Before Pittsburgh hip-hop was even a thing, before Christina Aguilera put Wexford in the rear-view mirror, Pittsburgh’s Rusted Root was making platinum-selling records.
It was as surprising then as it is now. Still, if any band can be considered an institution by now, it’s Rusted Root. They didn’t crest a wave of similar bands, or inspire rafts of local imitators. The combination of their friendly, inclusive vibe, planet-spanning world-music rhythms and deft musicianship, still makes them an anomaly.
They do, however, title their brand-new album “The Movement,” signaling an aversion to stagnation and standing still.
“I think it has kind of come full circle now,” said the band’s singer-guitarist Michael Glabicki. “We’ve gone out and experimented and found some things that work, and that didn’t work. This record, we kind of said this is what we do best.”
Although Rusted Root has been around long enough to remember when selling a lot of records was possible, that’s never really been the goal.
“It all revolves around our live show and what our live show needs,” Glabicki said. “We tried on ‘The Movement’ … 90 percent of the songs we tried out on the road first. We tried to recapture that live feel. I think there’s some different things we could be doing live. There’s some different landscapes that we can find in the future.”
Upbeat singles like “Monkey Pants” and “The Movement” have already gotten some airplay around the country.
“(’The Movement’), for us, was kind of the farthest stretch that we took,” Glabicki said. “It’s a newer type of groove. The drum line was nothing like I’d ever heard before — African, but like a Slovakian marching beat.”
For most bands nowadays, paying the bills requires some creativity. Luckily, Rusted Root’s upbeat, organic energy has lots of useful applications. They’ve had their music placed on movies like “Ice Age” and TV shows like Fox’s “New Girl.”
“The Movement” is also at the forefront of a movement of bands turning to their fans to fund new albums. In exchange for donations, Rusted Root gave away a slew of special opportunities to fans. This also helped give the album that “live” feel they covet, even after spending hours in the studio meticulously going over every note.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a necessity yet, but I think the fans really helped out,” Glabicki said. “We’d invite fans to the studio to sit in and just watch what’s going on — it was kind of like having an audience in the studio. It was fun to package it like that.”