Geoff Geis

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Rollin’

Last month, I promised on this very website that I would have a breakup song soon!

Look, I did it. This song, “Rollin’,” came pretty quickly and is very simple. Three chords! It’s a song about a feeling that comes in that little bit of time at the end of a co-habitating relationship when you still live together. That fun little bit of time.

I did this at Murderland, which is just a fancy name for my home studio. Is that a bad name? I looked it up online and murderland.com is already taken. Apparently there was some TV miniseries in Britain called Murderland, too (I have not seen it). I have a feeling that Murderland is a bad name, but I still like it.

I stole this straight off the Internet. Not gonna lie.

I stole this straight off the Internet. Not gonna lie.

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Lay All Your Love on Me (ABBA cover)

Why do we cover songs? What’s the point?

I hate it when I hear a cover song that sounds either a.) just like the original or b.) like it’s the result of a too-formulaic transposition of a performer’s established aesthetic onto another artist’s jam, like Limp Bizkit doing “Faith” or Reel Big Fish doing “Take on Me.”

If you want to do a precise version of a Green Day song in your bar band or drop a no-frills acoustic cover of “Driver 8” into your set at the coffee shop, that’s cool. But if you’re recording a cover, you should attempt to something to it or at least bring something out of what’s already there that is worth looking at more closely. By saying that I think that covers should “add something,” I’m not saying that artists should try and surpass the original versions because that’s likely to be a futile goal. But each recorded cover needs a reason to exist, even if it’s slight.

So for for what slight reason does this cover exist?

“Lay All Your Love on Me” is about jealousy, but the subtext is that it’s not condemnatory. I wanted to revel in the jealousy, as if it was a sublime pleasure, and I determined that I could do so with stark production that emphasized dark, crawling vocals. For a bit, it had no beat — just piano and bass sounds. But in the end, I added percussion to help keep it interesting through the duration and to (hopefully) keep it on the side of sultriness rather than creepiness.

The original version of this song is about as hard as ABBA gets. Mine is a little less club-ready, but I still hope it’s danceable.

Filed under: geoff geis, vanity projects, , , , , , ,

You Can Always Get off the Bus

Have you heard this? It’s “Ride Operator” by Disco Cisco and the Dreampunks – a bouncy jam driven by lush, melodic keyboard playing and punctuated with a few post-punk flourishes. The vocals are alluring, the lyrics are smart, and it ends quickly enough to demand repeat listens. I’m excited to hear what these Dreampunks do next.

Actually, I’m being kind of an asshole right now. I played lots of the instruments on this and produced it. Sarah is Disco Cisco. Obviously I’m not impartial.

In other news, I turned one of the bedrooms in our apartment into a recording studio. It’s called Murderland. Maybe I can record your band? You have to let me “get weird with it.”

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March 2012

Happy birthday, Shaq! (March 6)

My debit card has had the expiration date of March 2012 for as long as I can remember, which has made it seem like kind of a milestone for years even though I’ve not had any reason to think of the month as anything particularly special. It seemed very distant once, but like all expiration dates it’s now come and will soon pass. Hopefully my bank will remember to send me a new one.

Oh, but in the meantime March 2012 actually became a real milestone. Thanks to So Many Wizards, I’ll be in the United Kingdom next week participating in my first overseas tour. Immediately after that, we’ll be at South by Southwest. We’re really excited to be supporting “Lose Your Mind,” the first single from our new album Warm Nothing that will be released by JAXART soon:

Juiceboxxx has been crashing at my house for the past month, stressing about meeting his new goal to blog every single day. Apparently, some TED Conference speaker convinced him that blogging everyday is the key to making stuff happen. I buy the argument completely. I’m not prepared to publish something every day, but Juice’s blogging has inspired me to blog at least more regularly than I have been blogging. March 2012 seems like a fun place to start, so here I go. Starting next week, I’ll be posting dispatches from the road…

Check the rest of the post for tour dates.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: geoff geis, so many wizards, Uncategorized, , , , ,

“Here Comes the Sun” – Beatles cover

I’ve been recording a lot of cover music over the past couple of weeks.

This is the first thing I did, a couple of weeks ago, as a present to my mom on Mother’s Day. It’s pretty genuine and tender, which I suppose is a change from what I normally do…

Abbey Road was the first Beatles record I owned — maybe the first vinyl record I owned, period. Consequentially, this song and I go back a long way.

Download “Here Comes the Sun.”

Filed under: Human Interest, mp3, , , , ,

“So Gone, Like You” by Nima and Geoff

Nima and Geoff, in the studio

On Monday, I recorded a song with my friend Nima. Nima’s a creative guy, and he’s in a band called So Many Wizards. Anyway, we made this jam pretty quickly based on an idea that Nima had. He sings and plays guitar, and I provide all of the “backing band” elements:

Download Nima and Geoff: “So Gone, Like You”

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Superbowl B4 De-lete

This is a recording of a song called “Superbowl B4 De-lete.” It features contributions from members of the band Moses Campbell: Andrew MacKelvie, Pascal Stevenson, and Miles Wintner. It was recorded by Christopher Cole.

