GEOMETERS’ version of rock tinged post hardcore is both clear and complex. These guys span multiple genres, rhuthms, and inspirations, resulting in an invigorating mixture that’s equally powerful as it is smart and captivating. As they celebrated the release of their debut full length record “Pay To Live”, we spoke to them about the effort, their work with J. Robbins (JAWBOX), donation to Planned Parenthood, and more stuff that will hold your attention, including loads of recommendations that will keep you busy for months! See the full interview below.
GEOMETERS‘ debut LP, “Pay to Live” was recorded and mixed by J. Robbins of unfluential alt / emo / post hardcore band JAWBOX, mastered by Dan Coutant at Sunroom Audio in NY, and features artwork by John Cox and layout by Kyle Pollard. The record is out now via Jetsam-Flotsam and Codependent Records on vinyl, CD and cassette! In an effort to empower and protect others post-election, all of the proceeds from pre-orders and the first week of sales were donated to Planned Parenthood, a non-profit healthcare organization and provider of sexual and reproductive health services.
GEOMETERS are: bassist/guitarist/vocalist Sam Wadsworth, drummer David Beale, and guitarist/vocalist Kyle Pollard.
Pay to Live is made up of well-orchestrated harmonies, gently plucked melodies and rolling rhythms that give way to more abrasive vocals, drastic chords and powerful percussion. The sound is something in the realm of Dischord Records’ repertoire, which makes sense given the fact that the band has a Dischord release under their collective belts after band member Sam Wadsworth recently recorded bass tracks for Red Hare (members ofSwiz) earlier this year. The theme of Pay To Live, as the title aptly suggests, is about struggling to get by in the “adult” world: dealing with loneliness in the modern world, having little self-worth while masking emotion in everyday life to get by (described in the song “Patsy”), losing those close to you (“Spring”), or contemplating what could have been (“Twin”). Produced by legendary producer/mixer/engineer J. Robbins, the album’s sound is sharp and precise, allowing for all of the skilled musicianship and intricacies of each instrument to be heard even amid the strength of their sound.
Hey guys! Congratulations on your new record! How does it feel to have it finally out?
KP: Thanks! It’s quite the relief, to be honest. We had masters in hand over a year ago, but didn’t want to rush anything just for the sake of getting it out there. Feels good to have had such a positive response so far. And LP 2 is pretty much done at this point!
SW: It feels great! These songs mean a lot to us and it’s such a weight off our shoulders to finally be able to share them. It was worth the wait – we really couldn’t be happier with how the vinyl and packaging looks and to have Jetsam Flotsam backing us up.
DB: It feels huge – the entire process of putting out a full length is such an undertaking and getting to see the finished product out in the world is extremely validating. And like Kyle said, we’re already waist deep in LP 2.
Can’t wait for that!
The record was produced by J. Robbins of the legendary, highly influential act JAWBOX. How has he influenced the final feel of the record?
KP: All three of us are huge fans of J’s bands and pretty much everyone he’s ever recorded. I think that influence would have been evident regardless of whether or not he helped make our record. Having his ears and expertise behind the board was definitely integral to the record’s sound and feel, though.
The coolest part for me is that we tracked it at the Magpie Cage, which is the same room that “For Your Own Special Sweetheart” was recorded. It’s something special to go back to that record and think, “Hey! I know that room sound!” Oh, and seeing JAWBOX road cases littered around the space definitely brings some additional inspiration…
SW: The TONES, man! J is a master at making every vocal, hook and nuance of a song shine through while the rest of the track still rocks and sounds massive. Even more than that, he creates such a comfortable and creative environment at The Magpie Cage. You really feel like you’re going to do your best work when he’s there. He also had great suggestions for improving our vocal harmony choices.
DB: I’ve personally never worked with anyone who made me feel better about my ability as both a drummer and at making drums sound good. We got the best snare sound I’ve ever had, which to a non drummer may not seem like much.. But the snare is like the vocals of drums. He was great at talking me down from my frustrations and gave me incredibly productive feedback on my parts. Also the room is amazing, it’s the kind of room you just want to fill with as much sound as possible.
“Pay To Live” has this tone of lived experience. What themes do you touch upon in these tracks and where did these ideas come? Are they concepts? Real characters? Scenes?
SW: Haha, well, we’re definitely not a band full of teenagers.
KP: The record as a whole has a lot to do with battling depression and anxiety, and balancing that fight with the pressure of adjusting to adulthood. I think the three of us (and most people, really) have had to reconcile these demons at some point in our lives. For me personally, there’s a recurring theme of guilt and regret in much of what I write that ultimately distills to anger.
The song “Formaldebride” breaks this trend a bit. It was written from the perspective of Carl Tanzler, a doctor from the early 20th century who fell in love with one of his patients. She eventually died while he was treating her, but that didn’t stop their…relationship. I think I was relating to his inability to accept reality and let go.
