The New Guy
Lazy-i: Oct. 26, 2006
w/ Trippin Balls
Tuesday, Oct. 31, 8p.m.
13th & Martha
is the new guy, but, really, he isn't exactly the new guy. Pisapia
has been performing with Guster for over three and a half years,
all the way back to the band's Keep It Together album,
where he contributed the campfire rocker "Jesus on the Radio."
It was the
beginning of a relationship that would evolve naturally into Pisapia
becoming a card-carrying member of Guster, joining the original
trio of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Miller, guitarist/vocalist Adam
Gardner and drummer/percussionist/bongo player Brian Rosenworcel.
introduced Guster through another musical compadre, Lincoln Nebraska
native Josh Rouse, who remains a close friend of Pisapia, as evidenced
by the fact that my phone call for this interview interrupted
a visit by Rouse to Pisapia's Nashville home.
dropped off his amp. He needs an amp doctor," Pisapia said,
as he said goodbye to his pal. "It all goes back to Josh
in a weird way. Josh hung his hat in Nashville and we got to be
buddies. When he opened for Guster, my band at the time had just
finished our record. Josh gave it to Guster, and they said they
wanted to play with us. We toured with them in 2000, and we all
became friends. It's weird how it all ties in."
career with Guster never entered his mind at the time. Pisapia had
his own band, cleverly titled Joe, Marc's Brother, and a burgeoning
solo career, along with plenty of work producing other bands' recordings.
But one thing led to another
of mine produced Keep It Together, and we wrote 'Jesus on
the Radio' for that and went into the studio with them," Pisapia
said. "We recorded it in a day, and that was my only contribution
to that record."
Pisapia's multi-instrumental abilities, the band asked him come
along on tour, playing a little guitar, a little bass, keyboards,
banjo, and lap steel. "I always got billed as the multi-instrumental
guy, but we all sort of switch off during the set," Pisapia
It was a great
gig, and a chance to play for a much larger audience. Pisapia said
that by this time in Guster's career, the band had just begun to
take it to the next level, from playing clubs to larger halls. In
addition to just having a good time, Pisapia thought the touring
couldn't hurt his other projects. But he certainly didn't count
on Guster becoming a permanent gig.
when I first joined up, it didn't seem like we were going to be
gone forever," he said, "but that became a reality. I
turned around and realized, holy shit, I've been home a month and
a half a year for the last three years. It became less and less
likely that I was going to be able to put my own tours together."
But that didn't
stop people from searching out Pisapia's solo work. "I've been
selling more and more records simply by association by more and
more curious people," he said.
he's actually working on another solo record, but despite that,
he's dedicated himself to Guster, have received full writing credits
on the band's new album, Ganging Up on the Sun. Whether he
recognized it or not, somewhere along the way he became an official
member of the band.
first put out Keep It Together, I was at the record release
party in Boston. Remember, I was only on one song on that record,"
Pisapia said. "They had a big record signing after the show,
and I said 'I'll see you guys later,' and they said, 'You're signing,
too.' And even to this day, people bring up a copies of (the 1995
debut) Parachute for me to sign. I say, 'You know that I
didn't even know those guys back then.'
were working on the new record, we were all locked in a rehearsal
room for months and months, writing songs," he said. "At
that point, just having been in a band that long and having their
ideas bounce off me and having my own ideas integrated in the process,
the relationship got a lot more intimate."
turned around and realized, holy shit, I've been home a month
and a half a year for the last three years."
are magical moments that happen in the studio, and as was
we get older, it's important for us to be part of a record
that's part of where we are in lives."
Up on the Sun continues in the same tradition of strong, tuneful
songwriting heard on Guster's earlier classics, like '99's Lost
and Gone Forever and '03's Keep It Together. Their formula
is simple. It starts with a strong melody built around a catchy
riff and goes from there. Guster's music is deceptively simple and
relaxed, and more often than not, coaxes listeners to absentmindedly
sing along. That subconscious embrace-ability has made their music
a staple on adult contemporary radio as well as fodder for movie
and television soundtracks.
also a shift in style on Ganging
that comes from a
willingness to take chances outside the usual Guster formula. Sure,
there's plenty of classic Guster tunage, like the catchy single
"One Man Wrecking Machine," the banjo-plucking stomper
"The Captain," and piano-driven rambler "Manifest
Destiny," but there's also the wandering epic "Ruby Falls,"
a grand ballad that stretches for over seven minutes -- an unheard
of length for a Guster song.
the album was produced essentially in two parts. "Half the
tracks we produced ourselves," he said. "We would be playing
as a band together and say 'Let's cut the track.' We stretched things
out, and there were a lot of songs that were our own indulgences."
As with Keep
It Together, the band played the first set of songs for the
folks at their label, Reprise, and once again, the label wanted
more material. Ron Aniello, who worked on Keep It Together,
was brought in and spent five months with the band. "We agreed
that it would be good to have some more songs in the kitty,"
Pisapia said, "and it was nice to have another ear to bounce
stuff off of.
going for a real classic sound when we made this record. Everyone
is a huge fan of The Beatles and The Kinks and Bob Dylan and Neil
Young. There are magical moments that happen in the studio, and
as was we get older, it's important for us to be part of a record
that's part of where we are in lives. When we did the second half
of writing, it was challenging coming up with riffs that really
communicated to people in a genuine way without sounding forced.
We struck a good balance."
He's also struck
a balance as a member of Guster. Pisapia said the transition to
becoming "one of the guys" has meant trading one form
of enjoyable exhaustion for another. He looks back fondly at a time
in his life when he had just finished his solo record, had done
a few solo tours mostly overseas, and spent the rest of his time
working 12-hour days as a producer. "I loved it," he said.
"I got wrapped up in a series of production jobs for a year
or two. It was fun and demanding having to be a decision maker or
went out with Guster, it was a like a vacation. I didn't have to
set up my gear, all I had to do was play. Now I have to deal with
the reality of touring so many months a year. That has a different
kind of exhaustion associated with it. It takes something different
out of you."
Copyright © 2006
Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.