Citizen: Interview at The High and Low Festival 2017
The High and Low Festival took place at The NOS Event Center in early September, featuring headlining performances from Brand New and Death Cab For Cutie. One of the bands making an indelible impression on the side stage was Citizen from New Jersey, whose dynamic brand of intensive indie rock captivated the early arrivals. Prior to their set, we caught up with the entire Citizen membership in the backstage press area to discuss their new album As You Please, participating in a band for seven years and counting, vocalist Matt Kerekes recent solo endeavor Luna & The Wild Blue Everything, and other topics of interest. Read on…
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Citizen.
Jake: I’m Jake, I play drums in Citizen.
Nick: I’m Nicholas, I play guitar in Citizen.
Eric: I’m Eric and I play bass in Citizen.
Matt: I’m Matt, I sing.
Ryland: I’m Ryland and I play guitar in Citizen.
What are you guys looking forward to the most about playing first High and Low festival today?
Nick: Well we’ve got a new song called “In The Middle of it All” and it’s the first time that we’re playing said song, so I’m really excited, a little anxious because if we choke, and we kill the song then shit might be the last time we play it.
Jake: Just excited to be here, excited to be playing our new songs off the record. It’s an amazing lineup, and I’m excited to get out there and watch some good bands.
Let’s go around, what song are you looking forward to the most playing off of this new record?
Ryland: Discrete Routine.
Matt: In the Middle of It All
Eric: Fever Days
Nick: Discrete Routine.
Jake: In the Middle of It All.
Any overall story or concept behind the title As You Please?
Matt: No. It was just taken from a lyric, I guess. That’s actually all I can say too.
Nick: I think that the tile, well, obviously it comes from the lyric from the song As You Please. But what I liked a lot about the title, was that it was – it’s kind of tender compared to Everybody Is going to heaven. That album was obviously pretty abrasive and I just thought this time around, having a tender titled like As You Please was just a real cool vibe. I just thought it was ushering in a new vibe and a new feel that maybe people haven’t gotten from Citizen before. I just thought it was a cool sounding title, a cool wordplay. Just a nice title.
Select any two songs, what inspired the lyrics?
Matt: I’ll pick As You Please. Just really I guess opening up to somebody and really giving yourself to somebody. I think that’s a hard thing to do and I just tried to cover that in an interesting way. There’s a song called Medicine, which deals with drug addiction and how it essentially tears things apart.
Is there any screaming on this new record?
Matt: No, not really. It’s kind of like – if there’s screaming it’s just because I’m pushing to hit the note with some rasp. We did the screaming on the last record, we don’t play that song, it’s too hard for me. Just doing it over and over again for weeks, it just destroys me. You can listen to it whenever you want on Spotify. It still exists. It’s there.
Who produced the new Citizen album and what was it like working with them?
Nick: Will Yip who did our last few releases. He did this one again, and it was cool. I mean a lot of the time it’s really – he just provides the vibe and makes sure that the spirits are high when we go in to record. He kicks our ass to get the best performances out of everybody, which I think is really important. I think we really need it because we want to feel like we’re better musicians when we leave, so we don’t want to be one take and it’s good enough. We want to be more than good enough. I think that’s the most important job of a producer and that was no different this time.
He’s almost like your sixth member in a way, would you say that?
Nick: I mean, he definitely is – nobody is surprised that Will Yip produced this one. I’ll put it that way. When we tell people, they’re like, oh that makes sense. Yeah, he’s been with us for a while.
What can one expect from a live Citizen show?
Jake: You can expect just a real good performance and we get up there and put everything we have into it. I think that translates pretty well when you watch it. It’s genuine when we’re up there.
What do you think keeps you guys so passionate about a band for seven years? A lot of people don’t make it to 7 years, 3 albums and 1 EP.
Nick: I think an important aspect of Citizen is that we kind of reinvent ourselves every record. We don’t get bored because we don’t feel constricted to anything. If we wanted to do a pop record, we would do it. If we wanted to do a house record, we would do it. I don’t think we’re going to, I wouldn’t expect it from us any time soon. But we do what we want to do, we’re just young guys, we’re friends and it’s just easy – I see the way that other bands operate and it’s very business oriented. Obviously we’re lying to ourselves if we say this isn’t a business, where we’re at right now, but we try not to operate like that. We do what we want to do, we play the shows that we want to play. We’ve turned down things that would have been good money because we just didn’t want to do it. I think that – not operating like that can tear a band apart. We just concern ourselves with ourselves. We’re a little selfish about it, and I think that keeps us engaged, and energized.
Matt – what made you do a solo album Luna & The Wild Blue Everything outside of Citizen?
Matt: Money. I don’t have to share it with anyone. (Laughs) No. I didn’t plan on doing a solo album, I was just sending our manager demos and she just asked me – I think you should do this, do you want to do this? I said yeah.
Any plans for a another solo record?
Matt: No. Way too busy.
Jake: That’s the plan anyway. We gotta keep him busy enough that he doesn’t feel the need to go do some solo stuff. [laughs]
If you guys could open for any band, either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Ryland: Maybe Weezer because they fucking rock.
Matt: Probably Adema because they did a song for Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.
Eric: One band I’d love to tour with now would be Paramore.
Nick: I’m on a big The Band kick right now and if three of them were alive, I’d tour with them. I wouldn’t want to sound like Citizen, opening for the band, but I’d want to be in a band that opens for The Band.
Jake: It would be Sorority Noise and Great Grandpa, and we’re doing it this fall, so come out to a show please.
What’s up next?
Jake: We’re putting this new record out and we’re just gonna go for it. We’re gonna go in and give this record our all and make sure that every person on Planet Earth hears it and likes it because they don’t have a choice.
As You Please by Citizen is now available from Run For Cover Records!
(Interview and Band Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
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