Sound Advice: Geographer with Betty Who (Aug. 30)

The Electronic AltPop project from Mike Deni's heart comes to Woodward Theater

Aug 28, 2017 at 11:49 am

click to enlarge Geographer's Mike Deni
Geographer's Mike Deni
Geographer is the Elecronic AltPop brainchild of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mike Deni, who grew up in New Jersey as a shy kid, channeling his emotions and introverted ways into writing and music. It has served him well.

Though he became a solid saxophone player (starting at age 9) and messed around with guitar and other instruments, when it came time for college, Deni chose to pursue writing. But when he realized he didn’t have the chops to successfully write novels, Deni turned back to his sax and moved to Boston, working the club scene.

That ended in 2004 when his sister got sick and died suddenly, leading a distraught Deni back to New Jersey and his mother’s basement. He began to channel his grief into songs, writing more than he ever had and recognizing it as a possible new path for his life.

From the basement, Deni moved to San Francisco and hit the city’s open mic scene, through which he met the cellist and drummer (also exiles from Boston) who would become the core of Geographer for several years to come. The trio’s 2008 debut, Innocent Ghosts, showcased Deni’s relatable lyrics, passionate vocals and catchy, well-crafted songs, garnering attention instantly and leading Geographer to a deal with Tricycle Records. The band became a big deal in the Bay Area, and by the time of its first national tour in 2010 (opening for Stars), national recognition was gaining steam. After 2012’s Myth, Geographer was able to tour the U.S. as headliners.

Geographer’s characteristic sound — blending subtle Indie Rock elements with danceable beats and a wash of electronics and strings — creates a romantic swoon that is magnified by Deni’s deft writing ability, which still retains the emotive weight that defined his earliest songs. On 2015’s Ghost Modern, Geographer was in peak creative form, but before its release Deni’s longtime bandmates decided to leave the project due to the demands of touring.

Undeterred, Deni enlisted cellist Joyce Lee, guitarist/bassist Duncan Nielsen and drummer Cody Rhodes and kept up the frantic touring pace, building the band’s following even more, while also raising money for Deni to stay in the studio on his quest to discover what was next for Geographer. This fall will see the release of the appropriately titled Alone Time, an EP culled from the post-Ghost Modern sessions for which Deni (recording largely alone) pushed himself to explore his talents, resulting in more than 100 songs. Alone Time’s first single — the just-issued “Read My Mind” — is the most radio-friendly Pop nugget Geographer has put out to date, but it still has the lushness and sensitivity that made fans fall in love with the music in the first place.

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