DB: The 3 of us come from very different and backgrounds, though there are many parallels. Finding a common ground can be challenging, but it makes it that much more meaningful when we do – I think there’s a tension to the record that comes from the inner dynamic and growth as individuals with a common goal. Also Kyle is an amazing lyricist.
Can you give an example of a line that serves an exceptional value to you?
KP: From “Spring”: “Cross your fingers for the end of days. An easy exit, you won’t have to change. Stay the same”.
SW: The album title came from the song of the same name, which we finished writing while in the studio. While still tracking, David suggested we use it as the title of the record, and the more we thought about it, the more it made sense. That one phrase encapsulates a lot of the recurring themes of anxiety, depression, and frustration (with the self, with modern life, with living in New York City, etc.) that come up in just about every song on the record.
DB: the line ‘losing your sight, stuck in your mind’ from twin has always stuck it to me – for Kyle it’s autobiographical, he’s super blind, probably couldn’t see a fist if he was getting punched in the face – but for many (including myself) it’s a pretty amazing reminder of the struggle to maintain self awareness, which I think is one of the hardest parts about being a person.
You’ve decided to donate all of the proceeds from pre-orders and the first week of sales to Planned Parenthood. Can you tell us more about this choice and introduce PP’s role in the recent political events in the US? Also I’ve read that there are actually no donations that can subsidize the volume of the official government funds spent on these services. Given that there’s just not enough money, do you still believe it makes sense to donate?
We chose to donate proceeds to Planned Parenthood because we believe in the organization and wanted to show support. Who knows for sure what the incoming administration will do to change the fate of PP – but the future doesn’t look bright. At the end of the day though, regardless of whether or not things change, this is still an organization that we feel provides critical services for so many people. The timing felt right to at least try and leverage our work to do some modicum of good, however small of an action that might be.
KP: Planned Parenthood is a crucial organization, invaluable for communities without access to affordable healthcare. What they provide is absolutely critical – sex ed, contraception, cancer screening – these are basic, preemptive services that only serve to benefit communities at large, not only those who utilize them. And it is perpetually under threat, even without the incoming administration. There is no doubt in my mind that this will only worsen in the coming four years.
DB: I come from a family of women, a true matriarchy, so I’ve been privy to the difficulty of being a woman all my life. I think it’s about to be a lot harder, especially for women to have control of their reproductive health. Planned parenthood bridges the gap in communities across the country and they are absolutely crucial.
Ok, so back to the record and moving on to the cover art, how does it represent the music or your message?
KP: I’ll defer to the boys for something deeper here – I just loved the way the original piece looked!
DB: I feel the same way about album art as I do tattoos – it should just look cool.
SW: The cover art was painted by a NYC-based artist named John Cox. We wanted to showcase artwork from someone within our community. My brother is really good friends with John, and after being shown some of his work, I knew his style would be a great fit. I was hoping to use a piece that was abstract, but felt organic and human, and this painting is just that.
Is there something about your songwriting that gives GEOMETERS such a unique, multi-style sound that’s very hard to label? Was it your goal from to make it diverse or did that happen naturally as the writing or recording process went along?
KP: We very rarely sit down to write with the intention of copying a specific style or artist. I think what makes our sound unique is where our tastes and history as musicians diverge. We all come from very different backgrounds, having played with many different types of bands. Those experiences drastically shape the direction we head in while writing. It does makes it difficult to explain to people who haven’t heard us yet (and aren’t familiar with a million esoteric sub-genres) what we sound like, though. “What kind of music do you play?” “Rock music, I guess? It’s loud.” “Oh, like the FOO FIGHTERS?” “…sure.” hahaha
SW: I really like music with strong dynamic shifts – quiet to loud, slow to fast, vulnerable to aggressive – so, the tunes we write have plenty of those shifts.
DB: We definitely have a pretty huge range of influences. And honestly we mostly just get in a room and see what happens. Sometimes it starts with a riff or a drum beat – but it’s mostly just organic. I think the goal is just to make the sounds we like, and not a ton more thought goes into it than that.
Since you pull pretty liberally from many rock nooks, are there any musicians that are particularly influential to you as artists?
KP: J, definitely, and pretty much everyone he’s played with and recorded. We all grew up on a steady diet of nothing Dischord Records, bands like CONVERGE and BOTCH, etc. – the usual suspects. That’s where the loud comes from. Elliott Smith and Jeremy Enigk both had a huge influence on my approach to songwriting when I was younger (and still do).
SW: Besides what Kyle’s already mentioned, I’d say ENGINE DOWN, David Bazan and THE MERCURY PROGRAM. (HAHA, I SAID THEM FIRST, DAVID)
DB: Specifically as a rhythm section Sam and I are hugely influenced by ENGINE DOWN – I actually grew up in the same town in Virginia as their drummer and he’s been an influence on me since I picked up the sticks. I’m personally influenced by a huge range of stuff – from STARS OF THE LID, to David Bazan, to MESHUGGAH.
