Geographer is a musical rarity — a band that’s easy to enjoy without necessitating the label of “guilty pleasure.” There are probably a number of reasons for this, but the overarching theme of Geographer’s music seems to be sincerity. The San Francisco–based band isn’t afraid to skew dark thematically, and the intricacy of their always foot-tappy, sometimes haunting melodies illustrates that songwriting is, first and foremost, a labor of love for these three longtime friends.
This Friday, November 22, Geographer pulls into town for a show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. Below, we chat with lead singer Mike Deni about writing, growth, and what it’s like to turn your catharses into hundred-person sing-alongs.
Geographer has grown into the kind of band that seems to be touring constantly. How has that affected you as a songwriter? Well, being on tour a lot, you sort of weed things out a little bit when you do write because you only have a month or so when you’re at home. Being at home is weird because you lose touch with your public identity, you know? I mean, I spend all of my time alone, basically, or with a couple of really good friends. I just sit in a room almost all day and play music, and after a while of that, you feel like you’re building something that’s really luminous that you want to share with people. But you won’t get to share it with people for years. But then you go out on tour, and it’s just like, Oh! This is what it’s gonna be like when it gets shared. And that reminds you what you’re working for, you know?
Yeah, that makes total sense. I mean, you’re walking down these dark paths in your mind, and then when you know that’s what you’re doing it for — it’s such a lonely place, but the actual, physical end result of that is anything but lonely. It’s sharing; it’s transferring emotion to a large group of people almost every night.
So when you look back at writing the early Geographer songs, and what you were inspired by at the time, does that headspace still feel like something you can occupy? Has your relationship with that music changed in the light of performing it in front of thousands of people? It definitely feels foreign to me, for a couple of different reasons. Writing music was very, very cathartic at the beginning. And I don’t feel a weight against me any more. I don’t feel like I have to release anything through a song. I want to write songs because that’s what I know how to do; it’s what I’ve decided makes life worthwhile, which is different from feeling helpless and scared and furious, and needing to let that out.
What about Myth? Does it still feel like an authentic reflection of Geographer a year later? When we released it, it felt like we finally made what we had been trying to make, and now, I already feel like we’ve left it in the dust creatively. I feel like our new songs are so much closer to what I have always wanted to make. We were really proud of the fact that it wasn’t just dance song after dance song — trying to bang our way into people’s hearts. It’s much more of an experience. There’s real darkness on that album, but there’s also some light on that album. It came from a place that was settled, and I think that’s one of the benefits of achieving some success. You don’t have to be so manic about your creation, because people seem to like what we create. It’s comforting, and it gives us a license to keep doing what we want to do and not hold back.
Geographer plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Friday, November 22, at 9:30 p.m. with Bad Suns. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets and info.
Hear the rest of Jake’s conversation with Mike on The Santa Barbara Independent Podcast this week. Find it on independent.com/podcast or iTunes.