We’re happy to announce that wonderful singer-songwriter Diana Gameros is our Artist Of The Month. Yesterday we featured an exclusive in-depth article and interview with Diana, and – later this week – we’ve got some amazing giveaways in store (including the chance to see Diana live, and even to spend time with her in the studio!).
Today, however, we’re simply going to show you why we’re such big fans. Here’s a special message from Diana herself:
And click on ‘more’ to see a selection of performances from the BAMM.tv archives, as well as Diana’s appearance in our exclusive documentary ‘City Of Fog’. Sit back, chill out and enjoy …
Introducing BAMM.tv’s Artist Of The Month feature: a selection of great music, exclusive articles and prize giveaways (among other things) from one of our favorite up-and-coming artists. This month we put San Francisco three-piece Geographer under the spotlight …
Crack open the dictionary for a second. There’s something interesting about the definition of the word Geographer – “one who partakes in the study of the earth and its features and of the distribution of life on the earth, including human life”, and also charts an “ordered arrangement of constituent elements.”
Now, we’re not going to pretend that this definition is news to you (we hope you’ve proven yourself to be something of a smartypants by downloading the BAMM.tv app anyway, so we’re sure your literary skills are up to scratch). But think about it. Or – to be more specific – take a listen to Geographer’s music, then think about it.
Ordered arrangement? Yep – carefully crafted ciphers through which all sorts of melodic twists emerge. Constituent elements? Yep – an amalgamation of different sounds, instruments and genres fused to a cohesive and gripping whole. Human life? Oh yeah – like all great music, there’s a helluva lot of universal soul in there.
Not that they’d be so analytical about it. “We want to make good-sounding records,” they state, “and we want to play for people.”
So: are you one of those people yet? And if not, why not?
Geographically speaking (see what we did there?), Geographer’s roots can be whittled down to a New Jersey / San Francisco hybrid. If it helps, just imagine Tony Soprano’s drive round the NJ Turnpike soundtracked to The Grateful Dead … or maybe not. Locations and logistics aside, let’s get to the heart of the matter: and it’s a great big pulsating heart that beats at the core of Geographer.
Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – great art can emerge from terrible loss. It’s a redemptive fact of life that Geographer founder Mike Deni knows all too well. Mike moved to San Francisco from New Jersey following the tragic death of his father and sister, and began to channel his distraught emotions into the amazing musical soundscapes we hear today.
When he conscripted fellow band members Nathan Blaz (cello, electronics) and Brian Ostreicher (drums, vocals), this creative prowess only began to spiral. “When I first moved to SF I went to the Hotel Utah open mic every week to perform,” Mike remembers. While at the Utah – a 100-year old institution of local legend, whose 7-day-a-week live music showcases are invaluable to exposing upcoming artists – he “met Kacey Johansing, and she introduced me to Nate and Brian, who all knew each other from Berklee College of Music in Boston.”
Mike already had a roster of deeply personal songs written, and the Geographer line-up gelled so well that little revision was needed. Kacey would be present for the recording of the first album, but would then depart the band, leaving them to function as an even-tighter three piece. “We all come from different musical backgrounds, with different backgrounds that sometimes bump heads and always push the songs past where they were originally intended to go.”
It’s this unity that has seen the band develop their sound over the years. “Over the course of our three recordings,” Mike explains, “we learned what it means to be in a band, and we learned what we are each capable of as musicians, and more importantly, what we each want to be capable of as musicians. I think we also feel a little bit of comfort from the support we’ve gotten from San Francisco and the west coast, that gives us the strength to make risky decisions and try new things.”
As for the recordings themselves? Well … let’s take a closer listen, shall we?
Geographer’s first album release came in August 2008 – the enigmatically-titled ‘Innocent Ghosts’, a name which perfectly reflects the hazy, unpredictable and heartfelt content within. It wasn’t, say, the breakout debut smash of a ‘Funeral’ or ‘Oh, Inverted World’, but to the kids in the know that didn’t matter – they’d just discovered their new favorite band, and they got there before anyone else.
