Geronimo! interview with Kelly Johnson

June 27, 2013

Geronimo! interview with Kelly Johnson

will Chicago stop and take a second to breathe? 
It seems like everywhere I look in Chi-town there’s some amazing new
sound, some fuzz fueled, reverb, guzzling fanatic with a guitar, drum and bass
making some of the most bad ass music I’ve ever heard.  The only downside to that is that it’s
nigh-impossible to standout in that kind of environment.  And I say nigh because believe it or not
there are bands that stand out from the myriad of competitors.  Bands like the pop, punk lo-fi psych
scientists Geronimo.  They will pop into
a studio every few months, effortlessly record a cassette, release the thing
and six months later are on to the next, bigger and better thing.  It might not sound like anything too amazing
in itself but this has been going on since 2010 and has produced some of the
best slice-of-mind or moment in-time documents of a band I’ve ever heard.  Not only is these guys sound killer, crafting
songs and giving plenty of thought to where they need to end up, but they’re
also at the top of their game creatively and musically.  Teaming just the right amount of serious
punk, shoegaze and traditional garage attitude with honest to god,
balls-to-the-wall psychedelia, Geronimo is proving a unique and prolific voice
in the chocked concrete jungle of Chicago. 
Click the link, get yourself some music from their Bandcamp page
http://thegeronimoband.bandcamp.com, go ahead do it…  Are you done yet?  You are? 
Excellent!  Now you can read on
and learn everything I ever wanted to know about Geronimo!

What’s the band’s lineup?  Is this
your original lineup?
Kelly Johnson: Vocals/guitar, Ben Grigg: Keyboards/synth, Matt Schwerin:
Drums.  It’s always been us three bozos.
any of you in any other bands at this point? 
Have you released any material with any other bands?  If so can you tell our readers a little bit
about that?
No other bands at this point.  We
have been in other bands in the past, but for the past three years or so it’s
just been Geronimo!
Where are you originally from? 
Where’s the band located now?
Forged in the fires of Rockford, Illinois.  We all relocated to Chicago for various
reasons and currently all reside here.
would you describe the scene where you are located at?
Well it’s Chicago.  It’s
splintered into a lot of scenes.  There
are so many talented bands playing for various reasons.  The reasons for DIY bands might differ from
bands frequenting the clubs, it can be competitive and challenging to stick out
but that keeps us on our toes and doesn’t let us stagnate in my opinion.
it played a major role in the history or development of Geronimo?
I guess I sort of answered that in the previous question regarding the
competitive nature of Chicago.  Because
there are so many places to play and scenes to explore it’s allowed us to find
our strengths and preferences as a group.
and how did you all meet?
Ben and I know each other from high school.  We went to college and lived together there
for a few years at a place called The Purple House.  Matt met Ben in Rockford and introduced him
to me when they got together to jam.  We
started out a whole lot different with me on bass, Ben on piano and Matt on
drums.  That didn’t last very long.
led you all to form Geronimo and when was that?
We formed the band because we all had such a good rapport together.  That was sometime in early 2008.
did you select it and what does the name Geronimo mean or refer to?
It refers to the exclamation when jumping out of a plane or off a
building or cliff.  Matt suggested it at
the beginning and we didn’t think it sucked so bad.
extremely interested to hear who some of your personal musical influences are,
there are some really interesting and unique sounds in Geronimo and I wonder
where they came from?  What about
influences on the band as a whole rather than individuals?
I can really only speak for myself: Fugazi, Smashing Pumpkins, Pixies,
Archers of Loaf.  As a band we can all
agree we like Radiohead, Guided by Voices, Magnetic Fields and Madonna.
loathe labeling or classifying music myself, can you describe Geronimo’s sound
to anyone that hasn’t heard you before?
Loud fuzzy rock.  Sometimes it’s
angry, sometimes pretty, sometimes sloppy; always loud.
you describe Geronimo’s songwriting process? 
Is there just a lot of trial and error jamming or does someone approach
the rest of the band with a more finished idea to flesh out?
It’s happened both ways, most of the time we all work on a jam together
that we structure.  We try and leave
parts that make sense for me to sing over. 
It’s very much a collaborative effort and not individually based.
released your first album Fuzzy Dreams in 2010, can you tell us a little about
the recording of that album; who recorded it? 
Where was it recorded?  What kind
of equipment was used?  Who released it?
That was self-released.  We
recorded it in Ben’s parent’s house in Rockford over a few weekends.  No one was living there at the time so we set
everything up in the living room.  It was
all hardwood floors and it sounded really nice.  It was an experiment with sounds, production
and effects.  It’s something we’re all
proud of but we were definitely learning. 
Our friend Josh Miller who recorded great records by Kid, You’ll Move
Mountains and Ghastly Menace was there to show us what to do and he also mixed
the record.
does the name Fuzzy Dreams mean or refer to?
It was something that popped into my head while walking one day.  It felt appropriate for the feel of our sound
and the abstract approach I take to lyrics. 
Most people think of a “warm, happy” image when they hear the phrase so
I liked the flipped meaning idea.
followed up Fuzzy Dreams with the first volume in the Buzz Yr Girlfriend tape
series in August of 2011, now first off what does Buzz Yr Girlfriend mean?  I love it, there’s something catchy as hell
and yet somehow nonsensical about the title.
It’s from one of the greatest films of all time, Home Alone.  Kevin is rifling through his older brother
Buzz’s room and he finds a framed picture of a goofy looking girl, to which he
quips “Buzz, your girlfriend. Woof”.  We
were joking around in practice about interpreting it as a command to give your
girlfriend a buzzcut.  It felt apropos to
the spirit of what we wanted to accomplish which was have fun and not put too
much stress into the recording and creation of the tape.
Where was the Buzz Yr Girlfriend Vol. 1 tape recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used in the
recording?  Who released it?
It was recorded by our friend Joe Robinson on his 4-track at our
practice space; that was-released again by us.
the Buzz Yr Girlfriend series always intended to be a multi-volume series of
releases or has it just naturally grown and progressed to that point?
It was always intended to be multi-volume.  We write pretty quickly and build up a lot of
songs, not all of them fit to be on albums. 
It’s a way for us to records those and to have fun.  I actually stole the idea from the Boredoms
who have a series called Super Roots.
Buzz Yr Girlfriend Vol. 2: The Burden of Genius recorded and released in a
similar fashion to Vol. 1?
Totally different.  We did it at
our friend Matt Arbogast of The Gunshy’s recording studio, 8AM.  It was a way for us to try it out and give
him a guinea pig as well as his studio is still pretty new.
released your second full-length album Exanimate in October of 2012, and it’s
an absolutely stunning piece of psychedelia! 
Where was Exanimate recorded?  Who
recorded it?  What kind of equipment was
used?  Who released Exanimate?  Was it a very different recording experience
than the Fuzzy Dreams and Buzz Yr Girlfriend sessions?

