“Ever since I was a child I knew I wanted to write and record and perform music. I didn’t know precisely what that meant, but I knew I wanted to be the thing coming off the record player, standing on the stage. I wanted to be one of those people that I love so much.” Mike Deni, the face behind Geographer, knew that he wanted to do music since he was a child. He told us that music was always in his house when he was growing up. Mike said, “My dad was a guitar player, my mom was always singing, and I started taking piano lessons when I was six.” He continued, “Music was the thing that made me feel special in a world I didn’t seem to fit into too many other facets of.”
When thinking of the name Geographer, so many things come to mind; maps, direction, geography, earth, and so many other words. One thing that doesn’t come to most people’s mind is music, but Mike explains why the name Geographer makes perfect sense for a band name. Mike said, “I started thinking about how maps are an imperfect abstraction of a place.” He continued, “And that you could say the same thing for songs and emotions, the song being the map, the emotion the place.” He said, “You can learn a great deal about a place through a map, you can get a macro view of it, but it’s nothing like actually standing in it.” He told us that “when you distill an emotion into a song, you get distance from it, and you enrich it with meaning.” Mike explained this as “the reason to write a song.” He said, “To make yourself comfortable with an emotion that, when you’re standing right next to it, is overwhelming.”
When listening to music by Geographer, there is no doubt that Mike is a genius at writing music. He said, “My favorite thing is when I wake up with a song in my head and record it into my phone.” He continued, “That’s when the pure subconscious comes out.” Mike told us that “music for [him] is about a desire to be more than [himself], it’s an urging, a yearning for something impossible.” He said, “So when what I come up with is purely from that place and not aspiration or intellectual, I think that’s my best self.” He continued to say, “But most of the time I just sit down at an instrument and make a song, let my mind guide me, listen to my heart.”
Mike’s most recent album, Ghost Modern contains the song, “Patience.” He told us that this is one of the songs he is most proud of. He said, “It was one of the first simple songs I’ve ever written, and I slaved over it.” He continued, “It was also one of the first string arrangements I ever wrote, and playing it on a huge grand piano in the studio and then playing the bass pedals of a hammond organ with my hands, on the ground with sheet music propped up in front of me, it was a deeply satisfying experience.” Mike said, “I think the end result is a gorgeous piece of music, that to me belongs right where it is, on that album.” We couldn’t agree more with him, and this is definitely one of our favorites off of the album! Mike did tell us that he is lucky to enjoy performing his songs “Kites” and “Verona” because these are two of his most popular.
We asked Mike what his inspiration was behind the song “I Want It All,” which was recently released in December 2016. He told us that this “was one of those songs that just poured out of [him], at least the initial kernel of it.” He said, “I was sitting at my Wurlitzer in my bedroom, and I just started playing the riff and then singing the melody with nonsense words, but then chorus came out clear and ringing really true for me. I want it all. Right now. I’m a very impatient man.” He continued, “And this world is so large, and so full of experiences and people, and I’m just stuck in one place at one time.” Mike said, “Then I toiled over the lyrics for days and days, sitting in various spots around San Fransisco, looking out at the world, trying to capture that idea, of wanting to be everywhere at once.” He told us that he feels “successful in [his] goal of making the abstract concrete.” He said, “It really means a lot to me, it’s a very personal song, and very simple, but was complicated to put together.”
“I’ve been working tirelessly for almost two years on new songs, and I’ve been stretching myself to see what I’m capable of, while trying to remember why I started making music in the first place, what the point of music is, and what the kind of music is that I’m here to make,” Mike said. He continued, “I’ve been working very hard to make the songs as impactful as the production, and then to deliver them with as much grace as bombast.” When it comes to the sounds of Geographers’ new music, Mike told us that he thinks it could be described “more as electro pop than indie pop.” He said, “But obviously it’s still me, singing about myself and my thoughts, playing with my synthesizers.” His goal is to “make pop music that is not just candy, but a full meal.” He said, “I want to make music that is as immediately satisfying as anything on the radio but is also deep and layered.” He continued, “I see no reason why pop music can’t sound great and feel full at the same time.” Mike said, “As soon as I make something I want to put it out, but obviously I have lots of people around me telling me to be strategic and stuff life that, so you never know.” But luckily for those of you that are as big of Geographer fans as we are, Mike told us that “this year there will definitely be new music.” We can’t wait to hear what this new music is like!
Mike’s most memorable live performance was at Outside Lands. He told us that he was “by no means prepared for the magnitude of that crowd.” Prior to this, he had been opening a few shows for Stars that had no more than probably 500 to 600 people. Mike said, “But when I took the stage and looked out over what must have been at least 20,000 people. That is a feeling that is utterly unique.” He continued, “To be at the center of that much humanity, and they are focused on the thing that is most important to you, that means the most to you in the world, and all of you are revelling in it.” He told us that he still hasn’t “come down from that.”
Mike looks up to some amazing musicians for inspiration. To name a few, he mentioned Paul Simon, Radiohead, David Bowie and Prince. He said, “It’s a long list and is mostly from bygone eras.”
Outside of music, Mike said, “Travelling is my second love.” He said, “People belong in various places to varying to degrees, and our comfort is related to that. But no matter where we are, we all belong on the world.” He continued, “And that is a powerful thing to feel viscerally, when you’re struggling to communicate in a foreign language or learn customs.” Mike described this as “fascinating and stimulating.”
When it comes to staying motivated to pursue music, Mike said, “No matter how many factors indirectly or directly tell you that what you make is invalid, if you make it right, and you make it true, you can guide your own destiny.” He continued, “So forget about all that other stuff, trying to be cool, trying to fit in, play the game, and just make great songs for people to listen to.”
Geographer is definitely one of those bands that you can’t stop listening to once you start.
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To read the raw interview, click here!