What path did you follow to becoming musicians in the furst place? Can you tell us a bit more about your backgrounds?
KP: My father is a professional violinist, so I didn’t have a choice! He is without a doubt the most responsible for, and most inspirational in, my life as a musician. I’ve been playing the trombone since I was in the 5th grade, and studied Jazz through high school and into my first year at college. That’s when the angst caught up to me I guess, so I switched majors and focused on writing and recording loud music. Shedding scales for 6 hours a day, while hugely beneficial, was fucking brutal. I had to get out! I still play the trombone sometimes but usually in (per David) “Wacky” bands.
SW: A few years of piano lessons and a couple more playing bassoon in middle school at my parent’s insistence. I didn’t really love playing music until I picked up my older brother’s guitar and started writing. Between the access to instruments and constant exposure to new music and interesting ideas, I’ve got to heavily credit my two older brothers for my continued interest in music. Also very into the technical side of music, so I build guitar pedals and electronics, and work as a freelance audio engineer/technician.
DB: I started skateboarding when I was 9, and it’s been a passion all my life since – I got into music from skate videos. Eventually I got more serious about music and the fear of breaking limbs and not being able to play made back off getting super gnarly. But that’s my musical roots – skateboarding. My grandma bought me my first kit from a yard sale when my arm was in a cast (from skating) and I still play with my right elbow angled funny as a result.
How do you feel you have evolved since your first records? Also, how do you go about the future evolution of GEOMETERS? Will there be any major differences in sound or is it more of a continuation of this full length?
KP: Shit is unfortunately bleak these days – LP2 is already shaping up to be WAY heavier!
SW: I find myself playing baritone more often on the new material. Definitely heavier, but there’s still quiet moments.
DB: Definitely a bit heavier – but the song structures are catchier. We’ve really learned how to play and create together and it’s showing. I couldn’t be more excited.
Do you find any challenges in switching from recording and your usual roles with the band to performing live? How do you go about shows and what gigs can we expect in the coming months?
KP: The transition has been very smooth, actually. Except for strings on a few songs, I guess. Haven’t pulled that off live yet. Hopefully someday. We’ll be playing at the inimitable Saint Vitus on January 12th, hitting the road for a long run in the spring as well. 2016 was crazy for us, so it’s actually nice to have some space on the calendar for a little bit to reset and hit it even harder!
DB: We’re a rock band – no backing tracks, or live clicks – I think it’s pretty well represented live and on the record.
Are there any newer bands are you currently interested in? Do you mind dropping us your list of ‘best of 2016’?
KP: SUMAC! Also really dug the new Emma Ruth Rundle record, and the new HELMS ALEE. Was able to catch them with RUSSIAN CIRCLES over the summer and they slayed. And our dear buds from Baltimore, SUNNERS put out an excellent EP this year through our tape imprint, Codependent Records. I think my copy is broken now, I’ve played it so much. Oh, new CINEMECHANICA is heavy af. Was so cool playing with those dudes this year.
SW: Our friends in HUSBANDRY, NEVER, SUPERBLONDE, THE BLACK BLACK and EARWORMS put out new records this year. You’d be crazy to not check each of them out. Just found out about this band SLOW MASS. Their debut EP is excellent. Also, since recording with J, I’ve gone on a bit of a kick of bands he’s been working with. The new SWAIN and TWO INCH ASTRONAUT records are amazing. Also, new MERCURY PROGRAM!
DB: I’ve been pretty obsessed with a lot of music this past year, but not much of it is aggressive. Andy Shauf‘s “The Party”, David Bazan‘s “Blanco”, and Angel Olsen‘s “My Woman” were in heavy rotation. Also my good friend Troy put out a record under the name “Way, Shape, or Form” called “Elsewhere” and it’s incredible.
Lastly, what do you like to do when you’re not into this band?
KP: Sitting on the couch with my Beagle mix, Tanooki, putting WAY too many hours into the Witcher 3. I might need to cut back on music, my gaming backlog is getting out of control.
SW: I like to fiddle around with guitar pedals/electronics, eat eat eat (especially pizza or food from Chinatown), and go to the park with my niece.
DB: I’m a software engineer and am pretty involved in the tech community in NYC, I love eating and drinking in the myriad of amazing places in the city, and a huge movie buff.
Photo by Eric Michael Pearson
Very cool! Thanks so much for taking some time to answer these questions. Feel free to share your final thoughts and take care! Cheers from Warsaw!
DB: I was in Poland earlier this year, traveled from Kraków to Zakopane – such a beautiful country – Dziękuję Ci!
KP: Cheers dude!
Haha! Amazing, come to Poland with the rest of the guys! Zapraszam!
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