And – let’s face it – when you’re making steely-eyed journalists get emotional, you know that you’re onto something. “Singer Michael Deni explores themes of love and loss with his soupy, trustworthy coo,” enthused Liz Levine at The Owl. “Softly delivered and yet with a strong conviction, he seems empowered by the lessons and experiences the lyrics suggest, so that he quickly becomes a trustworthy narrator.” She wasn’t alone in her enthusiasm – Toronto’s AWMusic lavished five stars on the debut album, claiming that “some songs just come to a slow start … but are worth this adventure this album puts you on.”
It was in October 2008, however, that more high-profile attention beckoned. Long-running music monthly Spin Magazine listed the lads as being ‘one of the three undiscovered bands you need to hear now’ – alongside Canada’s Library Voices and Los Angeles’ Thailand. While new media acolytes may take umbrage with the term ‘undiscovered’ – what exactly does that mean, in this age of fractured exposure and streamlined, individualized cultural consumption? – there was no denying: people were starting to sit up and take notice.
Two years would pass before their return – which, given the intricate and carefully thought-out nature of Geographer’s music, is practically a speedrun in creative terms. 6-song EP ‘Animal Shapes’ would be released in 2010. Expanding on their sound – heavier synth, faster rhythms – it also gathered great reviews, with Music Under Fire labeling it a ‘fantastic effort’, and Pinpoint Music reflecting that the “tight and almost flawless approach to presenting six songs is stunning”.
The most noticeable thing about the reaction to the E.P? E.Ps just don’t get that level of attention, artistic seriousness and fan devotion anymore (maybe with a few exceptions: Animal Collective are usually happy to release short collections every now and then, which are lapped up by an eager following). The fact that ‘Animal Shapes’ was being – and still is – analysed and cherished with the same vigour as a full-length album is very telling: Geographer are a band that matter.
2012 would see them matter even more. Myth – their second full-length album, and highest-profile release to date – emerged to much anticipation, and carried with it the most complex backstory yet. “The album deals with the many ways myths play into our modern lives,” the band explained, in an exclusive video interview with BAMM.TV. ‘I think people think that we live in a mythless society, because we have science and education, but I think that we still live according to a lot of myths which are designed to be instructive … but which people take a little too far. A myth is a story that helps you learn how to live. But I think a lot of times, people take myths as reality.’
If this makes Myth sound like that most precarious of propositions – the overblown concept album – fear not. It’s Geographer’s best work yet – simultaneously their most accessible yet creatively defining. Less ‘carefree’ (if that term can realistically be applied to the band) than the preceding E.P, it delivers a solid one-two punch on both sonic and emotional fronts.
Such a diverse body of work, of course, suggests a unique and experimental artistic approach. How exactly do the Geographer boys create their sound?
‘We’re obsessed with finding the perfect sound,’ Mike says, ‘whether it’s with a synth patch or effects pedals.’
‘When we write music it happens one of two ways. One is really acoustic and one is really electronic. A lot of songs start from a sound – I’ll be chasing something I want to hear or just messing around – and then I’ll build the song out from there. Then sometimes I’ll just be at home playing chords, singing along.’
‘A lot of the time I’ll try to write a certain kind of song, but that never works. You just have to get free and enjoy playing your instruments. Then something will come out of that and I’ll show it to the others.’
‘Usually it starts sonically. And then that informs the subject matter. I’ve only started with lyrics once, they usually come last and it usually takes me a while to write them. I’ll usually just be songwriting in a stream-of-consciousness way, then some hook or some line will come out of that.’
Hmmm. He makes it all sound so (relatively) easy, doesn’t he? This is one of the most surprising things about Geographer overall: despite the complex beauty of the music they craft, it’s as if – like all great artists – it seems to come from a pure and simple place. Here at BAMM.tv, we’ve been lucky enough to witness this remarkable dichotomoy on a number of occasions. We recorded the guys when they unleashed their full-on electronic sound to a sell-out crowd at SF venue The Independent (“our proudest moment to date was selling out the Independent for the first time … we had no idea that many people were listening to our music”) and also when they performed an intimate, haunting acoustic set at the Engine Works venue (“that night at Engine Works was a truly amazing experience for us”).