Thanks!  Exanimate was recorded a
lot like Fuzzy Dreams.  It was done by
our friend Josh Miller over about a year and a half period of time.  We recorded it in Josh’s basement at his
house here in Chicago.  We did it in
chunks months apart and mixed it in very much the same way.  Thus the length of time we spent on it, which
ended up being a lot longer than we wanted it to be due to scheduling conflicts
with all of us.
word exanimate means lifeless: deprived of life; no longer living; “a
lifeless body”, why use that as an album title?
It was a word Matt stumbled upon and suggested.  We liked the word and it fit with the artwork
that we had done for the album.  My lyrics
deal a lot with death and the afterlife, especially on that album, so it all
seemed intertwined.
third installment in the Buzz Yr Girlfriend series was released in March of
this year, The Metal David Byrne.  Are
there plans for continuing the Buzz Yr Girlfriend tapes for the foreseeable
Absolutely, as long as we can keep coming up with stupid titles.  As such, we have about 150 more tapes to
you tell us a little bit about the recording of The Metal David Byrne?  Who put the tape out?
Again we recorded it at 8AM with Matt Arbogast.  It was recorded quickly in about three or
four sessions.  This time we were lucky
enough to have Exploding in Sound Records put out the tape.  We met Dan, the label owner, a couple years
back after he said nice things about Fuzzy Dreams.  We stayed in touch and met a couple of
times.  We got to know some of the other
bands on the label and they’re all way better than us so we figured we had to
get involved with him.
there any plans for another full-length or any other recordings at this point?
As of right now we are taking a “hiatus” (relative to what we usually
do) this summer and early fall.  We are
playing one-off shows here and there but are focusing on writing our next
album.  We are going into our friend
Daniel Good’s studio, Chrome Attic, sometime this fall to record.  We’re hoping to spend about a week there and
track everything we write this summer. 
Right now we have about four songs and about fifty ideas.  It’ll be our first “official” studio album.
do you have planned as far as touring goes this year?
Nothing yet.  We are just focusing
on the album at this point and then are going to see where that all ends
up.  Ideally we’d like to go on a big ass
tour after we finish it, but one thing at a time.
have played with some of my favorite bands going right now, who are some of
your personal favorites you’ve had a chance to share a bill with?
Most of my favorite bands at the moment are ones we’ve been lucky enough
to play with.  Bands that we love in
Chicago are Meat Wave who put out my personal favorite record last year,
T’Bone, Truck or Dead Horse, Hospital Garden, Predators, My Dad and DEN.  As for bands we’ve played with on the road, a
lot of Exploding in Sound artists.  Pile
is on constant rotation when we are on the road as well as Ovlov and Speedy
Ortiz.  There isn’t a band we don’t
listen to on Exploding in Sound so we really can’t say enough about the
label.  Motherfuckers got it goin’ on.  I’m sure there’s a ton I’m forgetting too.
you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows that you’d like to
share with our readers?