Click on the downward facing arrow, located on the right side of the player, to download it.

Superbowl B4 De-lete (featuring members of Moses Campbell) by Geoff Geis

I’ll be playing a set on Thursday night at Pehrspace with friends. I go on early, at 9:30. RSVP on Facebook.

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Uli and the Gringos live album recording

Download mp3: Uli and the Gringos: Parara
Uli and the Gringos on Myspace.

Sunny dance pop, with lyrics I can’t understand and sick synthesizers– I love Uli & the Gringos! I got lucky to meet them when, a few years ago, they moved from New York to the house next door to where I was living with Tyler and Rand. Uli and Eugene were some of the best neighbors I’ve ever had, and they remain valued friends even though we no longer live next door to each other. I’m excited that they asked me to make the flyer for their show on Wednesday, June 23 at La Cita:

They’ll be recording a live album during their set. You should come and be boisterous, for posterity’s sake! Here is a link to the Facebook event.

Last year, I interviewed band member Eugene (synths, saxophones) for the “…What is Happening” magazine released by Big Whup Industries. In honor of their show, I’ve printed it here. I took a liberty by removing myself from the interview, and it’s like a monologue because of that. That’s not how it really was.

—–

Eugene Toale, September 2009:

The core of the way that I write music, that I do music, is improvisation. Like, I was a jazz guy, right? So I went to jazz school, played sax – and part of the saxophone lifestyle is to learn how to improvise and play over chord changes and invent on your feet and all that. When I write music for the band I’m usually improvising my parts, or I was improvising them in the studio and I got to know them and played them again… Boxing makes you think on your feet. That’s where the phrase comes from; that’s where a lot of phrases come from: “thinking on your feet,” “down for the count,” you know, “had him on Queer Street!” Being in the moment and in the fight and having no way out has probably put the capstone on my improvising as a saxophone player. Not that’s not the core of who I am as a musician and all that shit, but it kind of informs all of my writing, all of my everything. The ability to pick up an instrument and just blow has gotten easier as a result of being able to jump in the ring and just fight… Do I understand everything my wife sings about? No. I understand what they’re about, I mean, I was with her when she wrote them, she tells me what they’re about. But words and lyrics and stuff? No, of course not. I can’t sing, like “te quiro puesum da, dumbumbum parara.” I don’t know any of those fucking words, I just know the sounds of them. But then again, in Uli and the Gringos we’ve got that kind of split partnership where we can kind of give each other jobs. I know it sounds crazy, but she writes all the words and I obsess over the bass lines. We both work on the beats. She usually comes up with the chords, I like to do the arrangement of the tune, the sounds, the production, and really get into which players I want to use and stuff. So the lyrics are purely Uli, and the music is, you know, Uli and the Gringos… But I understand what she’s singing about in all these songs because I was there. One song, “No Quiero,” was about quitting her day job. I went to that job everyday after my job, which I hated. I mean, I was there when we quit. I was there when she wrote the song, I mean we live together. We play together. I mean, I don’t know the words because my Spanish isn’t all that good. But I know which bird she’s singing about in the bird song, you know?
…We never wanted to be labeled as a jazz group. We’re not a jazz group. Uli went to a jazz school, she understands that type of harmony. But her philosophy is very independent, it’s very rock n roll… We got a bass player in New York, we got a bass player in Mexico, we got a bass player here and they all play so drastically different. They look different, they act different, they are different. So we let them play those notes however they want. We don’t play them a record and say “play this.” The guys are generally strong enough players that they can just jump in and play something. Then when it comes time to make an album, we usually go to all the cities we work in just so we can use all those guys. And it makes sense to use this guy on this, this guy on that. Jamie is the nastiest funk guy in the world. When he plays, he plays the gig all funky. I play more straight up on the sax, Uli plays a little bit rockier on the guitar. We play with Oliver, I play real sweet. She starts doing the upbeat skank thing a little bit more, lays down on the beat. We go to Mexico and that’s a totally different thing. Eddie is more of an improviser, do you get something different with Eddie. Give him some space, come up with some lines, whatever… I mean, it wasn’t fun at the time, but practicing our instruments as little kids, not knowing that we were going to be a musicians as a job…  now, around this age it’s like the instruments kind of disappear. There’s no reason a saxophone should be in a Latin/Rock/Indie group, but I play it in a way that fits in. Fuck it. That’s the instrument I play. We make it work. I don’t play jazz, I don’t impose my will on it… The saxophone has got many traditions, and I try not to pick one. With the jazz tradition, you really learn to play be-bop. That’s what’s up for guys in that. And then there’s some rock n roll guys, like Clarence Clemons. Michael Brecker can really play, but he sounds a little cheesy. Whatever. What I tried to do was play “pop saxophone,” you know? This is just my instrument. I’m not trying to be cool, I’m not trying to be indie on it, I’m not trying to drag my bassoon out to the rock n roll show. I’m just trying to say “this is what I do.” I can improvise. I can find a spot. I can play like, one note lines behind her. I can play a complementary counter-melody and then I can back off and all that. I can have maybe a new identity as a saxophone in a band… And Uli put the PhD on my improvising, just by having to play with someone who can really compose. Someone who knows how to write classical music,  really knows melodies and stuff. She tells you to “do this, to this.” Most of it was “you’re playing too much, you’re playing too much.” In reverse, though, a saxophonist works years and years and years on his tone. His support. His air. The size of the sound. And she as a singer has been singing against a tenor saxophone with a big sound for the past five years. And her voice sounds bigger and bigger and bigger. She’s got a big strong voice for a little girl… We figured out a register that we can both live in together, we both blast our asses off, and we blaze nice.

