In the summer of 2005, after a series of deaths in the family, Mike Deni left his hometown in New Jersey for San Francisco. He spent the next several months with his guitar and a synthesizer, turning that tragedy into the songs that would soon become the foundation for Geographer. With the additions of cellist Nathan Blaz and drummer Brian Ostreicher, Geographer spent the next year cutting their teeth in the Bay Area, winning over crowds with the heart-pounding epics that make up their debut record, ‘Innocent Ghosts’. After being selected one of three ‘Undiscovered Bands You Need To Hear Now’ by SPIN Magazine and garnering considerable word-of-mouth praise from their energetic live shows, the band signed to San Francisco-based label Tricycle Records, releasing a 7” single for the song ‘Kites’. ‘Animal Shapes’ follows up ‘Kites’, building on the synth-driven aesthetic of the single, while flirting with darker, more esoteric underpinnings. The record merges Geographer’s aptitude for crafting beautiful, haunting melodies with textural sounds and poly-rhythmic energy, marking an evolution of their distinct style.
We got to talk with Mike from Geographer and you can check out our interview below!
How do you connect with an audience during a live show?
People always say, “That person never steps out of their comfort zone,” but what they really mean to say is “discomfort zone.” People aren’t in their comfort zones. They’re profoundly uncomfortable and their default mode is often hiding shielding others from that discomfort. I see a lot of my job as getting people to a place where they can enjoy the show, the night, their friends, and their emotions in a way they wouldn’t normally be comfortable doing. I try to lead by example. If I’m nervous about something I do it anyway. I’ll climb up on a speaker and jump off, I’ll go down into the crowd and make them sing along. A lot of the time it feels like herding wild horses – only the wildness is below the surface keeping everyone locked up inside themselves. I think it’s time we get back in touch with cutting loose with big feelings, big nights, and moments that are as big as the things inside us. That’s what I want to do. So I just assume that’s what people that come to our shows want too.
Who would you like to collaborate with on future albums?
I don’t have any hopes for collaborations. It’s more people I’d like to perform with. I’d love to sing a Bruce Springsteen song with him, or play a show with Radiohead, that kind of thing. But I’m a very insular creator. I like to be alone. Nate and Brian and I are in a club and it would seem weird change that up on our own music, but I would never give up a chance to work with someone else for fun. I could always learn something.
What would your dream gig be?
Opening for Radiohead or Bruce Springsteen on a long string of dates. I know opening in stadiums kind of sucks and Bruce Springsteen actually quit in the middle of his stadium opening gig for Chicago back in the day because he hated it so much. But I’ve always held that kind of thing in such high regard. But hey if we’re dreaming, we should play our own stadium shows, right?
Out of all the gigs you’ve played, does one stand out as being the most memorable?
It would be hard to pick one. But I do remember our set at “Outside Lands” festival in San Francisco very vividly. I hadn’t been nervous like that for a show in years. It was very much breaking through into the next level for us. Going from playing to a thousand, two thousand people tops to, well, upwards of 15, 20 thousand? And that was the first time I ever crowd surfed. It was such an amazing feeling. After the show was over and we did it, I had no notes left to play, just listen to Brian and Nate vamp the ending of “Kites,” relief washed over me in an awesome wave and I just leapt out onto everybody’s hands and they carried me so far back. I’ve never had a feeling like that in my life. There is no other feeling like that.
For someone who has never been to a Geographer show, what is the experience like?
Well, I wouldn’t know, honestly. For as much energy as I put into making the show a certain kind of experience, I have no idea what it’s like. But here’s what I hope. I hope you feel totally transported. I hope you feel free. I hope you feel like music has a reason and that you experienced something both that no one else will ever understand but that you can share with everyone else there. Like there’s nothing outside that room, and the knowledge that there are places like that, where everything else falls away, makes the rest of life easier to take.
When can we expect some new music?
Hopefully sometime in 2014. We’re working on it. And you’re going to like it.
Geographer is at The Drunken Unicorn 11/14 with Royal Bangs! Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Online and phone sales close at 4:00 pm day of show. Doors open at 9pm.