Despite this variance, deconstructing the Geographer sound(s) is a task they’d rather not undertake – like performing an autopsy on Santa Claus, or catching sight of the sweaty puppeteers who bring Kermit and Gonzo to life. In the end: what’s the benefit? “I just say [we sound like] indie rock with cello and synths,” Mike shrugs, “because it’s impossible to describe music. No one ever hears what they expect to. Like: how do you describe Oasis? Heavy guitars with a whiny vocalist. Or Paul Simon? Good music.”
‘Good music’. As mission statements go, it’s hard to argue with that. And even harder to argue with a second mission statement – one which the band fire up each and every time they take to the stage. “Put all your delusions of grandeur aside,” they say, “and give the crowd the best show you’ve ever played.”
Who knows? The best show they’ve ever played might just result in the best show the crowd has ever seen. And then – geography be damned – pretty much everyone is exactly where they need to be.
OTHER BAMM.TV STORIES YOU MIGHT LIKE:
Friday is with us once again (so soon?), and that means we’re gonna usher in the weekend with another delve into the musical tastes of our staff. This time around we’re asking our newest BAMMer Sophie what’s currently rocking her ears. “My musical tastes encompass a wide range of styles and genres,” Sophie explains. “I’m hoplessley moored to the earthy melodies of Noah Gundersen’s raw americana and just as easily seduced by the crunch of rock and electronic artists.”
1. “Unconsolable” (Litost, 2012) – Ambassadors
The live version of this song feels wonderfully raw and unrefined. With lyrics that border on melancholy, the Ambassadors throw in another drum for a beat with some rage that just works.
2. “Cigarettes” (2012) – Noah Gundersen
Noah’s voice is powerful and his lyrics are poignant. A haunting song about addiction, be it a person or a substance, pick your poison.
3. “So Light Is Her Footfall (Breakbot Remix)” (So Light Is Her Footfall – EP, 2010) – Air
Remember this post, a few months ago, in which we mentioned that BAMM.tv favorites Calahen Morrison and Eli West (seen above in one of our many exclusive performances, which you can check out more of on our brand new iPad app) were looking for Kickstarter funding for their new album ‘Our Lady Of The Tall Trees’? Well, it looks like several dedicated fans stepped up to the plate – and the album itself is now available to download on CDBaby and iTunes.
It has already gathered a rave review from No Depression, but – if you’re a fan of that whole ‘try before you buy’ thing – you can check out the entire album below. Enjoy …
Benn Jordan – otherwise known as The Flashbulb – is one of our favorite electronic artists here at BAMM.tv. His frenzied instrument-switching and mix-up-mastery has been the focus of many an exclusive BAMM performance, including the three beauties you can see below …
If you’re hankering for some more Flashbulb magic, however (and let’s be honest – who isn’t?) you’ll be pleased to hear that tomorrow (Oct 23) sees the release of his brand new album ‘Hardscrabble’. A whole new world of electro soundscapes awaits …
Another Friday, another chance to pick the brains of the BAMM.tv crew and find out exactly which tunes are rocking their boats. This week we hand the reigns to BAMM.tv Media Director Jeff LaPenna. Don’t forget – you can make an awesome playlist of your very own by firing up the brand new BAMM.tv iPad app …
1. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” (Fear Fun, 2012) – Father John Misty
This album has me hooked. It’s the kind of sound that just grabs you. It’s simple, and profound at the same time. Overall, I love that FJM is bringing some more alternative, otherwise-labeled hippie ideas to a more mainstream audience (i.e. the guy sings about ayahuasca and past-lives). Also, the video for this song is incredible.
2. “Where Not to Look for Freedom” (The Belle Brigade, 2012) – The Belle Brigade
I’ve been really into feel-good music lately, and this band has it nailed. Talk about Americana! Learn the lyrics to this song and drive down a highway singing at the top of your lungs — tell me it doesn’t feel great! The meaning behind the song is just lovely, too.
3. “Lovely Day” (Menagerie, 1977) – Bill Withers
This might be the best feel-good song of all time. It might be scientifically impossible to hear this song and not walk away in a great mood. See me for suggested dance moves.
4. “Omnipotent” (House of Stone, 2011) – Sorne – BADASS
Sorne does an incredible job of combining world / tribal sounds with electronic beats and beautifully intense vocals. Seeing him perform live changed my experience of listening to his music. The man has explosive energy.
