When Adam Gardner of Guster listens to his band’s latest CD, “Easy Wonderful,” part of what he hears takes him back in time.

A big chunk of the album was recorded in 2009, which marked the 10th anniversary of “Lost and Gone Forever,” Guster’s third CD and first release on a major label. It’s the album that introduced a good number of Guster’s fans to the group.

“We actually did a short tour, an anniversary tour of ‘Lost and Gone Forever,’ and so we dug back into that record while in the middle of making this one,” Gardner said in a recent phone interview. “It was interesting to get back in there and understand the spirit of what we had when we were 10 years younger and new to this and still all excited about being in the studio. I think that translated in a lot of ways (to ‘Easy Wonderful’).”

But make no mistake, Guster has evolved considerably in the decade since then. The band now records as a foursome with Joe Pisapia (who produces the band and plays guitars, keyboards and other instruments) in the studio, while a different fourth musician (Luke Reynolds) is in the lineup for tours.

Still, the group’s signature sound is very much present on “Easy Wonderful.” Guster has always had an easy-going rootsy pop sound — both in its early acoustic format and its more varied, plugged-in recent configuration — and that personality once again predominates the new CD.

But if anything, the sound is a bit sunnier than usual, as the band breezes through the snappy acoustic-based tune “This Could All Be Yours,” a rather muscular rocker called “Architects and Engineers,” several pleasant mid-tempo tunes (such as “Do You Love Me?” and “Bad Bad World”) and the occasional song that is a stylistic curveball (the electronic-tinged “Do What You Want”).

Making the CD, however, wasn’t as effortless as Guster’s music tends to sound.

Recording began after the group hooked up with producer David Kahne, whose many credits include albums by Paul McCartney and The Strokes. The sessions with Kahne were initially very productive, as the band zoomed through pre-production and recording basic tracks.

But when it came time to record overdubs, the process bogged down as the band and Kahne clashed.

“Probably 70 percent of the time, we agreed with some idea that he (Kahne) had,” Gardner said. “But when we disagreed, it was bad news. It didn’t work, and it just got increasingly difficult as we were putting the finishing touches onto the recordings we were making with him.”

The band decided to finish the songs as best as it could with Kahne, but was left feeling less than thrilled with the results.

So Guster took a break to take stock of its work, and during this time, two events helped re-energize the band.

One was a burst of creativity from Miller, who wrote a half dozen complete songs to add to the batch that had been done with Kahne. The other was Pisapia completing his studio, where the band decided to set up shop to finish “Easy Wonderful.”

“We also got our hands on the Kahne sessions, and we were able to, when we were able to strip away the few overdubs that we didn’t agree with, we realized the bones of the songs were in good shape,” Gardner said. “We just needed to make sure they sounded like our band and not a David Kahne solo project.

“We were able to reclaim our music and reclaim our band and our album. We felt liberated and energized, and excited to play together again and start fresh in a lot of ways. And the material was great and uplifting.”

The renewed energy is carrying over to the touring side of Guster’s work. With Reynolds in place for the shows, the band is making a fresh start in a live setting.

“We’ve pretty much revamped up every part of our live sound — new guitar amp, new keyboard sounds, new drum set-up,” Gardner said. “It was the perfect time for us to re-evaluate everything we do live, the arrangements of the songs, integrating the new material. …We’re excited.”


Alan Sculley is a freelance writer.