Geographer exploded into the local scene in 2007 and has steadily gaining momentum in the Bay Area and beyond. The band headlines at The Independent on February 23rd with Butterfly Bones and Funeral Party. Lead crooner, guitarist, and keyboardist Michael Deni took the time to answer some pressing pre-Noise Pop questions regarding the band’s recent tour with indie giants Stars and whether bloodshed generally contributes to a successful show.
Q: Have you all played Noise Pop before?
A: Thanks to Dan Strachota, we played with Atlas Sound last year to a sold-out Great American Music Hall. Dan was one of the first bookers that really gave us chances like that. The highlight of that show was listening to Bradford Cox tell stories backstage about misadventures with sleep aids and airplanes. It was really cool to not only share the stage, but get to meet another musician who we admire.
Q: What shows are you most looking forward to at the festival, aside from your own?
A: Dan Deacon, The Concretes, The Fresh and Onlys, Yo La Tengo.
Q: You are playing with Butterfly Bones and Funeral Party. Was there any hesitance in joining a bill with two bands with names that sound like they could possibly eat you, or at least bleed you, after the show is over?
A: We were all bullies in high school, so we’re pretty tough and good at sports. I picked on the kids who didn’t have glasses or braces. We paid for our first record with other people’s lunch money. But I’m sure we can solve any inter-band problems backstage with our synthesizers and a minimal amount of bloodshed.
Q: Speaking of names, can you tell me how you came up with the name Geographer?
A: When someone comes to a new uncharted territory, they want to distill it into a form that other people, and they themselves, can understand — like a map. I liken that experience to what a musician does with emotions, sounds, and ideas. A song is what a musician uses to turn an emotion into something tangible and transferable. Of course, it is an imperfect expression of the emotion, just as a map is an imperfect expression of a forest. But it’s the best we can do.
You can’t hold up a forest for someone to walk through and look at from afar, just like you can’t say, “look, sadness!” But a map can teach you more about a forest than walking through it can, and a song can be more complete or varied than just a feeling. So “Geographer” was the closest I could come to a title for this idea, for the process we go through when we play our songs. Also, it was the only cool word not taken already by a noise band in Wisconsin.
Q: You just came off tour with indie giant Stars. Did they fly you from venue to venue in the Starship Enterprise? What were some highlights of that tour?
A: (laughts) No, but they did say, if you can get to this venue by 5pm in your minivan, we will make sure there’s 500 to 1,000 incredibly excited kids there who will listen to your show. On that tour, we literally achieved our dream that we had been working so hard for. Stars is the kind of band that, if they believe in your music, they’ll take an unknown out on the road and give them a chance to be heard. I’m still amazed that we got to do that. We’d be trying to get to sleep in the back of the van on a bumpy road thinking, “this is awesome!” They really treated us like family — took us out for Brian’s birthday, invited us onto their super decked out tour bus after shows. Although, we knew they were jealous of the van.
Q: What kind of vehicle do you tour in? Do you have a tour drink or food that you would like to share with us? What are some tour must-haves that all of you bring?
A: We’re waiting for the subway sponsorship to come through, because we ate it just about every day for two weeks. Brian says, “if you’re taking a sandwich to go, don’t put mayo or mustard on it, because when you go to eat it later, it’ll be soaked!” Also, don’t drag a trailer up through a snowy mountain pass with a minivan. You will not make it to your Denver show.
Q: Who have you been listening to lately? Any new bands you just discovered that you are super stoked on?
A: I’m starting to rediscover the Moody Blues, and I’m obsessed with Kate Bush and Arthur Russell right now. We went through a major Stones phase, because we listened to Keith Richards’ autobiography on the road. It kept us sane, and he totally sold us. We went home and bought all their early records and listened to them nonstop. Don’t knock ’em people. Just cause they have enormous egos doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing.
Q: What was the first album you remember buying with your own money?
A: The soundtrack to Romeo and Juliet, that was the first Radiohead song I ever heard. I had no idea who they were or what other music they made at that point.
Q: After the Noise Pop show, what is on the horizon for Geographer?
A: Cashing in our check and retiring to some island. Then we’re going to SXSW, where we’ve got a lot of really great showcases with great bands like the Local Natives lined up. That one in particular is really exciting for us, because we spent all last SXSW watching them at every showcase and feeling very impressed about where they were and the music they were making. Now we are getting to share the stage with other bands we respect and admire. After that, it’s new record time, world domination, and hopefully a Cadillac commercial or two.
(Photo Credit: SFCritic/Victoria Smith)