This song is one of my favorites of all time. It pretty much captures some of my major ideals, and it’s so fun to sing. “Hey there misses lovely moon, you’re lovely and you’re blue. It’s kinda strange the way you change, but then again we all do, too.” Brilliant.
Well, the week which saw the release of the amazing BAMM.tv app is over. No doubt you’re going to spend much of your weekend exploring the app, but – in the meantime – let’s enjoy our traditional Friday playlist. This week we’re delving into the musical tastes of BAMM.tv CEO Chris Hansen …
1. “The Divided Sky” – (Junta, 1988) – Phish
It’s impossible not to be inspired by this song. Trey’s guitar is six strings of victory throughout.
2. “Layla” – (Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, 1970) – Derek and the Dominoes
Another epic interweaving of guitar and piano and the perfect running tempo.
3. “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” – (‘Pendulum’, 1970) Creedence Clearwater Revival
One of the first songs I’ve ever truly loved, especially the bassline. This short but sweet melody carries us into the next phase of the mix.
4. “Nulla in Mundo Pax Sincera,” (from the soundtrack of Shine) – Antonio Vivaldi
At this stage in the run, I’m usually coming up on some kind of landmark–AT&T park, the Bay Bridge, Coit Tower, etc. One Saturday I happened to be running by the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building when this song came on and it was transcendental. I may have just been lightheaded, but I think it was the song.
5. “The Only Redeemer” (The Only Redeemer, 2002) – Noiseshaper
And now for something completely different. If you have any love for dub and deep house, this song will make you “move your feet to the promised land.”
Thanks for all the hard work, Cynthia. Best of luck at UCLA!
It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another selection of musical faves from one of our ever-knowledgeable BAMM.tv crew. This week we hand the reigns to our hard-working intern Cynthia (pictured above) …
1. “Nantes” (The Flying Club Cup 2007) – Beirut
With such a mature voice and song writing skills, it’s hard to believe Zach Condon was only 20 when this album came out. An American band, but a song about France, my favorite homesick cure.
2. “Bad Girls” (Bad Girls 2012) – M.I.A
If you haven’t seen the music video for this song, do it now! M.I.A and Romain Gavras (the director) at their very best, and controversial, as always.
3. “Smoke and Mirrors” (Making Mirrors 2011) – Gotye
There’s so much more to this band than the overheard “Somebody That I Used to Know”.
4. “No One Knows” (Songs for the Deaf 2002) – Queens of the Stone Age
Josh Homme’s talent and voice combined with a dirty guitar sound and killer riffs for a perfect rock’n'roll song that makes you wanna air guitar, even sober.
5. “Pass this On” (Deep Cuts 2003) – The Knife
Steel drums always sound somewhat ridiculous to me… And only the Knife could pull it off with this oddly sensual tune.
It’s one of the grand old clichés of the ageing process, and one that usually kicks in during the late twenties or thereabouts: the shocking realisation that ‘kids today’ just don’t have a clue about how things used to be. All the things one took for granted as cultural touchstones – devices, social conventions, specific Saturday morning cartoons and their wallet-crippling range of toys – are as alien to a new generation as civil war artefacts, black and white cinema, and a functioning economy (how many generations before we see one of those again?).
What can we call this term? ‘Nostalgia’ doesn’t seem right. ‘Generation Gap’ is hopelessly overused. For the purpose of this feature – and, hey, because it never hurts to try and force a new word into the lexicon – let’s call it ‘Wipeout’. Just as its likely that no-one will know you existed in 200 years (depressing thought of the day right there), no-one but the hardiest of future historians will know what a CD player is. It’s gone. Snatched from the public consciousness. Wiped out.
Like all reputable first-world neuroses, Wipeout has spread several memes over the internet. Facebook feeds are all too often cluttered with ‘you know you’re an 80s baby when …’ cut-and-paste updates. Imageboards thrive on clever depictions of Wipeout – such as the challenge to explain the link between a pencil and a cassette tape, something which would only be screamingly obvious to those who grew up having to spool faulty tapes back by hand. Some websites even use Wipeout as a novel approach to an age barrier – asking prospective readers if they know what a VHS tape is. If they do, then they’re old enough to gain entry.
