more relevant. He helped us tremendously with the big picture."
The first single from 'Evermotion,' the infectious "Simple Machine," has been hailed by TIME magazine for its "frantic beats and crawling synthesizers." The chiming lullaby of "Long Night" with its aching Ryan Miller falsetto, the shimmering "Endlessly," the distorted steel drums and Bacharach melody of "Doin' It by Myself," the a cappella Beach Boys harmonies in the gently breezy "Lazy Love," the dream-pop of "Expectation," the British Invasion beat of "Gangway," the woozy trombones and whistling of "Never Coming Down" and the Beatle-esque psychedelia of "It Is Just What It Is" shows Guster is still learning new tricks.
Since forming at Tufts University in 1992, Guster has become one of the leading indie/alternative bands, releasing seven critically acclaimed albums in 20 years, starting with 'Parachute' in 1995. 'Evermotion' (to be released on their own Ocho Mule label through Nettwerk Records) is the follow-up to 2010's 'Easy Wonderful,' which earned the band its highest-ever chart debut on the Billboard 200 at #22, while reaching #2 on both the SoundScan Alternative and iTunes charts.
On 'Evermotion,' Guster's acoustic roots are buried deep beneath the surface, almost impossible to detect, even though every song has, at its heart, an indelible melody and more than its share of tight, lethal hooks that catch and hold.
The 2010 addition of multi-instrumentalist Luke Reynolds to the core group of founding members Miller, Gardner and Rosenworcel, added immeasurably to Guster's expanding musical palette. 'Evermotion' marks the first time that Reynolds joined for the preproduction and writing process, which took place in Rosenworcel's Brooklyn basement over 2012 and 2013. Reynolds' stamp is clear and his passion is all over the record, from his guitar melodies on "Lazy Love" to his fuzz bass on "Doin' It By Myself."
Guster's songs remain packed with hummable choruses and dense lyrical detail amid the muscular guitar riffs, clanging percussion and deceptively dark lyrics. The new album features adventurous turns on slide guitars, brassy trumpets and even a glockenspiel, with sax and trombone accompaniment by Jon Natchez, whose stints with the War on Drugs, Beirut, Passion Pit and others have led NPR to call him "indie rock's most valuable sideman."
From the start of the album, it's clear that this is a renewed band with a bolstered purpose, a band on their own vector. 'Evermotion' introduces you to a Guster that is free, not calculated, seasoned but loose, confident in re-shaping their legacy.