There is also this thing going on tomorrow, in West Hollywood at the Standard Hotel. It’s free, and I play at 8 PM:

Filed under: Events, mp3, , , , , , , , , ,

Christmas Sing-Along with Mitch

I am an unabashed lover of Christmas. It is my favorite time of year, and the main reason is the music. I used to work at a Quizno’s sub in Huntsville, Alabama, and one time I made my boss very very angry because I played the company’s Christmas mix in the store during the month of July. He got so mad that he actually broke the CD with his bare hands (dude had a temper problem – and was also a racist, but that’s a different point). I wasn’t trying to be funny or anything, though. I just wanted to hear Mariah.

Ahhh but I digress. The whole reason for giving that story was to segue into this: the first feature in an ongoing feature called “Wonderful Christmas Music.” I realize that it’s very topical right now because it’s December and all, but I intend it to be ongoing. There’s a lot of material to cover.

There’s no better place to start than with Mitch Miller and the Gang. Their album, Christmas Sing Along with Mitch, is certainly my favorite Christmas album of all time. You can listen to it for free on Lala.com.

For those not “in the know,” Mitch Miller was a giant of popular music during the forties, fifties, and sixties. I was listening to KPCC the other day, and someone said that Miller was a better conductor of George Gershwin’s music than anyone else. He was also a king-maker at Columbia Records, and was instrumental in signing Bob Dylan to the label.

He was nationally famous, however, for an NBC television series called “Sing Along with Mitch” – a show that would probably never be made in today’s market, alas. Here’s a little taste of the show, although it’s unfortunately not from a Christmas-themed episode. Watching it really makes me nostalgic for my childhood as a member of the “moral majority” in 1960s  suburbia:

Anyway, Mitch and the Gang broadcast stuff like that every week between 1961-66, and they produced many LPs of “Sing Along” hits to accompany the show. Christmas Sing Along with Mitch is one of those records, and it appropriately comes with a long list of lyrics so that you can sit around the hi-fi system and join in the fun.

Christmas Sing Along is a lot more minimal than the song in the video I just posted, and the minimalism blesses the album with  a somber and poignant tone. Every carol is stripped-down to its most basic element – “Joy to the World” starts with handbells, for example, but those quickly go away as the song becomes acapella. Most of the record proceeds sans-instrumentation, with only the gorgeous tone of the gang’s vocal harmonies and an occasional harp strum.

Adding to the somberness of the album is the fact that is completely religious in nature – it includes none of those horrible cheery secular Bing Crosby-style Christmas pop songs that were popular at the time and unfortunately remain so (“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas,” yuckkkk!). These are all traditional hymns and carols, and they are all enunciated with the type of reverence that would expect at church – very sober, very down-tempo. Its beauty is hypnotic.

The highlight of the collection is “Silent Night”, their rendition of which is my favorite of all time (and since “Silent Night” is one of my top two Christmas songs  – tied with “Go Tell it on the Mountain” – that’s saying a lot).

Filed under: Wonderful Christmas Music, , , , , , ,

Music

This is Soft Sailors! We're a new band from Los Angeles. We don't have any upcoming shows scheduled, but you can hear us online:

Also, here are some solo songs I've uploaded recently to Soundcloud. I'm playing solo July 19th at the Pickle Factory at 647 Lamar Street in Los Angeles and September 1st at Los Globos in LA for a KCHUNG benefit.

In 2011, I released my first solo album, Princess. You can listen to it and download it on Bandcamp:

From 2005 until 2011, I was in the band Pizza! This is our album We Come From the Swamp:

From 2008-2010, I was in the band Big Whup. Here's one of our songs that I sang, called "Cover My Eyes:"

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