There’s possibly an entire book to be written on the everyday items and routines from the last fifty years – both important and trivial – that have blinked out of existence in 2012. But we’re only going to look at one. It’s less of an item than a concept – but one which has shaped the taste of almost any music fan who came of age in the era of vinyl, cassette or CD.
Whatever happened to curation?
Curation (noun): the act of organising or maintaining a collection of artworks or artefacts. (transitive) To act as a curator for; to apply selectivity and taste to.
That’s the dictionary definition. But let’s put the notion in more romantic terms. Curation by way of music … it used to be lot of things. It was a recommendation from a friend, a mixtape from a wannabe lover, a song half-heard on late night radio or glimpsed on small hours MTV (y’know, back when MTV actually showed music videos), an inky recommendation from the NME (y’know, back when the NME actually cared about music rather than fashion) and so on and so on.
Until roughly the turn of the millennium, all of this was dictated by music being a physical format – and the rules were simple. You heard something you liked, you went down to your local Tower Records or Virgin Megastore and handed over 15 dollars for a CD. Getting hold of new music used to feel like an event – and, like all events, it required a fair degree of planning. Choices had to be made. Acres of music were simply not available at the touch of a button – the customer paid over the odds for their twelve song collection, and if they didn’t like it, tough.
This goes some way to explaining why curation used to feel necessary. A review from a trusted journalist or hot tip from a muso friend could mean the difference between a wasted purchase or not. And once that CD was taken home and slotted onto the shelves? There followed one of the other joys of old-school curation: taking a step back and breathing in that collection, that assimilated lifetime of musical taste stacked side by side in jewel cases and box sets.
It all used to be about three main factors:
a) the influence of a cultural elite and their recommendations,
b) the trip to the store and purchase of a tangible object, and
c) the fact that there was no other alternative. Both the record companies and the tastemakers had everything locked down. The curators and the providers had their little system, and it suited them just fine, thank you very much.
Then: something happened.
Its kind of entry level to pinpoint the genesis of the present digital landscape on Napster – but that doesn’t stop the claim from being correct. Talk of a brave new world of MP3 dominance had been floating around for a good few years, but it was only with the emergence of Shaun Fanning’s pioneering P2P firebrand in 1999 that things really kicked into gear.
Suddenly – even taking into account the bandwidth limitations of the time – a whole new world had opened up. Whatever your musical taste, literally anything was available at any time, and now the risk-taking approach of yesteryear (you took the curator’s advice on what was good, and hoped you’d agree with them), these shifting MP3 data packets came with the best try-before-you-buy offer in history: you didn’t have to buy in the first place. Wanted to check out this new rapper called Eminem; see if he was your kind of thing? You could. And you didn’t have to drop a penny.
We all know the rest of the Napster story: the lawsuits, the infamy, the not-so-successful later attempt at legitimacy. The material is so well-trodden that its easy to forget Napster’s legacy – the blossoming of modern musical access, the huge hard-drive collections that began over this period, the legions of MP3 blogs headed up by wannabe tastemakers around the globe. That last point in particular is a notable one …
… because something else had happened.
Not only were infinite gigabytes of music now a click and a heartbeat away, but the number of people writing, talking and blogging about music began to escalate too. In fact, scratch escalation: it exploded, the white noise of a million new voices. Curation and criticism was no longer the province of a select few – anyone could have a go. Exciting at first, and certainly more democratic – but time is precious, after all. No-one can take on board every recommendation, read every review, check out every new artist whose buzz is filling up the self-published inches.
In short: where do we get our advice from now? Who do we listen to in 2012?
Music fans are by and large an opened-minded bunch, and (try-hard hipsters notwithstanding) as such are prone to rallying against elitism. While admirable, this does sadly deny a basic truth: that some people know what the hell they are talking about, and some don’t. Everyone has the right to share their musical opinion … but to pretend that they are all of equal importance is delusional.
Think of it this way. Who would you rather listen to: your friend with the endless collection of rare Dragons cuts and Afghan Whigs b-sides, or your friend’s mom who buys two CDs from Wal-Mart each year? A top-notch critic like Robert Christgau or Anthony Decurtis, or a fifteen-year-old in Milwaukee cut-and-pasting their school paper album review to their Tumblr? Both have a fair degree of validity … but let’s be honest here. You want to speak to the experts.
