Geronimo! Rocks a Little Post-Punk Fuzz | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Geronimo! Rocks a Little Post-Punk Fuzz

The Chicago-based, Rockford-reared trio Geronimo! went the self-release route for its debut album Fuzzy Dreams. Two members of the band recently met up with Eight Forty-Eight music critic Althea Legaspi to discuss how they went about making it.

Geronimo! performs tonight at 8 at 
Reggie's Music Joint.

Geronimo!'s debut album may be called Fuzzy Dreams, but there's a lot more concrete and muscle in the mix than the title implies. More than half the songs clock in past five minutes, some approaching the eight-minute mark. Amid the fuzzed-out guitars is a sonic landscape of weighted tension and rumbling release.

An element of menace and danger pervades much of the album, but there's a lot more going on in Fuzzy Dreams.

For instance, “Deep Warmth” unfurls hazily, and noisily builds, before receding. The dynamic and melodic “Fill Me Up” has trippy touchtones. Ben Grigg manipulates his keyboard to sound like a bass, and he explains that their songs develop from jams, where they piece meal different ideas to create something new.

GRIGG: We just kinda sit down and start playing and usually have a little tape recording, and if something sounded good, then we can go back to it and pick out the parts that we like, and then fuse them together into something.

There's a dichotomous, anxious style in Fuzzy Dreams. The trio, who now live in Chicago, describes their hometown of Rockford as a conservative, decaying industrial city with high unemployment and crime rates, racial tension and lots of churches.

Still, they say they have an affinity for their hometown. They even recorded Fuzzy Dreams in Rockford. It was tracked live at Grigg's parents home, which Grigg says was left empty after they divorced.

GRIGG: The cool thing about the house was we could record live with just our amps in separate rooms. Kelly's guitar amp was in the garage, and my bass amp was in a bedroom, and Matt's drums were set up in the living room and we played around Matt, and we could all make eye contact and things like that, and courtesy of our friends with nice things, we could all listen through headphones to what our amps were doing and it made for a really, really natural recording process because it's not like we were laying one track over another track over another track. For the most part it was us like we normally play, us staring at each other. It was really comfortable.

The trio lived at the house, recording over a series of weekends. They thought it would give them the chance to create whenever they were inspired, but more often than not they just had fun. Still, Grigg says inspiration and experimentation found their way into the album while recording, like during “Nakijima.”

GRIGG: During the recording process there's a little like break section in the song where there's some angular guitar, and Matt does more weird things with the drums. We felt it could benefit from more kind of weird noise in there. There was piano in the house, luckily, so we recorded banging on the piano luckily, but then we realized the sound of shattering glass would work well with everything and we also recorded Matt and Kelly and I doing a stream of consciousness talking.

Kelly Johnson, who was raised an evangelical Christian but no longer practices, was working through a breakup. He explains how the song “Table Legs” intertwines two common themes of his writing for this album.

JOHNSON: I just like the imagery of different spiritual images that I think about and then also the imagery of desperation that someone can feel in a relationship at times, and I just kind of like mixing those images and imagery, I think it's interesting to me at least, to keep it vague. I've always identified with a lot of the spiritual imagery in the lyrics like the Pixies, I look to that, and I always liked the directness of you know the Cure, a little more blunt in the lyrics. So I like to mix a little bit of both of those sides.

LEGASPI: Most of the album's songs were fleshed out prior to recording, but the final song on the album, “Judgment Day,” was fully realized at the house. Johnson says it started with a simple idea.

The idea I had just starting out small, and then building to a cacophony, and then Matt just laid down this pretty standard, but really appropriate groovy beat, and I was like “Oh that's great, that will be the middle part” and then we kind of went on that and then Ben laid down some piano and ideas kind of rolled as we started playing and it was a kinda organic process altogether.

While Rockford may have only found its way into their music subconsciously; it seems an apt setting to capture Geronimo!'s Fuzzy Dreams. As Johnson explains:

JOHNSON: It's interesting because all of our best friends are still from Rockford. And I think there's a strange appreciation we have coming from there. Anybody that you meet outside of Rockford, you meet in the city or you meet somebody else, you automatically have the kinship of “Oh you grew up in Rockford, and you had to leave.” And, for some reason you don't hate Rockford. We don't hate Rockford.
GRIGG: No, I love Rockford.
JOHNSON: I think once you leave it, you start to embrace it, the absurdity of it, the quirkiness. Maybe that happens in every home town but that definitely happened with us.

Geronimo!'s debut is an edgy concoction, contrasting sprawling raucous and frenetic sounds with themes of love, angry heartache and a loud-soft-loud dynamic. And though there's a lot of heaviness, with Fuzzy Dreams there's also catharsis.

Songs featured from Geronimo!'s album, Fuzzy Dreams:
“Deep Warmth”
“Fill Me Up”
“Nakijima”
“Table Legs”
“Judgment Day”
“Design Yourself a Heart”

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