Interview with Mike Deni from Geographer

1)How did Geographer get started?

I met Kacey Johansing, a friend of Brian and Nate’s from college, at an open mic in San Francisco when I first moved here. She and I started playing music together under the name Parasol, and she brought Nate into the band. As Kacey faded out, Nate took an increasingly larger role in the band, and we started going in a more rock and electronic direction. We had a revolving troupe of drummers, and decided we needed to get a full-time drummer. Nate brought in Brian to try out, and he actually didn’t make the band the first time around, and didn’t even want to be in it! But we brought him back about a month later and no one could deny the chemistry.

2) How did you come up with the name Geographer?
Sitting at my kitchen table for days thinking of a name. Endless pieces of paper with scribbled out words. Eventually Geographer stuck in my mind because I like the metaphor. Comparing musical creation to the creation of a map. Emotions are the uncharted new territory, and the song is the map that tries to explain and represent, imperfectly but almost more accutely, that territory.

3)Who are your major influences?
Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Bjork, Steve Reich, Arthur Russell, Kate Bush.

4)Could you briefly describe the music-making process?
Make sounds until they feel more than real and send shivers down your spine. Walk around and think of words, sing nonsense words in the dark to come up with a melody, send files back and forth, chipping away until it feels right, fight for your ideas, give in so you can move beyond your own limitations.

5)How has your music evolved over time?
When we first started playing, we didn’t know what a rock song was. We didn’t even really know what a song was. And we certainly didn’t know what a band was or what an audience was. Now we’re part of an entity that is growing and is bigger than us, and now we have a clear vision of what we want to do with sounds and songs.

6) What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Making music is a very challenging business, because it’s not coming up with innocuous ideas. When you put an idea forth, your displaying your soul to the other people in the room, and that’s an incredibly vulnerable process. Finding out how to do that without freaking out, to make the final product as good as possible, and everybody happy with it, is the most challenging part.

7) What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
Well, if you want me to listen to your band, which you might not, get really good at your instruments first, then learn how to write songs, steer clear of gimmicks, and find out who you are, not who you want to be, but who you are, musically, and after all that, don’t be overly critical of yourself. Don’t latch onto one influence too strongly. The best advice I ever got was about novel writing, but I think it applies to music: everyone copies, that’s how we learned how to walk, speak, everything. The trick is to try to copy so many different things that you end up making something new.

8) What type of music do you play? What genre/How you would describe your sound, etc.
I don’t know, Rock? Synth Rock? You tell me. We just try to make meaningful pop music with interesting sounds that make you feel and say something important about life.

9) Any additional info?
I never felt like I belonged, even though I was always accepted, I always felt outside of things. I’ve always had trouble connecting with people. When I’m onstage, with a crowd of people listening to the music we’ve made, with the speakers up loud, and the drums behind me, I feel totally connected to everyone, through this entity that the crowd and the band are making together. That’s music. It’s so human, and it may be the last magical thing.

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