Interview by Scott Preston
Heading into the fourth annual Campus Consciousness Tour, Boston favorite Guster, teams up once again with the environmental action group Reverb educating and encouraging students to take part in earth-friendly practices. Reverb, a non-profit environmental organization founded by Guster’s guitarist/vocalist Adam Gardner and his environmentalist wife Lauren Sullivan, educates and engages musicians and their fans to promote environmental sustainability.
This year’s Campus Consciousness Tour kicked off on April 7 at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. The 12-date run will include daytime environmental activities on campus, and culminate with an interactive Eco-Village at each concert. The Eco-Village will feature alternative energy and transportation exhibits, campus, local and national environmental groups, eco-friendly product sampling, and several calls to action in which students can win prizes like an autographed First Act guitar and a Specialized bike.
This year, the Tour’s main partners include the Sustainable BioDiesel Alliance, Planet Aid and Silk Soymilk. During the day, students can check out biodiesel workshops and participate in clothing drives at the shows, all while gaining the opportunity to win a meet-and-greet with Guster. Silk Soymilk will be sampling free chocolate soy milk at the concert and educating fans about their commitment to the environment.
Guster will be appearing tonight April 17 at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Sunday April 19 at the University of Dayton in Dayton, OH.
Cincy Groove: How is the new Guster album coming along?
Joe Pisapia: Pretty good, I would say we are 3/4 of way done. We cut short the time when we were recording, and we decided we needed to go back and fix a few things. I played some of the stuff for my friends and they all liked it. They thought we were going in a real good direction.
Cincy Groove: How was your experience on the John Mayer cruise last month?
Joe Pisapia: The cruise was a lot of fun. I don’t think I would ever want to do one as a vacation. But it is a lot of fun when there is music involved. Something else that I liked was that you can eat at any hour of the day or night and there is a lot of different things to choose from.
Cincy Groove: How long have you been playing with Guster?
Joe Pisapia: I have been with the band since March of 2003, so 6 years now. I was originally going to come on to help them release their 4th album, Keep It Together. After being on the road and writing even more songs with them, it made it easier for me to stay on. At the time I never would have imagined it would be 6 years later.
Cincy Groove: What projects are you working on besides the new Guster record?
Joe Pisapia: I am working on my own material as well. I have a lot of songs that I’m not sure where they fit yet. I probably could make 4 different records (laughing). I just try to keep all my ideas cataloged and every so often something will tell me when the songs are ready.
Cincy Groove: What was the origin of Guster opening for themselves as Tripping Balls?
Joe Pisapia: We came up with the idea for Tripping Balls when we were opening for Dave Matthews Band. I think it was the night when Adam accidentally ate some pot chocolate. The bus we had for that tour I believe belonged to John Bonham before we had it. There were some chocolates in this plastic container and Adam decided to eat one and said “Hey this tastes a little funny”. About an hour later the chocolate really kicked in. We were playing in front of 30,000 people at Alpine Valley and he was laughing the whole time and really played quite well. I’m glad it wasn’t me, I couldn’t have handled it. We were just joking around saying “Oh yeah, Adam is tripping balls”. We thought that was a great name for a band. We think we are done with Tripping Balls, but we have a new concept that we haven’t disclosed yet that we are excited about.
Cincy Groove: How do you feel being with a major label as opposed to doing everything independently?
Joe Pisapia: There is definitely something to be said for having artistic freedom but I think with a major label we will be able to reach a lot more fans who might never hear our music otherwise.
Cincy Groove: What inspired the Campus Consciousness tour?
Joe Pisapia: Adam and his wife Lauren were always involved in all those kinds of green activities back in college. We had actually nicknamed our bus at the time the Earth Eater because we burned so much fuel. Also with 10 people in such a confined space you become very aware of the consumable items that are used. Adam and his wife just started brainstorming one day about how to minimize our carbon footprint. We knew we couldn’t go 100 percent green, but we knew we could ease up on our impact. I think by just starting to ask those kinds of questions is what led to the Campus Consciousness tour. It really has blossomed into something that I don’t think they would have imagined.
Cincy Groove: Does Guster drive a bio-diesel fueled bus?
Joe Pisapia: We do, we have 2 buses and a truck. One bus is for the Reverb people and the tour partners. Then the other bus is for the band and our crew drives the truck. Since we have more than 2 vehicles the bus company actually came and delivered the bio-diesel to us before we left town. When we are driving across country Adam is really good about planning where we need to stop to fuel up with bio-diesel.
Cincy Groove: Are there any upcoming shows you are excited about?
Joe Pisapia: I’m excited for the Reading show because my friend is going to be bringing his whole family including his kid. This is one of my college buddies so his kids are old enough now to actually enjoy a rock instead of asking “When are we going home?” I think that’s one of my favorite things about being on the road is that I have friends all over the country that I get to visit with.
Cincy Groove: What would you attribute to the band’s longevity?
Joe Pisapia: One of the reasons I think is the way we write our music. It usually takes a long time because there are 4 people giving their ideas and opinions. We ask ourselves a lot of questions, Will this be a song we will want to play night in and night out for 4-5 years? Does the song fit with the bands sound? Will our fans like it? Does it show growth in the band? I think everyone in the band takes those questions very seriously. Our intention is to just make the best music we can and we hope our fans will like what we do.
Guster – Barrel of a Gun
Official music video for Guster’s “Satellite”.
Upcoming Guster tour dates:
for show details visit http://www.guster.com
Apr 17 2009 University of Pennsylvania – Franklin Field Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Apr 19 2009 University of Dayton Arena Dayton, Ohio
Apr 21 2009 University of Arkansas – Chi Omega Greek Theater Fayetteville, Arkansas
Apr 22 2009 Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheatre Austin, TX
Apr 24 2009 University of Richmond – Robins Center Richmond, Virginia
Apr 26 2009 Syracuse University – The Carrier Dome Syracuse, New York
Apr 29 2009 University of Wisconsin – Union Theater Madison, Wisconsin
Apr 30 2009 Marquette University – Varsity Theater Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 2 2009 Sovereign Center Reading, Pennsylvania
Jun 19 2009 Jubilee Jam Festival Jackson, Mississippi
Jun 20 2009 MidSummer Music Fest Atlanta, Georgia
Jun 21 2009 City Stages Birmingham, Alabama
Jun 21 2009 City Stages Birmingham, Alabama
Jul 2 2009 Summerfest Milwaukee, WI
Jul 4 2009 Taste of Chicago @ Grant Park Chicago, IL
Jul 5 2009 Rothbury Festival Rothbury, Michigan
Jul 18 2009 Mile High Music Festival Denver, Colorado
Jul 19 2009 Mile High Music Festival Denver, Colorado
Jul 25 2009 Gathering of the Vibes Bridgeport, Connecticut
Aug 7 2009 Newport Yachting Center Newport, Rhode Island