BEST FRIENDS episode #3
Liz and i moved to the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY in 1999. 228 Smith Street, between Butler and Douglas, to be precise. one of the first social gatherings we attended, was a party hosted by legendary engineer/producer, John Siket (Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo). Siket had taken an old movie theatre on Attorney Street and turned it into a recording studio. the room was packed and we didn’t know anyone except Brooklyn power couple, Bryce Goggin and Lee Solomon. Bryce produced Radish's final album, Discount Fireworx, as well as my favorite Pavement and Lemonheads music. His wife, Lee, saw me awkwardly standing around and saved me by introducing me to a similar looking fish-out-of-water named Ryan Miller. Ryan and i immediately connected and realized we had commonalities that were almost too much to handle from the get-go... Two Jewish boys from Texas, making the pilgrimage to the big Apple, equipped with music in their hearts and the latest technology in their pockets.
..ahem.. that would be Palm, inc.’s PALM PILOT. That’s right folks. Nerd central. Pre-smartphone. RM & BK in full effect, BFF, FFL, yeah… another shoutout to the Goggin/Solomon household for turning me onto those sweet PDAs (that's 90's speak for Personal Digital Assistant). i'm pretty sure Bryce had the one with the antenna so you could get a little piece of the internet somehow...
*Dork alert: does anyone know how to open .PDB files on mac os? If so lemme know.
at that time, Ryan was paying $800/month to sleep under the staircase of a millionaire’s incredibly dope apartment in The Rutherford which was an old Manhattan birthing hospital on 2nd Ave between 17th and 18th. this place was sick… the millionaire was never home so i’d come over and we’d listen to music, talk about music, talk about Dallas, talk about performing, recording, talk about our goals as artists. Ryan was a mentor of mine and he didn’t even know it. he had his shit together more than any other musician i knew at that point. he made me realize (without saying it) that really we’re entrepreneurs whose main venture happens to be music. his band was insulated by an incredible fanbase they’d cultivated through years of touring colleges. in addition, Guster were very much ahead of their time when it came to communicating with their audience. they took a transparent, “we’re no different than you” approach to fan interaction and it resonated in a deeper way than pop radio or MTV ever could. as for me, Radish had broken up, i was no longer on a major label and basically had nothing going on except the recordings i was making in my apt back on Smith Street. Guster on the other hand, were building something organic and big without a big machine behind them. they were the machine. i was taking note.
Guster's classic, Lost And Gone Forever, was the album that was out when we met. grab it on vinyl here.
*Dork Alert: i gotta pause for a sec for all you young musicians reading this. it was Ryan Miller who introduced me to a book called, All You Need to Know About the Music Business. this book is the holy grail of music business education. it taught me so much about our industry and how it operates. by the time Ry showed me this book in that millionaire’s apartment, i’d already signed a major record deal, a major publishing deal and toured the world multiple times with Radish. yet, i knew nothing about the contracts i was signing or the business principles behind them. alas, it’s better late than never. so if you’re an artist, manager, or anyone considering a career in the music biz, or you have a loved one in the music biz, YOU/THEY MUST READ THIS BOOK!!! looks like there’s a new 9th edition out now, get it here. this is required reading kidz... now back to Guster.
in what seemed like only days after becoming friends, Ryan and i booked a show together at the gone-but-not-forgotten, Wetlands Preserve. we intermixed our own originals along with covers. a young, up and coming photographer named Alyssa Scheinson happened to be on site for this one-off show and captured the relics below. Alyssa went on to become one of NYC's great music photographers. learn more about Alyssa here.
in early 2000, Guster invited me to open up for them on tour. this was my first run as a solo artist. i was rocking it solo acoustic as i did all the time back in those days. Guster let me travel with them on their bus which was my first time on a bus since Radish never graduated from van and trailer. These were big milestones for me and my solo career. I was playing music in front of 1,000 diehard Guster fans every night. Lizzy and I were making BK swag with white T’s and puffy paint. Life was sooooooo good.
