Here in the UK, when we think of Geography, we might be drawn to images of GCSE syllabuses or Attenborough-esque types hotfooting it up mountains whist simultaneously measuring cloud cover and collecting soil samples. Yet across the pond, the San Francisco trio, Geographer, are shrewdly erupting all over our musical climate with their unique blend of Indie Electro. We catch up with front man, Michael Deni, to chat music, migration and of course, the future of Geography.
So firstly, where did the name ‘Geographer’ come from?
The name speaks to how we look at the musical process, how imperfect it is, but how it's the best way we know to put the things we think about and feel on paper. Like a cartographer with a map.
Do you know how an oxbow lake is formed?
Doesn't everybody? An oxbow lake is a curved, narrow lake that is formed when a river's meander gets cut off from the main flow of water. A lake that used to be part of a river. There's a metaphor in there somewhere.
What’s your favourite kind of cloud?
The kind where I back up my files. Ohh! Actually I'm a cumulonimbus man myself. You can probably tell that from my song writing.
You’ve just finished playing at the SXSW festival, how was that?
A little rough with a sprained ankle, but still so much fun. That's the highlight of our year. So much connecting with fans, so much playing music. It's wild.
The festival acts as a platform for new creative talent, you guys formed in 2005 - do you feel it’s taking you longer to achieve more of a mainstream recognition?
I moved to San Francisco in 2005 but we formed in 2007 I think. Played our first official show as Geographer in 2008. It took us a while to get our feet wet ‘cause we built from absolutely nothing. I was in a new city with two friends, not good at putting myself out there, too shy to even write a booker an email, playing at open mic nights. It was a trial by fire, and eventually we got over it. Some people are amazing at networking and making a name for themselves, but we really needed people's help with that. So we had to get noticed by those people before we got noticed by the general public.
You formed the band quite soon after the death of a family member, was there a direct correlation? Is music particularly cathartic for you?
That was definitely a catalyst for me moving to San Francisco. I just had to get some distance from all that. But as far as forming a band, I did that wherever I was with whoever would since I was 14. Those early songs were very cathartic for me. That was my therapy for that first year, which was a very hard time. But putting it into music that I sang over and over again forced me to stop running from it, and allowed me to get past it creatively too.
How did the rest of the band come together after you founded Geographer?
Well really the band came together before I founded Geographer. It came together in bits and pieces. I started a band with Kacey Johansing, who I met at an open mic night. Her voice could stop a train. She brought Nate in to play cello. It was a very different band, all acoustic, no drums. Then that band started morphing into what would become Geographer song-wise, we started looking for a drummer, Kacey started phasing out due to creative differences and needing to concentrate on her own projects. Nate and Brian went to Berkeley School of Music together, and Brian tried out for the band in late 2007. He actually didn't make the cut and didn't even want to join at first, ha! But we tried again and it really clicked, I think we played some newer songs, and out of that birthed Geographer a few months later.
You have a really expansive sound considering there are only three of you. Do you ever feel limited by being in a trio or is it something that works to your advantage?
We definitely feel limited by it. But we strongly believe that limitations breed creativity. When the sky's the limit, sometimes very boring things happen. Or you just get overwhelmed and don't make anything. It's like MacGyver. Give that guy a real bomb he has no idea what to do. But a toothpick, some Epsom salts, and a human hair? Hold on to your hat baby.
You've been signed to Tricycle Records since 2009. Is their "Always DIY, Always local" ethos important to you?
That's what makes them who they are. And they've created so many opportunities and jumping off points for us. Julie Schuchard is the real deal. She'll help you all along the way with anything you ask, and she really will make you enchiladas whenever you're hungry. For a new band that's invaluable. You learn everything, and you do it together. It makes it easier to make choices about the rest of your career when you know the options and how it's done.
Tricycle mainly represents the Bay area. How valuable is San Francisco to your music?
It's an amazing, exciting and comfortable place to live. That's what inspires me, just the atmosphere. And knowing that all those great people who come to our shows will fill the next room we play in, that is exhilarating and gives us the confidence to move forward. I feel very connected to the San Francisco fans because I feel like we did this together. They helped us achieve our dream, and they were the first. Having people show up in other cities is more of a "Whoa! Incredible!" feeling because we're always amazed they've heard about us. Someone from Toronto came up to me at a show and said she came to SXSW to see Geographer. I was floored. I want to live in that world. But we're like J Lo. We know where we came from.
Have you had a chance to work with any of the other artists on their roster, would you like to?
We haven't, but I just did a little singing on a recording Thao is making. I love working with her, because she is so much the opposite of me, and it's very liberating to have her say, "just go in there and sing something." And she usually brings Kacey along, and it's always nice to put our voices back together.
You were voted as one of three “Undiscovered Bands You Need To Hear Now” by SPIN - what would you say it is about your music that we need to be listening to right now?
We try to make music that uses sounds you can't figure out right away, maybe some you've never heard before, with songs that have enough layers to keep you listening over and over again. We're trying to make something real and transformative while still being something you just want to blast on your speakers.
After the success of your EP, Animal Shapes in August are there plans for an album in the future?
We've basically finished writing our next album. Now we have to make it sound like what I just described. That's the hard part. But sometime next year, sooner than later, hell yes.
Someone on your Facebook page commented, "think it's about time you guys came to London!!". Note the two exclamation marks. Do you have any plans in the near future to come to the UK?
We probably have to wait till the album comes out, but you never know, sometimes things pop up. But without a doubt we will get there. That's dream number three of eight.
Geographer's official myspace can be found hereand for a free download of their single Kites, click here. More info on some of the other bands Tricycle Records represents is on their official website.
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