By Dan Barry
4:38 PM EDT, August 1, 2011
Who do these guys remind me of? I'm smashing my head against the dashboard trying to think of it, which is weird, because I'm usually on top of this. There's definitely a late-'90s Matador Records thing going on — maybe the guitar work reminds me of Pavement a little? And that caterwauling vocal style — total Modest Mouse thing going on, very love-it-or-hate-it. And there's a raw, spazzy, don't-give-a-fuck energy in these tunes. Cap'n Jazz?
Man. These Guru fuckers are making me work. I love it.
The Watertown rock quartet is riding a crest right now, thanks to their recent appearance at B.O.M.B. Fest (they were one of a small handful of locals) and the release of their LP, Native Sun.
“A lot of people have been saying there's so much buzz around us, on blogs and forums,” says guitarist Kyle McEvoy, “but I feel like a lot of people don't know how simple we are as people. We're just four best friends playing music together. They kinda blow it out of proportion.”
Still, it's kind of awesome to see a band made up of members who are anything but rock's usual suspects. No dashing supermodels or silky crooners here; they're young, gangly, boyish, scruffy dudes from a rural town. They have intense nerd glasses, even by hipster standards. “We just did a gig last night, and as we were loading up our equipment, we were about to leave and we heard some kids talking in an alley,” McEvoy recalls. “And they were like, ‘I liked their set but I feel like they tried too hard to be awkward and funny on stage.' We're not trying — that's just who we are. We're just being ourselves.”
The Guru are pretty self-conscious about their youth — in fact, there's a solid argument to be made that youthfulness is the main topic of their material. At several points, their lyrics invoke the end-of-high-school, beginning-of-college cusp that the band members currently occupy. “Four years is a long time but I know it's not a lifetime,” barks drummer/vocalist Eddie Golden III on “Kodachrome Daydream.” Is he saying that high school looks smaller in hindsight? Or is he steeling himself for four years of college, away from his dearest friends? (Both, probably.) The band's lyrics are also splattered liberally with pop culture references (“Let's drive to tacobell [sic]”; “Mario Party!”) that evoke a bunch of teens hanging out and wasting time.
It's also noteworthy that McEvoy refers to his bandmates as “kids” several times during our interview. In the Bandcamp tag cloud for Native Sun, “kids” and “fun” are in the mix right alongside “psychedelic,” “disco,” and “indie.”
“We hope you enjoy our childhood as much as we do,” says the tagline at the top of the album credits. And the excellent video for “Beach Monster” is pretty much a big waterside daydream, with bandmates throwing friends into a pond and carving crap into picnic tables. A big part of their appeal is evoking that carefree vision of late teenagedom — one that's unmolested by Hollywood expectations or political dickery.
Even Native Sun's album cover is telling. On a midnight beach, the band towers above a giant crowd swarming with balloons. “Is that kind of like your vision for what you hope the band will be?” I asked McEvoy. “Do you want it to be about performing for a gigantic happy crowd with tons of balloons?”
“Yeah!” he replies. “For us, our shows are very interactive and dancey, sweaty, just crazy people. I remember one person came up to me after a show, and said ‘The Guru is like mind control,' and just walked away. A lot of people after shows just go and lay down. For me, going to local shows and stuff, that's one thing I always wanted — just to dance around and have fun.”
So what's next for the fellas? “We're gonna try and do a split, two songs each, with High Pop. That should be out like late, late summer, maybe fall,” says McEvoy. And two of the members, Golden and guitarist Colin Sullivan, are headed off to college at the end of the summer.
“Are you worried about finding time to all get together?” I asked.
“When we started this band, we all kinda promised ourselves no dramatic breakups or whatever. If we're not together as often, then so be it,” replies McEvoy. “Personally what I think is gonna happen is that those guys are gonna go to school, and they're gonna learn so much about recording techniques and add it to the band. We'll probably play like a show a month, but when they come back on winter break and Thanksgiving, we'll play some shows and stuff, and next summer we're planning a pretty big tour. So I'm excited for that.”
If you miss their Elm City Popfest date, you'll definitely want to catch the Guru on Aug. 20 at Woodbury Town Hall. “That's where we're gonna do our end of summer show,” says McEvoy. “It's been our tradition for the past two or three years. That's gonna be the last Guru show for a while.”
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