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Swathes of tinny guitars and the hollow drums build from a low lull to a thunderous roar in the first few seconds of Geese’s debut album Projector, creating a soundscape that’s both haunting and energizing. The concise production and hypnotic riffs make it nearly impossible to tell that, just a year ago, the Brooklyn five-piece was accepting their high school diplomas.
The fact did become abundantly clear when a quintessential teenage boy’s bedroom was revealed on camera as lead singer Cameron Winter and bassist Dom DiGesu opened Zoom for our interview, an act they were all-too-familiar with after their second half of high school went fully remote. An ever-recognizable Jim Morrison poster was plastered on the opposite wall, situated beside an equally massive Mets flag and a shelf riddled with childhood knick knacks that propped up a number of stacked guitar cases.
A lot has changed for the band members/best friends recently. Just one year ago, they were quarantined in the same rooms I was looking at over the Zoom screen and stuck in virtual classrooms. But now, they’re having run-ins with James Murphy in the studio, talking about vinyl logistics with a record label they secured after a brief bidding war and now share with post-punk icons Idles and Fontaines DC, and daydreaming about getting the chance to leave the country for the first time (they’re sarcastically expecting a hoard of Geese fans to be waiting for them at the Swiss airport).
Their current lives weren’t even a distant fantasy while they were actually writing Projector. Rather than romanticizing the grittiness of tour van life or writing songs about the energy of their now-sold-out shows, the tracks on Geese’s incredibly strong debut effort are an intelligent and candid reflection of the absurdity of the teenage condition. Songs like “Low Era” mark a return to the heyday of early aughts Brooklyn post-punk, bursting at the seams with an urgency that’s mirrored in Winter’s pitch-bending lyrical delivery, drummer Max Bassin’s up-tempo inflections, and guitarist Gus Green’s cascading chords. Other tracks like “Exploding House” reflect the band’s early inquisitive experimentation, layering instruments and switching up rhythms in a way that’s both disorienting and mesmerizing.
While the album isn’t thematic in nature, each of its nine songs are a snapshot of Geese’s pre-pandemic lives. The tracks are filled with understandable anxiety about climate change and the future, frustrations with crushes, and, of course, the tangible comradery of their meaningful friendship. Their ethos is to simply make music for the love of making music, and despite all their recent hype, Winter and DiGesu are earnestly humble about their talents. Even when reminiscing about their first post-label signing performance, which was actually one of their first proper shows, they were less impressed with completely selling out tickets and more focused on how their live sets are “more exciting” than their recorded music. “One silver lining about the pandemic coming right as labels were interested in us is that they couldn’t see us play live,” Winter said. “Because holy crap, we sucked a year and a half ago. Luckily, we’ve had nothing to do but practice for a year and a half. So now, we’re decent.”
Surprisingly, most of Projector was recorded in just one take. Each Friday night, they would meet up in a basement to both learn and record a new song on the spot. “We wouldn’t even practice the song once without recording it,” Winter said. When asked how difficult it was to juggle school while writing the album, DiGesu clarified, “Well, that was the fun part.” Getting together and noodling around on instruments was their idea of the perfect Friday night — homework was a concern for Saturday.
But making music didn’t always happen so smoothly for Geese. Their early projects were halted by the fact they brainstormed, wrote, recorded, and mixed each song as a group. One of their early four-track EPs took a full year-and-a-half to make. “We’ve been really good at making bad music, or music that definitely sounded like it had been recorded and mixed by 15 year olds,” Winter said. But that also meant their “time of sucking,” or the growing pains of being self-taught artists, had come to pass before they took on Projector. So when they decided to push the boundaries of their comfort zones with the crushing ballad “First World Warrior” or the swirling album closer “Opportunity Is Knocking,” they pressed “record” and the rest came naturally. Projector’s expedited recording process was also helped by the fact they actually had a deadline this time, and it was an important one: high school graduation.
The buzz around Geese has altered the plans each band member had when they first made Projector. After graduation, they were all set to go in different directions. Winter and DiGesu were going to move to Boston for college, with DiGesu committing to Berklee College of Music. Now, their breakout success coupled with the realities of the pandemic have led them both to withdraw from courses. College had always been a way to get a job so that they could work up to the point where music was their main gig. So when a big record deal presented itself to them, they figured they could skip a few steps. “We got really fortunate. We worked hard, but we got lucky as well in that we could skip the [college] debt part of it,” Winter said.
Now armed with an incredibly impressive debut album and a number of adoring fans across the world, Geese are firmly ready to take on what comes next. That includes a sophomore album, which, according to Winter, will sound “very different.” Despite the impending success of Projector, Geese aren’t concerned with replicating anything they’ve ever made before. Instead, they hope to keep expanding their creative comfort zones — and continue making music and screwing around with their best friends.
Projector is out now via Partisan Records/Play It Again Sam. Get it here.