Geographer on noise complaints, reclaimed synths and courtesy cookies

Photos by Mike Frash // Written by Molly Kish //

Showbams spoke with Mike Deni (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Nathan Blaz (cello) and Brian Ostreicher (drums) of San Francisco indie-rock band Geographer at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival.

Showbams: Nate and Brian, I know you guys met at the Berkeley College of Music and came together as a band initially out here in the Bay Area, right?

Brian: Yeah, I actually am from the Detroit area and Nate and I did meet at college in Boston at Berkeley, so we’ve been in the scene since we’ve gotten here. I’m a transplant and have been here about eight years.

Nate: Same deal, I moved out here a year after Brian did from Boston.

Mike: Yeah, I’m from Jersey.

Showbams: Having studied at Berkeley, what was your main focus there?

Nate: I was a cello principle and did music synthesis as my major, but there’s a core curriculum at Berkeley that Brian and I both went through. Just general musicianship, music theory, a little bit of film scoring I think both of us did, really the whole gamete. It was really fun!

Showbams: Did you guys have classes together, is that how you met or …

Brian: We met uh (laughs), we lived in the same building and were introduced by a mutual friend.

Nate: Wait a minute, I thought that you were doing a petition, Brian?

Brian: Oh, that’s right, that’s right. Our mutual friend did not introduce us! There were many musicians in our actual building and many of them actually practiced in our apartment spaces. Since I’m a drummer, I make a lot of noise and wanted to have the respect of my neighbors. So, I went around and had a petition that I asked my neighbors kindly to sign if they didn’t mind me playing drums in our apartment.

Showbams: That is very nice of you to do that, very courteous.

Brian: Yeah, you know you gotta keep everybody happy.

Nate: Yeah, that was the very first interaction I ever had with Brian (laughs).

Showbams: You’re all “Uh, sure, weirdo. I’ll sign your petition.” That’s a very unique story. For you though, Mike, you came from Jersey out here. What’s your musical background? Did you come out here with an intent to play music or was it just kind of a get there and see what happens type thing?

Mike: Well. I came here to start a band with a friend from college whom I’d been in a band with and we did start a band, but we never played anywhere. We had one show, we played a Halloween party and it was really awesome but they called the cops and everything because it was really loud electronic music.

Showbams: There was no petition for the Halloween party, see. That was the problem.

Mike: I know we didn’t even make anyone any cookies or anything. But, he got a real job so then that band sort of dissolved. Then, I started playing open mic nights around San Francisco and met these guys through that situation.

Showbams: I was doing a little research, and there’s a story about you playing a synth you found at the open mics?

Mike: Well, I found the synth on the street in the Haight, and that’s what I wrote a lot of the songs for Innocent Ghosts, but I also took piano lessons since I was six and I played the saxophone since I was nine.

Showbams: You guys have a lot of varied experience between each of you, which is great and something you can really tell on the records — eclectic influences from everywhere. I know you guys were signed on Tricycle Records with the Animal Shapes EP and you released the 7” of “Kites” in 2009. On that 7”, you had a cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent”, which is hands-down my favorite New Order song, if not probably like one of my top 5 favorite pop songs. Why did you choose that song amongst many that you could have covered?

Brian: Well, I was just listening to that song a lot and thought it would be cool to cover it.

Showbams: You also chose to include some of Animal Shapes on your full-length album Myth, which is always kind of an interesting decision process. What made you go with the specific tracks over others that were featured on the EP?

Nate: Myth, in a lot of ways, is some people’s first exposure to us and “Kites”, the song off of Animal Shapes, that had the most traction. We still wanted to present that like, “Hey, this is a song that we have.” It had proven itself and we had the opportunity to do a new mix of it, so we got to make it sound the way we wanted to make it sound.

Showbams: I know you guys signed with Monarch in 2011, which is an East Coast indie label and and were on Tricycle, which is a predominantly West Coast brand. Was this a conscious decision to make the move across the country to try something different and see how that went? Or was it more of something that just fell into place?

Mike: It just fell into place. If they had been anywhere and still told us the things they told us about what they were going to do, we would’ve signed with them. It wasn’t about the East Coast.

Showbams: Finally, riding off of the success you guys have had over the past few years, how does it feel to be playing such a big venue as Outside Lands?

Nate: We’re so excited and so happy to be here, it’s like the highlight of 2012 for sure!

Showbams: We’re really pumped on having you guys here and are you stoked to see what you can bring to the bill and what you have on the horizon. In that sense, what is next for Geographer?

Mike: We’ve got some more covers in the pipeline, are going on tours and releasing remixes. We’re shooting a music video in two weeks, and we’re just going to keep putting out material for people to listen to and watch, then eventually record our next record.

Brian: Keep on rocking!

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