Discovery: Geo Wyeth
IMAGE COURTESY OF AMOS MAC
Geo Wyeth, a New York-based transgender musician, takes the “interdisciplinary artist” label to a whole new level. Incorporating handmade sets, unusual costumes, and movement in his performances, Geo has gained attention from stages in Brooklyn to galleries in Bucharest since he started performing at 21. His first full-length album, Alien Tapes, was recently released through artist collective PACK Projects and features fresh, absurd storytelling teetering between spiritedness and vulnerability. We caught up with Geo in between European tour shows to talk about collaboration, following impulses, and feeling like an extraterrestrial.
HOMETOWN: New York, NY
CURRENT CITY: Berlin, Germany
HIS SOUND: The sounds I make reflect a kind of irreverence I have for genre. My style is rooted in DIY, and I have an interest in struggle and experimentation. I use mostly instruments that I find or get for cheap. The performance is sometimes pretty theatrical, so something people think I am writing a musical. It definitely takes many forms.
WHAT SOMETIMES HAPPENS BY ACCIDENT: I have a very difficult time making plans—this leads to improvisation in music and performance. It’s like when you show up to work with no pants on or something, because you were distracted, and then you just figure it out. I often wish I could plan ahead more. It often seems I am in the position where I have to improvise in order to keep the energy moving. I must enjoy finding myself in these hard places. At least that’s what my good friends tell me.
STARTING YOUNG: I was lucky to have parents who supported me. We had a weird old out-of-tune upright piano that my dad painted white and outfitted with mirrored panels. My parents played music too, socially, and they were really supportive when I asked for lessons.
ALIEN LANDING: The word “alien” came up in the songs a lot to express feeling like an outsider. I regularly feel alienated by my own body and the way it fails me. The songs themselves came from unknown origins and also places of alienation from a larger oppressive art culture, from family, from my city, from the music industry, from the demands of capitalism and identity, and there is a sort of reveling in this alienated space that happens in the songs, I think.
ORIGIN OF THE SELF-MADE SETS: To be honest, I don’t really know where these things came from. I am following impulses, I am trying things out, I am not limiting myself by things like skill set or identity. [At Kate Werble Gallery] I wanted to perform inside a giant glowing cube; I worked at the Apple store and was really unhappy, so I started building these crude tents for no reason all over the city. I wanted to hide, I wanted to hide in a glowing cube. I don’t know, it helped me find some clarity I think in continuing to develop my relationship to sculpture and movement. So that’s cool.
PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS: Collaboration is what happens every time I sit down and really share and communicate with my friends about what’s up in the world and in their brains. I am collaborating right now in a casual way with this performer, Jeremy Wade, in Berlin. I have collaborated with visual artists, choreographers, composers and I enjoy sharing ideas with folks and not just for the sake of creating a product, usually quite the opposite.
SOUNDS HE CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO: I feel very connected to the ecstatic piano playing of Keith Jarrett and Alice Coltrane. Musically, I often return to the layered sonic spaces of Arthur Russell, the vocal experiments of Meredith Monk, and the street performances of Moondog. I love field recordings. I have been listening to some from the streets of Mexico City.
THE FUTURE: Next year is pretty up in the air for me. I am going to be touring up and down the East Coast in September and October with my new album, Alien Tapes, and developing a larger ensemble work that I have been working on for the past year.