Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Geneva - Interview


Geneva were one of the most underrated bands of their time, caught in the backlash of Britpop around the turn of the century, guilty by association, despite not fitting into that scene at all. Their second album Weather Underground was hampered by financial meltdown at their label which destroyed any chance of it following their debut Further, which yielded four top forty singles, into the top twenty. The band inevitably called it a day soon after with a lot of unfinished business. They return next week for two very low-key shows in Edinburgh and London before taking part in the Starshaped Festival in September. We caught up with front man Andrew Montgomery to discuss the reunion and future plans.

It's eighteen years since Geneva split up. How did the conversations start about getting back together and had there been discussions about it before and if so, why was this time different?

We first mentioned it about four years ago (or at least that's when I first talked it about over a beer with Steve and Keith). Then in the summer I went over to Glasgow to play with Us and also did a gig with some Geneva tunes (with the Us band). We started talking about the possibility before that but the moment wasn't quite right. Now it is, as we've had time to start rehearsing, preparing.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome to making it work?

Life! :-) People have families, careers, lived in different places (Douglas in the Middle East for some years; me in the US, England, Spain and now Sweden; Stuart lives in California), and generally we have all been doing other things as well as music for some time now. Nearly twenty years…that’s the way the chips fell, I guess.



What line-up will be appearing at the two shows you've just announced?

Douglas Caskie (drums), Steven Dora (guitars), Keith Graham (bass), Andrew Montgomery (vocals). It's too far for Stuart to come, though if we ever got to play in the US again, we'd be delighted for him to join us!

You're currently living in Sweden and I imagine the others are all living very different lives to they did when they were in the band. How has it worked in terms of getting together to rehearse?

My family still live in Scotland, between the Glasgow area and Edinburgh, so I've been able to combine rehearsing with visits to them. And the other three guys live in or around Edinburgh, so they've been able to rehearse as a trio quite often. But it'll be rough and ready to start with - we have to shake off nearly 20 years' worth of performance rust!

How did it feel getting back in the same room and playing these songs together for the first time in so long?

Really natural. Songs like Into the Blue and No-One Speaks are like old friends who you're catching up with once more. I'm very proud of what we did and I think the rest of the guys feel the same. It's just great to be playing music again with three very talented musicians.



Are there any songs in particular that have rekindled the spark once you've started playing them?

Apart from the ones above, I like the feel of Temporary Wings and Tranquilizer. But it's fun playing all of them, really.

Does it feel like there's a sense of unfinished business given the way the band was caught up in Nude's financial troubles which crippled the release of Weather Underground after Tranquilizer had hit the top twenty?

You bet there's unfinished business! It feels like we were cut off in our prime, even if the second album got a little lost as a result of things outside our control. I think we were all worn down by what was a really stressful time, and I'm sure the record company people were ground down by their situation too.

Who's to say what we might have achieved in time to come - maybe we'd have carved out our own niche and there would've been much more good Geneva music out there. But it is what it is, and other than using it as motivation for going out there and enjoying ourselves snow, there's no sense in dwelling on the past.

The two albums, and the associated singles which contain some real gems, have been long since deleted.  Have there been any discussions about reissuing them at some point to coincide with the renewed interest the shows will generate?

Well my understanding is that they are available in the UK and Sweden at least on Spotify. Is that right? I don’t think you can buy them on CD/vinyl though. I guess that’s ultimately a question of whether there's a demand for them from people, but maybe it'll be something that comes up down the line. Let's just start the gigging process first and if all that feels good, we can consider the possibilities.



The comeback feels deliberately low-key with two short notice pay on the door intimate shows in London and Edinburgh. What made you choose that route to make your comeback when other bands that had less success than you have done it more high profile?

We're testing the water! Like I say, we need to see how it all goes and flows.Besides, I don't think we should get carried away. It's the reunion of an indie band, not The Beatles! But thanks for the props, David! ;-)

Have you been taken aback by the response to the announcement?

I'm always taken aback whenever someone reaches out on social media as has happened since we announced the shows. Over the years, with music being an add-on to the day job, I can honestly say that it's the folks who do that encouraging via social media who have kept me wanting to make music. It's validation, and it's really humbling and also challenging. You feel like you want to make people happy if it's our music that can help do so. I’m so thankful that people are interested.

The shows are for Shelter. What made you choose to donate the profits from the shows to them?

Homelessness is a disgrace in 21st century First World economies, and the ineffectiveness of the authorities' action and spending on it is tantamount to a crime. Enough said.



Looking forward, what else is in the pipeline after these shows that you can tell us?  Have you had any discussions about or started to write new material?

I think you'll see us onstage later in the summer. I wouldn't rule out new material down the line, either. So long as the audience doesn't boo us off at these two gigs!!

Away from Geneva, you're also part of an electronic two-piece called Us and you've hinted at an album this year, your first since your solo album Ruled By Dreams in 2014.  How is work progressing on that?

It's going well, thanks. It's also really important to me, and I love working with Leo Josefsson, my bandmate, as he's super talented and a great guy. We are planning to release an album in the spring. I'm excited by the songs we've made and hope people will be too.



Geneva play Edinburgh Little Wee Red Bar on Friday February 1st and then London Aces And Eights on Saturday 2nd.  Tickets are first come first served for both shows.

They've just been announced for the Starshaped Festival that takes in Manchester O2 Ritz (August 31), Newcastle O2 Academy (September 7), Birmingham O2 Institute (14) and London Kentish Town Forum (21).

Geneva are on Facebook and Twitter.

Andrew Montgomery is on Twitter and Facebook. His solo album Ruled By Dreams is available from his Bandcamp.

Us are on Facebook.
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