Citizen strip down “Flowerchild” in new studio session (video + Q&A)
Citizen recently released their third album, As You Please, on Run For Cover. It follows 2015's Everybody Is Going to Heaven, which was their heaviest, rawest album to date, and As You Please is probably their softest. It employs acoustic guitar, grand piano (which singer Mat Kerekes learned to play just for this album), slower rhythms, and quieter passages, but Citizen haven't ditched their trademark scream-sung choruses. They remain a powerful rock band.
They once again recorded the album with producer Will Yip, and, in a move that further shows off their more delicate tendencies this time around, they've been releasing stripped-down sessions of the new songs recorded at Yip's Studio 4. We're premiering the video for "Flowerchild," which is the last song on the album and already one of the quieter ones, but this video still offers a different spin on it. Watch below.
Citizen are beginning a tour with Sorority Noise (who released a new 7" on Friday) this Tuesday (10/17). Great Grandpa also open most dates. As mentioned, the tour hits NYC on October 26 at Irving Plaza (tickets). All dates are listed below.
I also spoke to Citizen guitarist Nick Hamm about the new album, the stripped-down "Flowerchild" session, and more. Read on for our Q&A and a stream of As You Please...
BV: So, your new record As You Please is out, congrats on that! Are you happy to finally have this one out in the world?
Nick Hamm: Thanks! Yes absolutely. Happy, relieved, a little bit nervous. Mostly, it feels like I can take a huge breath and just relax. We've been sitting on this record since February or March so we've had this excitement just brewing and brewing for a good part of a year now. It feels good that people can finally join in on that.
It seems like every Citizen record is noticeably different. You're coming off releasing your most aggressive album and As You Please is probably your softest. How did the change in sound come about for this one?
Nick: It's interesting to hear people's perception of it. I suppose As You Please probably is the calmest one yet, but I've not really considered that. The changes are always a natural response to whatever came before it, in my mind. Last time around, we wanted to be abrasive and polarizing and we felt that we had the platform that we could get away with it, I suppose. This time around, we just wanted to buckle down on songwriting and take a leap forward.
I know it's a question everybody always asks, but what were some of the artists that influenced this one?
Nick: It's funny how long a record takes to write because when we first started working on these songs, I was listening to Turn On The Bright Lights, Portishead's Third, and Blond. By the end, I was listening to a lot of The Band and Mina. Mat dove into Bowie's catalogue and I think his songwriting strengthened from that. I suppose I can't necessarily speak for everyone, although every member's voice was instrumental to the album.
What's the writing process usually like? Does Mat bring an idea to the table and it goes from there, or something else?
Nick: In the past, it's always started Mat or myself bringing forth an idea and running it through the other's filter. This time around, Ryland contributed two tracks to the album which are some of the best. So I think our process is shifting, which is an exciting change. I think that the first drafts are starting to sound more and more like fully realized songs, as well.
So, you've been releasing these stripped down video sessions along with this album. We're premiering the one for "Flowerchild." What can you tell us about that one?
Nick: Yeah! Traditionally, Citizen has been very lazy when it comes to stripping down our songs. It's usually me, Mat, and two acoustic guitars. We just wanted to elevate what we were doing in that department. It's interesting having the opportunity to really rework and paint these songs in a different light. I know "Flowerchild" is a fairly pretty song in the first place, but there's a new spirit about it. People have been pretty receptive to these videos, which is amazing.
Yeah regarding going beyond acoustic guitars, my favorite part of it is how Mat is playing a grand piano. Did he play one on the record too?
Nick: He did! That's a new addition. He wanted to learn to play so he went and bought this amazing keyboard and picked it up pretty easily. So he did keys at a few points on the LP.
He learned it just for this record? That's pretty amazing. He looks and sounds like a natural in the video!
Nick: Yeah, trust me. It's pretty mind-blowing the way he sets out to do something and can really execute.
You did these videos at Will Yip's Studio 4, and you've worked with Will on all three albums so far, right? He seems like he knows how to uniquely gel with each band he works with. What has your experience working with Will been like over the years?
Nick: We first met when I was in high school, before we signed to Run For Cover. I loved his work for Blacklisted and Title Fight. So he's just been a friend for so long and he's been able to maneuver with us as we've wanted to try new things. He's never batted an eye when we hit him with crazy ideas. Always supportive and always down to try anything that we want to. We also just like to eat a lot of food together.
I think that's about all I have, unless there's anything else you'd like to add.
Nick: Thanks for chatting with me! I want to give a bonus shout out to Ken Andrews, who mixed the record. Aside from that, much love to the people on board with the LP.
Citizen -- 2017 Tour Dates
10/17 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop*
10/18 Chicago, IL @ Metro*
10/19 Detroit, MI @ St. Andrew’s Hall*
10/20 Toronto, ON @ Opera House*
10/21 Buffalo, NY @ Waiting Room*
10/22 Boston, MA @ Royale*
10/24 Lancaster, PA @ Chameleon Club*
10/26 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza*
10/27 Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre Of Living Arts*
10/28 Asbury Park, NJ @ House Of Independents*
10/29 Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage*
10/31 Richmond, VA @ Canal Club*
11/01 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle*
11/02 Orlando, FL @ The Social*
11/03 Margate, FL @ O’Malley’s*
11/04 Tampa, FL @ Crowbar*
11/05 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade (The Small Ball)*
11/06 Nashville, TN @ The Basement – East*
11/08 Houston, TX @ Walter’s*
11/09 Dallas, TX @ Trees*
11/10 McDade, TX @ Sound On Sound Fest^
11/12 Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theater*
11/13 San Diego, CA @ The Irenic*
11/14 Pomona, CA @ The Glass House*
11/15 Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent*
11/17 San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s*
11/18 Portland, OR @ Analog Theater*
11/19 Seattle, WA @ Neumos*
11/21 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex*
11/22 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater*
11/24 Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theatre*
11/25 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock*
* – w/ Sorority Noise and Great Grandpa
^ – w/ Sorority Noise