2020 was the year that the music world ground to a halt. Tour plans – scuttled. Live venues – shuttered. Album plans – scrapped. And yet, bizarrely, 2020 was also the year that Brooklyn’s Geese finally took flight. An album that was intended to be, according to guitarist Gus Green, the “last piece of music we made before split [up] and went to college” instead wound up falling into the hands of indie powerhouse Partisan Records/PIAS. The label that IDLES, Fontaines D.C. and Chubby and the Gang call home quietly signed the band on the strength of the unreleased album in the summer of 2020. Quite the vote of confidence for a band fresh out of high school, one that had played just a handful of gigs.
But the truth is, despite outward appearances, Geese are no overnight success. The band traces its beginnings back to 2016, when Cameron Winter (vocals, keyboard), Max Bassin (drums), and Green met Dominic DiGesu (bass) and Foster Hudson (guitar) during freshman year of high school. Though according to Hudson – joining the entire band for their interview in Bassin’s basement – the chemistry wasn’t exactly instantaneous.
“They thought they might need a second guitarist and invited me over to practice. I thought it went well, but a couple of weeks went by and I never heard from them!” He tilts his head back in the direction of the others, who are all clearly amused and chuckling amongst themselves. “They ghosted me! But I sort of wouldn’t leave them alone, and Cameron finally wrote a song that required two guitar parts. When they realized they needed another guitarist to play it live – well, I think that was when they let me in.”
Early on, the band bonded over sprawling psychedelic rock from 70s bands like Yes and Pink Floyd, and the band’s first unreleased EP revels in these shared influences. However, the primary benefit of this early attempt at recording seems to have been learning the do’s and don’ts of DIY. Recorded entirely in Bassin’s basement over the course of a year, the EP essentially gave Geese a crash course in audio engineering. Winter admits the band “tended to freak out” in the early stages. “We actually got a sign that says ‘If something’s not working, it’s either not plugged in, not turned on, or it’s the sample rate.’ That sign hasn’t failed us yet.”
In addition to getting them comfortable with tracking on their own, the experience of self-recording also convinced them of the necessity of recording as much as they could live instead of recording individual parts and piecing them all together after the fact. The band only had one day per week to learn, practice and record. To finish a full-length album prior to their high school graduation, the band no longer had the luxury of taking their time and obsessing over minutia. As Green puts it: “it was the difference between going through effects and changing the sound of a single sample for a week versus throwing a mic in a shoe, putting in front of an amp, doing one take, and moving on.”The band’s newly unfussed approach to recording also proved to be perfectly suited to their evolving sound, which now flaunted a raw power and driving rhythm that reflected their growing affinity for post-punk.
It’s no accident that ‘Disco’ is the very first Geese track the world will hear, though it certainly makes for an unconventional introduction. The song takes absolutely zero musical inspiration from the Studio 54-era, but stretching to nearly seven-minutes, it does share a certain spirit of excess, melding the band’s psychedelic and post-punk influences and simultaneously giving them a sleek, glamorous makeover.
Geese are quite clearly fans of Deerhunter circa the kraut-gaze era of ‘Microcastle’. But the band’s approach is less meandering and ramshackle than that touchpoint would suggest, with Winter’s gruff, commanding vocals the undeniable focal point. “I’m glad this is the first song that is coming out because it’s a pretty good representation of the album,” says Winter. “It’s also the very first song we recorded live.”
Aside from an astonishingly well-attended and impressive virtual show toward the end of last year and a brief two-song set at the recent online Great Escape festival, the band has kept a low profile since their signing. But Geese insist, without delving into specifics, that all that will be changing in the coming months. Each of the band members has put college plans on ice for now with the exception of Hudson, who jokes he’ll be the one reading Kierkegaard at the back of the tour bus. Of course, considering what they’ve already managed to accomplish as full-time students during a global pandemic, it’s safe to say it’ll take far more than a little existential angst to hold them back in 2022.
Geese’s ‘Disco’ is out now on Partisan Records/PIAS