lo and behold, it turned out that Guster’s drummer/percussionist, Brian Rosenworcel, the Thundergod himself, lived a few blocks away for me and Liz. he was over there on Baltic Street between Clinton and Henry. he had his own private roof deck where many great parties were had and many close friendships were made. Bri, Lizzy and i often frequented our local Puerto Rican restaurants and compared notes on which joint had the best pollo con arroz. these culinary convos led to the formation of the esteemed - Kweller, Smith, Rosenworcel, and Partners, a company which was going to dominate the food critic world through a smashing new website called Gobblehill.com, whereby the three of us would travel up and down Court and Smith streets, trying all the amazing food Cobble Hill had to offer. we bought the domain and everything but never followed through. for sentimental reasons, we held onto the domain way longer than we should’ve. a few years after letting go of the domain, we noticed some people launched gobblehill.com and were doing exactly what we set out to do! as i’m writing this, i quickly opened a tab to check on their site. sadly, it looks like gobblehill.com is dead once again.
from late 2000 to early 2003, the Guster boys had a rehearsal space on Bergen street between Smith and Court. It was actually a ballet studio with great wood floors, wall to wall mirrors, handrails, the whole shebang…
Every month or so, Guster threw these jam sessions where people’d come and go, pick up random instruments, and just let the music flow. It was a really fun scene that i miss. On one of these fabled nights, we were so caught up in our own jam vibes, that when we looked up we realized everyone was gone except Ryan, Brian, Adam and me. Adam and I were playing guitars, Bri was on drums, and Ry was on bass. We kinda giggled for a minute thinking “HOLY SHIT! everyone straight-up left! guess we scared ‘em off! hahaha!” all of a sudden, Ryan drops this bass lick up high, ending on the perfect note down lowwwww. He’s now looping it over ‘n’ over... i start doing this drony single-string thing on the 9th fret, Adam responds by chiming these open chords down low, Bri comes in with sweet super-slack-feel, and now we’re sailin’!!! i started freestyling words (as i do) and we all landed on a big fat F chord. right then i sang “iiiiiiiii hope tomorrow! is like todaaaaaaaay!” Ryan and Adam immediately harmonized in unison and our classic jam was born. a few months later, we recorded “I Hope Tomorrow Is Like Today” in upstate New York at an incredible studio called Allaire.
the song appears on Guster’s 4th full-length LP, Keep it Together, which you can listen to and purchase here.
it's also featured in the hilarious, Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson film, Wedding Crashers. Surely you’ve seen it by now… but if not, it's worth the watch beyond the fact that me and Guster will serenade you during the long, sad montage, three-quarters the way through the film.
the Guster boys and i have shared many stages together. concert stages and stages of life. weddings, birthdays, actual births, nonsensical titles (Fa Fa/Sha Sha), album releases, emotional releases, press releases… in a lotta ways we grew up together as artists and i owe a lot to them. Ryan, Brian and Adam are among my earliest comrades in New York City. they gave me hope that i could go out as a solo artist, be my true, authentic self, and build something like they were building. because of their support and encouragement, i did go out and built something! no doubt some of you reading this have been with me ever since... it’s clear now, when i think back on that 3AM jam sesh on Bergen street, that my internal-stream-of-consciousness-lyric-machine was putting it all out there. no hold-backs. tomorrow would've certainly been a new crazy day in the city for all 4 of us, but in that moment, making real music with real friends, how can anything get better than that? all i could hope is that it would never end... xoBK
below are two of my favorite Guster T's.
it’s a proven fact your life will be “happier” when wearing said T's.
last note for all you Gusterrhoids out there, the band wanted you to explicitly know that they love you and they are in the studio now working on their 8th full-length album!!!!!
CURRENT MEMBERS: Ryan Miller (vocals, guitar, bass), Adam Gardner (vocals, guitar, bass), Brian Rosenworcel (drums, percussion), Luke Reynolds (vocals, bass, keyboards, lap steel) PAST MEMBERS: Joe Pisapia (guitar, vocals, lap steel, keyboards) OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.guster.com