Finding those experts – now that’s the difficult part. In the space of two decades, a handful of music curators has become a hiveful, all buzzing loudly for your attention. Great for egalitarianism, not so great when you don’t know who to trust.
What if you could marry the best of both worlds? What if you could take the exciting tech opportunities of the digital age and merge it with an old-school sense of curation … letting a reliable voice sort the musical wheat from the chaff and merrily beam the results your way?
We’re not going to blow our own trumpet (well, not too much). To be honest, we don’t have to – click around some of the great artists featured in our library and it’s fairly obvious that we’ve got the whole ‘taste in music’ thing locked down. In the bluntest possible sense, we love music … and we also love sharing that music. Think of us as the older brother who introduced you to his record collection, or the cool guy/girl you hooked up with at college who opened your eyes to a whole new artist or genre … only filtered through a modern prism of digital opportunity, tech-savvy excitement and innovative development.
”There are a lot of tastemakers out there for various genres and sub-cultures, and that’s great,” explains BAMM.tv CEO Chris Hansen. “But if you walk into a store and see shelf after shelf of plain brown packaging where everything looks the same, it’s hard to know what you’re looking for, much less what you might like. Curation is what you say “yes” to, and I really do think of that in the sense of an art gallery or museum. If you’re going to hang a bunch of paintings on your wall, you have to really be committed to that artist and believe in the work so much that you will invite people to come take a look.”
Committed to artists? That’s us. And we’re also committed to sharing our knowledge and tastes with you. We hold no qualms in saying: here at BAMM.tv, we know what the hell we’re talking about when it comes to music. We’re throwing on our curator’s outfits and we’re opening the doors.
‘Supergroups’ can often be a tedious proposition, if we take the term as its widely held – a vanity project that invariably features middle-aged multi-millionaire rock stars (already well past their artistic peak) getting together for an extended jamming session, then releasing the result as a half-assed concept album. In short: it’s never pretty.
The notion of the ‘indie supergroup’, however, is often a lot more exciting. It often seems to come with a built-in guarantee – the more ‘indie’ the credentials of the members (do they play in bands named after 19th century literary characters, for instance? Do they play in more than three bands at once? Have they released dozens of solo albums at the same rate Woody Allen churns out his yearly autumn movie? If you can answer yes to any of the above – bingo), the more eclectic and enthralling their output will be. Broken Social Scene are one such example, as are the subject of today’s BAMM Legends: Canadian indie-rock icons The New Pornographers.
Let’s just take a look at that line-up. Dan Bejar (Destroyer, Swan Lake, and Hello, Blue Roses), Kathryn Calder (solo artist, Immaculate Machine), Neko Case (solo artist, Maow, The Corn Sisters, and Cub), John Collins (The Evaporators, Destroyer), Kurt Dahle (Limblifter, Age of Electric), Todd Fancey, (Fancey, Limblifter), Carl Newman (A.C. Newman, Superconductor and Zumpano) and Blaine Thurier (independent filmmaker). You couldn’t find a bigger indie collective if you headed round the Pitchfork offices and lured the entire staff into a cage using delicious bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
But here’s the thing – one would expect that such a diverse, artistically-uncompromising bunch would create a sound that has limited mass appeal, if any at all. And that’s where you’d be wrong. Since their inception in 1999, The New Pornographers have been crafting catchy, melodic, smart and engaging indie-rock which sounds equally at home on sunny-day AM Radio as blasting out of a college dorm room.
Their five albums to date – including their finest moment, 2005′s ‘Twin Cinema’ – form an ongoing masterclass in indie songwriting, creating a sound so well-honed listeners would be forgiven for thinking it was the work of a close-knit Lennon/McCartney-style unit rather than a small village’s worth of musical influences (it is infact the case that Newman and Bejar write most of the songs, but the fact that the sessions emerge from such a seething melting pot is no less remarkable).
Despite having increased success (their last album reached no. 18 in the US charts, which hardly makes them an obscure prospect) they’re quite an easy band to overlook – never knowingly ‘showy’ or full of the pomposity the supergroup tag can often provoke. Worth discovering, though … possibly in one long, album-after-album session? Oh yeah.