A geographer, by definition, analyzes the globe and studies new places. It’s fitting, then, that when Michael Deni (lead singer of Geographer) followed his intuition to San Francisco, he not only found a new place, but a new calling. Deni left behind a difficult household and a past life, all of which faded away as he carved his path along the map. Yet, he held on to those emotions and experiences until he found a way to make them useful; we chatted with him to find out how.
Geographer Travel the Globe, Discuss Touring and Future Plans
As fate had it, Michael Deni reclaimed a synthesizer he found on the street of his new home. Again, guided by feeling, he began to play around with it, soon realizing its power—it remedied the past. Music freed the innermost strife within him, and trapped it in compositions. This drove Deni to perform his new-found catharsis at local venues, which led him to meet his two band-mates, Nathan Blaz and Brian Ostreicher. The two were also drawn to San Francisco by way of some unseen force.
Years later, Geographer has tightened things up. What started as just a project for the trio, with the release of their debut Innocent Ghosts (2008), has now become a lifestyle. Things really started to come together in 2010, thanks to the release of the EP Animal Shapes. Geographer had finally broken out, and perfected the formula for capturing emotion into music.
“I’m a much better guitarist than when I started this band. The guys are highly skilled at their instruments, but I’m really a songwriter and a dabbler, and it’s nice to finally feel like I can play… There’s a lot to be said for doing something every single day for months.” – Michael Deni, Geographer
Geographer’s most well-known song, “Kites,” exemplifies their unique skill; it’s a bubbling concoction of acoustic and electronic sounds that allow you to feel exactly what Deni describes in his vocals. The group built on this success with the release of their 2012 LP, Myth, a sprawling album that saw Geographer tighten things up even more. Their growth is owed mainly to one key factor: live music.
For some artists, touring is a formality; an obligatory exercise after an album release. For others, it’s the goal. Geographer, is in the latter category. They’ve come together as a band and grown immeasurably through live performance, which proved to be an essential aspect of their success, given the eclectic nature of their sound. Geographer blend so many elements together (how many bands do you know with a cellist?) that it’s essential to have the musical chemistry necessary to do so.
When asked about how touring together has helped the band, Deni said: “Touring is the end result; the gold at the end of the rainbow; the real reason to make music: to share it, to witness that sharing.” This notion, “to share” something, is really what drove Deni to music all along. It’s what made him take in the synthesizer he stumbled upon. He went on to say “…to see where all this work and time spent alone in your room ends up is very powerful and educational. It makes you a better player, too, and better players together.”
As Geographer continue to map their way across the globe, though, the paths they create are not without their challenges. When asked about the hardships of touring as an independent band, Deni described it as an occasionally taxing experience. “If you don’t have a bus, especially if you’re following a band who does, it can be really taxing, ‘cause you gotta drive yourself, you can’t go to sleep and wake up at the next show. But really, I can’t complain. As long as there’s an audience waiting for us to play wherever we finally end up, we don’t really care about anything else.”
It appears that in music there are the “haves” and “have nots,” and the latter group looks to be largely made up of independent artists. There is a light on the horizon, though. “We go on the road…ready for a 20,000 person festival or a 2,000 person theater. But we don’t always play those places. In Montana, in the middle of nowhere, we play a 200 person VFW hall, you know, with a broken sound system, and we still have to put on that same quality show. It keeps you guessing, it keeps you humble, and hopefully, it makes you good.” With Geographer, the experience has done just that.
The band was brought together by chance; fate, even. The geographic paths of three musicians aligned at one point on a map, against all odds. As it turns out, San Francisco was not the destination, it was the rendezvous point—the meeting place for a band that would travel the world in search of a way to convert experiences into sound waves. But what does the future hold?—“The cycle continues,” said Deni. “Learning new songs, going on another tour, recording, you name it. Maybe I’ll take a tiny vacation. I should probably take a vacation.”
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Article by Nicolas White