Bands like Guster and Hot Buttered Rum run on biodiesel to
make touring more friendly to the environment
to live our lives without dam aging the Earth is pretty hard
for anyone to figure out. Combine that desire with that of
playing music for thousands of fans around the country, and
it becomes even more complicated. Regardless, musicians have
been finding ways to give back to Mother Earth.
Pearl Jam helped create a protected area in the rainforest
of Makira, Madagascar, to make up for 5,700 tons of carbon
estimated to have been released due to their touring. Willie
Nelson is a managing owner of a biodiesel plant in Texas.
Jack Johnson insisted that venues on his summer tour last
year switch to florescent lighting and create composting.
And two environmentally conscious bands who are trying to
spread their music without contributing to the destruction
of the environment will perform in the Capital Region next
week: Hot Buttered Rum at Revolution Hall, and Guster at Siena
share the ethos of backpacking, leave only footprints,” explains
Zachary Matthews, the mandolin player in Hot Buttered Rum,
a rock-bluegrass band from California. As the band started
touring, they realized their van was using up a lot of gas.
Bryan Horne (the band’s bass player) and Matthews heard about
a workshop called “How to run your vehicle for free on grease
from restaurant dumpsters.”
Since the band were just getting started and funds were low,
the idea of free fuel was compelling. They also had a strong
desire to get off the “fossil-fuel cycle,” so the two converted
their van to run on used vegetable oil. When the van died,
Matthews bought a biodiesel school bus off eBay. The bus had
been converted by students at Middlebury College, and driven
across the country on “refined french-fry grease.”
Now Hot Buttered Rum play more than 200 shows a year, and
use a more advanced fuel system than the school bus’ 55-gallon
drum of hot vegetable oil situated behind the driver. The
oil, which Matthews describes as smelling “a little like burnt
popcorn,” is now beneath the bus, which can use heated filtered
leftover restaurant oil, biodiesel, or regular diesel, if
Filtering the oil of water, grease and leftover food bits
isn’t convenient while touring, so they usually use biodiesel,
a clean-burning fuel made from any fat or oil (the first diesel
engine ran on peanut oil!) after the glycerin is removed.
Biodiesel can be found across the country, with the help of
an online database at biodiesel.org. Matthews admits that
biodiesel isn’t perfect—in cold weather it gels and has to
be mixed with petroleum-based fuel.
you’re burning vegetable oil, you are still releasing carbon,”
Matthews says. “It’s renewable, because you are growing a
plant crop that uses the carbon, pulling it back out of the
air, making (the system) carbon-neutral.”
As companies begin to catch on and do their part to protect
the environment (the Clif Bar energy-bar company plans to
offset the cost of shows in California by paying for tree
planting and wind harvesting to make up for the carbon produced
by attendees), the band are pushing their environmental agenda
all share this passion about trying to make a real different
in the world of sustainable fuel and sustainable lifestyle,”
Matthews says, noting that that desire comes out in the songwriting.
With songs like “Guns or Butter,” which addresses national
priorities, their music (rock played on traditionally bluegrass
instruments) evokes the same desire to change the world. In
“Well Oiled Machine,” which is about their tour bus, guitarist
Nat Keefe writes, “It feels like everywhere I step and everything
I buy/ Results in imbalance or pain/Well I just need a way
to get home/What the rest aurant kitchens dump/I want to pump/To
fill the tank of my well-oiled machine.”
Unlike Hot Buttered Rum, alterative pop band Guster do not
bring politics into their music.
music is our music, and our personal passions about the environment.
. . . We keep that separate,” says guitarist Adam Gardner.
“I think you get in a hazy territory if you start writing
songs about saving the whales. It’s something that we’re not
necessarily interested in doing.”
Gardner and his wife, Lauren Sullivan, started an environmental
nonprofit, called Reverb, which hosts the Campus Consciousness
Tour. The band visit colleges, and set up a “village” of sorts,
where visitors can learn about new technologies and talk about
how to use their power—specifically the university’s power
as investors—to pressure corporations to be eco-friendly.
On their current tour, Guster are riding in a biodiesel bus,
drinking out of corn-based tableware, and selling organic-cotton
goods. To offset the environmental cost of the shows and of
making their new EP, Satellite, the band have been
purchasing energy credits through a renewable energy company
called Native Energy. The EP, which features their title radio
hit and eight other songs, is packaged in biodegradable cardboard
decorated with soy-based inks.
Gardner points out that the little changes in life add up
to make huge differences. The band now use recycled paper
products on tour, and nontoxic cleaning products. “Even if
you start with purchasing a non-petroleum-based lip balm instead
of a petroleum-based lip balm, you’re making a difference.”
Buttered Rum will perform at Revolution Hall (425 River St.,
Troy) on April 28 at 8 PM. Tickets are $15, $13 advance. For
more information, call 274-0553.
Rough Mix items? Contact Kathryn Lurie at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 463-2500 ext. 143.