Boston’s alt-rocking band Guster, coming to the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Saturday night (3/7), is pulling a page from Aimee Mann and Michael Penn’s playbook by touring with comedians.
About a dozen years ago, singer/songwriters Mann and Penn played some gigs with their comic pal Patton Oswalt at the cozy Los Angeles club Largo. It went so well at the often star-laden venue that the husband and wife team and the humorist toured.
Now Guster is following suit.
“The shows we’re going to be doing definitely have that Largo vibe,” said Guster’s vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ryan Miller by phone from his Vermont home. “We saw the Improvised Shakespeare Company at Largo, and it was a lot of fun. We know there will be a lot of chaos, but we’re looking forward to it, since it’ll keep it interesting for us and our fans. I have no idea how this will go. We’ve yet to have our first rehearsal. It’ll be different — and that’s always a good thing as far as shows go.”
Connor Ratliff of the comedy troupe the Upright Citizens Brigade will deliver the humor as the emcee. For the first time in seven years, Guster will deliver its material acoustically, backed by a string section.
“I’m looking forward to our arrangements being fleshed out courtesy of the string section,” Miller said. “It’s a cool thing not to just play the songs as they were recorded. That gets kind of boring, and so we’re going to be coming at our fans with the Largo spirit. Anything goes and you’ll leave the show with a different impression of our material.”
The improv will not be limited to comedy. Some of the songs will be composed on the spot.
“We’re looking forward to that (extemporaneous) aspect of the show,” Miller said. “It’s fun to write songs in the moment. It’s always a great exercise to flex those creative muscles, particularly when you’re in front of an audience.”
But the band, which also includes vocalist-guitarist Adam Gardner, drummer Brian Rosenworcel and multi-instrumentalist Luke Reynolds, will draw from its eight albums.
“Brian makes up the set list and it changes every night,” Miller said. “He’ll look to see what we played the last time we were in Iowa, so we can play some different songs.”
It’ll be fascinating to experience the acoustic versions of songs from the band’s last two albums, 2015’s “Evermotion” and 2019’s “Look Alive,” since most of those albums are composed of electro-pop.
“We’ll have some different spins on those songs,” Miller said.
Guster has morphed considerably from its days as a folkie/jangle pop act.
“We grew up,” Miller said. “Our sound has reflected that.”
However, the band, which formed at Tufts University in Massachusetts in 1991, still includes its three original members: Miller, Gardner and Rosenworcel. “The coolest thing about us is that we’ve stayed together all of these years,” Miller said. “Most bands have guys that have come and gone, but we’ve kept it going. Also, look at how much has changed since we started. Look at how much the world has changed, with cellphones and the internet. There’s been a lot of change around the world and within our band. I’m proud to say we don’t sound like we did when we started out.”
Guster is figuring out the direction of its next album.
“Every record is a reaction to the last record,” Miller said. “We’re thinking about what type of record we want to make next. I’m expecting it to be different, which is always good. You have to keep moving on.”
• What: Guster: An evening of acoustic music & improv
• Where: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday (3/7)
• Tickets: $21 to $56, Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or <URL destination="https://englert.org/events/">Englert.org/events/
</URL>• Band’s website: Guster.com