Usually the most embarrassing stories end up being the funny ones.  The first one that springs to mind is a show
that we played in Buffalo that was to be a benefit for a woman’s shelter.  We ended up being the only band and at the
last second it got moved to a sports bar called Yings Wings ‘n Things.  I think two people showed up?  The rest were regular patrons of the sports
bar who stayed at the bar on the other side of this giant room.  One guy kept yelling for us to play
Wonderwall.  Finally, fed up that we
hadn’t satiated his drunken request, he and his friend approached the front of
the stage, effectively becoming the only audience members with more requests
for Wonderwall.  We got out of it
unscathed, but it’s pretty funny to think of a couple of drunken meatheads
insisting that we play the song Wonderwall.
awesome to have a digital copy of an album to listen to on the go or whatever,
but there’s something magical and irreplaceable about a physical release.  Having something to hold in your hands,
artwork to look at and liner notes to read makes the listening experience more
complete, at least for me.  Do you have
any such connection with physical releases?
I think we all feel the same way. 
A lot more people are feeling the same way as well so it’s nice to be
able to have something physical to present to people again.  CDs have become the middle man for iTunes so
most people aren’t going to shell out ten or fifteen bucks for that when they
can just download it.  Records thought
are a different breed and a lot more attention and love goes into creating
you have a music collection at all?  If
so can you tell us a little bit about it?
I used to take great pride in my CD collection until I moved to Chicago
and didn’t have a job and was super broke. 
I sold a lot of the good ones so I could eat and buy beer.  I’m amassing a record collection and it’s
going much faster now that most bands have vinyl for sale.  The other dudes are the same way.
all things to do with technology there are upsides and downsides to it, but I’m
always curious what artist’s opinions on digital music and distribution are?
I can only speak for myself when I say, download our shit whatever way
you want.  Free, for some money,
great!  Get it from a friend if you
want.  Of course I’d prefer to see some
money so we can pay for practice space, rent, gas and whatnot but to me the
idea of having our music in someone’s library is more important.  I’ve downloaded stuff for free so much over
the past seven or eight years and found great bands.  Now I see those bands when they play live or
buy their records when I see them in stores. 
I like to hope others would do the same for us.
hopes of keeping up with never ending tide of amazing music out there right now
is there anyone from your local area or scene that I should be listening to
that I might not have heard of before?
See the previous question about my favorite people we’ve played with but
DEFINITELY Meat Wave, DEN, T’Bone and RUNNING; all from Chicago.
about nationally and internationally?
Nationally I’d suggest Pile, Ovlov, Roomrunner and Speedy Ortiz.
there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to talk about?
That’s all I can think of…  You
touched on a lot of things!  
Geronimo – Fuzzy Dreams – digital, ??? – Self-Released
Geronimo – Buzz Yr Girlfriend: Vol. 1 – digital, Cassette Tape –
Geronimo – Buzz Yr Girlfriend Vol. 2: The Burden of Genius – digital,
Cassette Tape – Self-Released
Geronimo – Exanimate – digital, 12” – ??? (Hand Silk-Screened Covers
Limited to 200 copies)
Geronimo – Buzz Yr Girlfriend Vol. 3: The Metal David Byrne – digital,
Cassette Tape – Exploding in Sound
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2013
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