Brooklyn band Geese formed while its five members – vocalist Cameron Winter, guitarist Gus Green, guitarist Foster Hudson, bassist Dom DiGesu, and drummer Max Bassin – were in high school, writing, practicing, and recording in the basement home studio that they lovingly dubbed The Nest. Though they bonded over their shared love of classic and alternative rock, bands like Led Zeppelin and Radiohead and Nirvana, in recent years their interests expanded to the new wave of post-punk and art-rock represented by acts like black midi and Squid. All those influences come together on their upcoming debut album, Projector, which they made between junior and senior year after a couple of unreleased projects that taught them the basics of self-recording, using sneakers as mic stands and blankets draped over their amps.
Within months of uploading a track called ‘Low Era’, Geese suddenly found themselves having meetings with their favorite indie labels all while completing their final year of high school. They signed to Partisan Records/PIAS, home to the likes of IDLES, Fontaines D.C., and Chubby and the Gang, and released their first single, ‘Disco’, this June. Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, the outstanding and ambitious track was enough to make Projector, which is out this Friday, one of the most anticipated rock debuts of the year. Along with the follow-up singles, including the official version of ‘Low Era’, it’s fairly representative of the album as a whole, though hearing the way the group plays with dynamics all the way through – like how the frenetic outro on ‘Fantasies/Survival’ leads to the dreamier ‘First World War’ – makes the experience all the more thrillingly cathartic. It’s an intensely feverish document of an uncertain time in the band’s lives, and if its restless spirit is any indication, whatever direction they take next is bound to be just as exciting.
We caught up with Geese’s Cameron Winter and Dom DiGesu for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about their influences, the making of their debut album Projector, and more.
Do you mind sharing some of your earliest memories of enjoying music? Was music one of the first things you bonded over as a group?
Dom DiGesu: We were all into music separately at first, because we were all doing these music programs after school. That’s how me and Foster met, and it’s also how Max, Cameron, and Gus got closer, because they already went to school together. Doing those Led Zeppelin covers and the Rolling Stones covers when you’re like 10 years old is a perfect little memory I have of being with Foster in [the after school music program] School of Rock. I definitely knew I wanted to do something with music at that age. It was too much fun.
Cameron Winter: We all did that sort of rock cover extracurricular as little kids. So yeah, it was probably the same for me. But other than that, I remember just being really into, like, The Killers and Keane and Ben Folds as an eight year old, and stuff that my dad would play on road trips.
You mentioned those classic rock influences, but you’ve also talked about how you were listening to a lot of contemporary post-punk while making the album. Are there any artists that you’re into now that maybe don’t directly influence your sound but have shaped how you view music? Stuff people may not expect from listening to the album.
DD: With the bass lines, I take a lot of influence from classic rock stuff, it has that background and context, but it also has the funk and jazz stuff that I was doing in school and the new post punk stuff we were listening to when we wrote the album. So it’s just building off of what I already knew, and then adding on other genres’ elements.
CW: I’m trying to think of like a weird influence. I mean, we all have different weird influences. In terms of things that influence us all, we kind of always have to circle back to prog rock and classic rock – that stuff is what we built our understanding of rock music on from a very young age. But I mean, I was just listening to this –
DD: Cameron, I saw you were listening to some 700 monthly listener thing this morning. I’m a little spy when it comes to the Spotify friends list.
CW: [laughs] Oh, this morning? You caught me listening to Hiroki Ishiguro, my man.
DD: I didn’t know what that was. I’m gonna listen to it later.
CW: It’s whack. It’s definitely just like comfort music. I listen to all this sort of nostalgic Japanese electronic music –
DD: All of the songs have under 1000 plays. How did you find that?
CW: I was listening to this crazy compilation of Japanese pop from the CD era, Heise No Oto, I think it’s called. It’s okay, but –
DD: [laughs] It’s okay.
CW: Well, but there’s two or three songs that are crazy. Like, there’s this dude, Keisuke Sakurai, he has this deep house album that I had to like hunt for on the internet, so you know it’s good. You can’t find a YouTube link. It’s not that good, but it’s really weird because it’s like, Buddhist chant but also a deep house thing. He’s got this thing in the background, these eight-minute songs where it’s just like [makes percussive sound] and then over the back he’s just nonstop like [mimics chanting] for seven minutes. I just heard one of those songs and I was like, “This is insane. This is so fucking cool.” And then I listened to an album and it’s that for 50 minutes.
Do you all go out of your way to find the most obscure music?
DD: Honestly, I probably do it the least. Everybody tries to find the most obscure shit ever just to show everybody else the next day.
CW: [laughs] It’s true. You know what you like, though. You don’t need that pretentious sort of –
DD: I never had the urge to find more stuff like you guys did. I mean, I do, don’t get me wrong –
CW: No, you do. You show me cool stuff.
DD: No, I go hunting, but you guys find some whack shit.
CW: Foster’s recommendations to me, I don’t think he’s ever missed a single time with an album that he’s recommended to me. That dude crate digs – whatever the internet equivalent of that is.
DD: For a couple of years, Foster used to listen to a different album every single day. He did that for like a couple years throughout high school. And every day I would be like, “Yo, Foster, what album are you listening to today?” And he’d do this whole thing about this 40-minute album he’d found on Rate Your Music.
CW: Essentially, we all sort of became music nerds together.
