Dalton’s been asking me to write a studio journal while we’re down here in Nashville working on our album — at this point, having only posted a few entries about our new material and the sessions we did with David Kahne last winter, I think it’s better to let Ryan handle the day-to-day stuff like Joe’s inner “Situation” on his Twitter account. Maybe I’ll pan out and go big picture with this update.
Every album is a different experience for us, with high points and low points, good ideas, bad ideas etc… sometimes it goes quickly and sometimes it takes forever. There are so many dynamics at play, it’s tough to say why this album has been over a year in the making, but over the course of our careers we’ve always had these forces to contend with in the studio: Guster vs. Nature, Guster vs. Label, Guster vs. Technology, Guster vs. Lyrics, Guster vs. Producer, Guster vs. Guster. It’s that last one that can be a real dagger.
Parachute (1994) isn’t something I recall too well. We were mostly just psyched to be making an album and to have a producer willing to help us figure out how to do it (Mike Denneen). Surely if people liked our 11 songs we could convince Adam to quit the Beelzebubs (Tufts a capella group) and join Gus full-time. We ran into the harsh limitations of our own playing abilities (Guster vs. Nature) on that record, and brought in some pros to play drums and bass. Also, since these were pre-digital days, we would be “punching” hand drums for hours and cutting tape with razor blades to make things correct (Guster vs. Technology).
Goldfly (1997) was an absolute disaster of an experience. We had a vision for the album and butted heads with Steve Lindsey (Guster vs. Producer) for an entire month in Los Angeles. Why the hell did we fly out west to record when we were funding the record ourselves anyway? It went quickly and painfully, and while many people like this album, lots of things slipped through the cracks (did we really dub out that “jackyl” lyric on Bury Me?) while we kept the process from drowning in tension. This album got picked up by a major label, somehow, but gave us the anger we needed to take the next step.
Lost & Gone Forever (1999) was a joy to make. We brought in Steve Lillywhite to execute a vision he shared with us. It took two months. Done.
Keep It Together (2003) took forever, and was recorded with two producers in various stages, with plenty of tension all around. Roger Moutenot hung in there with us while we learned new instruments (Guster vs. Nature) and arranged songs like “Come Downstairs & Say Hello” on our shiny new Macintosh computers (Guster vs. Technology). Ron Aniello came in for a second batch of songs (Guster vs. Label) after our A&R guy didn’t think we were finished writing, and Careful, Keep It Together, Homecoming King, and Amsterdam were all added to the record, with Rosenworcel on lyrics for three of those (Guster vs. Lyrics, Guster vs. Guster). Ron was an inspiration. Only producer we’ve ever worked with twice. At one point during the exhaustive process of recording Keep It Together, Steve Lillywhite told Ryan (read this with a thick British accent, please) — “Every time U2 reinvents themselves it takes them four years, so the way I see it, you’ve still got a year to go.”
Ganging Up on the Sun (2006) added Joe to the mix and was documented for a while by Dave Yonkman, if you want to see us in action. The high points were incredibly high during that recording, and we all felt we were making something very special. We ran into our label and our lack of lyrics in a big way towards the end though, and brought in Ron Aniello to play the role of “The Wolf” again — this time yielding half of the album, including “Hang On,” my favorite song from the album. I can’t stress enough the fact that our albums have actually benefitted from our label telling us to keep writing. It’d be more fun to say “fuck you” than “you’re right” — but in our experience so far, major labels have only pushed us to greater heights.
Still Untitled (2010) has seen us confront all our familiar foes (Nature, Label, Technology, Lyrics, Producer, Guster), with a special asterisk on Producer this time around, and a new force to throw into the mix: Guster vs Their Own Expanding Families. We have a lot of pride as a band, especially regarding our last few albums, and we’re not about to release an album until we all feel (heart of hearts etc) that it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. In the year since my last studio journal, I’ve been awfully quiet on the blogging front, which is an indication that our recordings weren’t quite doing justice to the songs we’d written. So I’m happy to say that in the last month since we’ve taken matters back into our own hands and returned to Joe’s Place in Nashville, we’re honing in on an album that will be our proudest yet. It’s amazing how, after 19 years in a band, you have so much musicality, perspective, and collective creativity under your belt that you can just start painting a canvas together and it’ll start to look good.
I don’t know that I’ll get into the songs via studio journal this time. There are lots of them, and tough choices to make, and I don’t want to jinx anything. But we’re honing in on something very exciting. And here is “Solid Potato Salad” for your viewing pleasure:
3 years ago • 75 notes