You had an EP and a record that were removed from the internet before focusing on this as your official first album. What are some of things that you learned during that process that you carried onto Projector?
CW: Before we were working on Projector, we were going in a direction that was very electronic, almost. We used to have two synths on stage – this is when we were like 15. Because we had spent all this time playing rock standards together as little kids and we had a decent amount of know-how – we didn’t really know how to record but we were working on it – we were just trying to break away when we did our own stuff and make this sprawling, like, “We’re gonna make the craziest shit a 15-year-old band has ever made in in the history of the world.”
DD: We kind of went in over our heads and made some psych prog stuff that didn’t make sense and didn’t sound that good, but…
CW: We kinda knew it.
DD: I mean, we liked it at the time. But we took it down because we thought that the Projector run would be a good fresh start, especially because it was like, if we’re actually going to focus on music instead of having it be like an after school or weekend-type friend thing, we might as well start with a clean slate and let everything speak for itself. We don’t play the old stuff, we don’t rehearse them, it’s not like they’re in our repertoire at all, but we used one song from 2017 for a B-side on a vinyl, and that’s the most that you’ll see from them probably.
How do you look back on the process of making the album and everything that went into it?
CW: We were working so hard on it because there was an intense time limit in terms of: we have to do this before we go to college. I don’t know, it’s sort of nice to look back because you really didn’t think anyone would fucking listen to it. This cannot be overstated: we thought that this was for fun, randomly, and this was just going to, at the absolute most, at least for me – other people had higher ambitions in the band, maybe, especially Max, he was like, “This is good, this is gonna get something” – but I was just like, “This might get pressed for like 250 copies maximum, we might get a four figure advance that we could split between us.” That was my highest ambition for this record, because we had no experience with the music industry whatsoever. It was this far away thing that you had to just grind for like 10 years to even be a part of, or get insanely lucky. I always just thought that that was never gonna happen, especially not if we had less than a year before we wouldn’t, like, maybe never see each other at the same time again. It was really just for the love of making something.
DD: Yeah. Like a final high school project.
How does it feel different from a high school project now?
DD: Now that the record label’s involved and stuff like that, we’re taking it way more seriously, I’d say, for sure. We would be rehearsing maybe once a week in like 2019, but now we have a full schedule mapped out, we have a manager scheduling everything. We’re very on top of our shit now.
CW: We have to. And that’s sort of the thing that scares me about – you talked about nervousness about putting it out – this is something that we made with no consequences in our heads whatsoever. If it fails, that’s what we’re expecting, so there’s nothing that can go wrong. But now there’s like a team of over 100 people who are trying to peddle this thing that we made where we were absolutely like “We’ll do whatever we want, and if it’s good, maybe we’ll get like $500 or something like that.” So that’s a little nerve-wracking retrospectively, but I think it’s gonna be okay.
Could you talk a bit about the story behind the cover artwork and how it’s connected to the ideas that informed the album?
CW: It started out with a dream – I can’t even remember at this point, it was so long ago. But I remember being sort of obsessed with this idea of having a masked figure, so I was picturing like a Majora’s Mask, the Zelda shit with the bug eyes. I was like, I’ll make something sort of like that, so I made a mask out of a cardboard and bought two stick-on closet lights from Lowe’s and stuck them on to make these bug eyes. And then Foster put the mask on and took off his shirt and we went into the freezing cold in the middle of December with a camera, and we were like, “Foster, strike a weird pose!” And he didn’t get it right for a little while, but then he got the arms dangling around him like contorted, and I was like, “That’s really cool.”
DD: The story that Cameron just told was our first time shooting it, we ended up shooting it twice or three times, I think. And it ended up snowing the last day, so that’s why the ground’s all snowy and stuff, so Foster really did just get in the snow with no shirt at like 2am. We had a professional photographer take it, and I think someone edited it a little bit to make it look cooler, but the photo is real.
Lyrically, the songs are quite narrative-driven but also conceptually abstract, which leaves them open to interpretation. Cameron, did you have a specific goal with this one when it came to the lyrics?
CW: Back in early high school, the songs would be these sort of all-encompassing, like singing about death and existentialism and stuff, and I was trying to make these broad-strokes messages that were really dark and edgy. And for this one, I don’t think I was ready to do like a soul-bearing thing that much, so I usually tried to inhabit maybe different characters or tell something that’s a little more grounded in the self, tell something that has less of an overarching conceptual theme that everything sticks to and more like a vignetted, small, low-stakes narratives.
One song that stood out to me as one of the more personal moments on the record is ‘Exploding House’, in terms of expressing uncertainty about the future and how it seems to reference The Nest, which is what you call your practice space. Dom, since the other members aren’t here, can you speak to whether that was a song you all resonated with for that reason?
DD: ‘Exploding House’ is probably one of the last songs we did, if not the last. When Cameron came back with the lyrics, the nest line was really cute, we were like, “Oh, that’s nice.” But as time went on, every time I hear you sing it, it hits, low-key. It makes me think about it, gets me in my feels.
CW: I didn’t even mean the nest like the basement.
DD: Yeah, I know you didn’t, that’s the thing.
CW: That was definitely one of the ones where I probably borrowed more from my own personal experience. Just really not feeling ready to be anything close to an adult – ‘cause like we said, success was this sort of distant, impossible thing, and I was going to college for Communications, which I’m sure would have been fun. But I didn’t really know what, besides music, I was good at or wanted to do or wanted to improve at.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.