Making a Connection with Citizen

Photo Credit: Adam Gendler

Photo Credit: Adam Gendler

Making a Connection with Citizen

Citizen is spending the Summer of 2013 on the Vans Warped Tour, presenting their own dynamic version of emotional indie rock to a burgeoning fan base. Their album Youth was recently released on Run For Cover Records, featuring deeply heartfelt songs that pack an emotional punch. When performed live – either with a full on band or even acoustic – Citizen is a powerhouse force whose connection with their audience is intensive and genuine. We caught up with lead vocalist Mat Kerekes for a short yet very personal interview as he discusses life on the road, the meaning behind their song The Summer and other tunes from Youth, and a brand new song entitled Silver Bill. Read on as we make a connection with Citizen at the Vans Warped Tour in Pomona…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Citizen, and how long the band has been together.
I sing for Citizen and we’ve been together for about three years now.

So my first questions is, how are you going to survive doing acoustic sets and then full on band sets for the entire Warped Tour?
I’m actually pretty worn out already. I’m actually not doing acoustic sets every day – but pretty much when someone drops, they’ll let them know and I’ll come in and fill the void. I enjoy playing acoustic though.

I saw your acoustic show in San Diego yesterday and then you guys played much later that day. So where are you guys based out of and what is your music scene like there?
I guess we’re from Toledo, Ohio, but all our stuff says Michigan on it, because I’m from Michigan – I started the band – but everyone else is from Toledo. And we have a pretty big metal scene actually – we’re like the only band of our genre – but everyone is really supportive and it’s pretty good. All of our shows do well.

How has the Warped Tour been going so far and what have been some of the highlights?
Warped Tour rules! It’s just very hot! I’m not used to that. I get to actually eat as much as I want to. Me and Parker, our guitarist Ryland, sometimes our bassist – we all work out every day – so we can stay on a set schedule. On a normal tour you can’t really do that.

Tell me about your song The Summer from the Warped Tour compilation and what inspired the lyrics for that one?
The Summer is about – I dated this girl for five years – and pretty much last summer – it’s like the usual breakup song I guess. She just went behind my back and kind of left me for another dude and shit. I was never home – I had no control over it. The entire Youth album – pretty much every song is about the same exact thing. I was doing a lot of stupid stuff in that period of time. It was just really affecting me – so I was going out and secluding myself from everyone and making stupid decisions. In general, Youth is about that, and The Summer is just another chapter about that.

What could one expect from a live Citizen show if they were going to see you today?
I feel like we’re all pretty passionate about the music we play. I guess it’s pretty emotional – the songs are pretty personal – they mean a lot to me.

How did the tour with The Story So Far go and what were some of the highlights on that?
It was crazy! Even the first show of The Suppy Nation Tour was the biggest show I’ve ever played in my entire life. It was like a jump. We toured with Turnover and a good show was like 100 people and we were really excited about that. Then we go to Dallas for the first show of The Suppy Nation – and it was like 800-900 people or something, which was insane! It was such a drastic jump and it was pretty cool – so that’s a highlight.

Photo by: Ken Morton

Photo by: Ken Morton

When you look back on your first album Young States, what do you think of it now?
I don’t like it at all. I wish we could not play any songs off of it actually. Until the Turnover split, we were just kind of writing songs just to write them. I still am young, but I was younger – and I didn’t really have any trials and tribulations and all that shit. I didn’t really have anything to sing about, so we would just make up bull shit. And the songs don’t mean anything to me. I could sing those and it just doesn’t mean anything. If I sing any of the newer stuff, I feel like I’m doing something and expressing myself.

Would you ever want to do an acoustic album or EP in the future, since you are doing acoustic show here and there on Warped?
Yeah! I put out songs every once in a while. I never sit down and say “I’m going to start working on an EP.” If something happens in my life and I’m sad about it or fucking pissed off – I’ll write a song real quick and if it doesn’t sound like it could be a Citizen song, I record it in my bedroom and I post it. There’s never a set release or anything – it’s always random. Our manager and everyone has been talking to me about actually wanting to do something – and I know Will Yip – the guy that we recorded Youth with, really want to be a part of that too, which is awesome. It’s just all up in the air right now, but hopefully something becomes of it.

I think you played a new song yesterday. What was the title of it and what is the song about?
It’s called Silver Bill. The girl that Youth is about actually – I came home from The Suppy Nation Tour. I haven’t talked to her since August. I’m straight edge – I don’t drink or anything. When I came home, I go to my friend’s party and I see her – she never drank or anything – she was fucking hammered acting like an idiot. She was hanging all over these guys and stuff and I’m like pulling each guy over and like, “Yo, stay away or we’re going to have a problem.” I pretty much took care of her and I was holding her hair as she was puking – I sat next to her with the bucket – and she was pretty much like a baby – defenseless. Everyone was trying to take advantage of her and shit. That happened once and then it happened again the next time – and I was there for it. And she didn’t appreciate it at all. She didn’t go out of her way to say anything to me. And I guess the song is just about that – I did this and maybe one day you’ll realize that you’re acting stupid. I don’t knock drinking or anything – I don’t really care. I genuinely care about that girl still, and she’s just making some poor decisions – and it just makes me sad. And I guess that’s what the song is about. And the Silver Bill thing – my friend gave me this coin right when I came home from The Suppy Nation Tour and he was like, “I have a few of these and I keep them all in my pocket for good luck. You’re my best friend – you can have it! We can have the same coin!” And I don’t believe in shit like that at all – I don’t believe in good luck or karma or any of that. But I was like, “Alright, whatever” – and I would keep it in my jeans. And I have a line in the song about that – and that’s why I call it Silver Bill. And I noticed after he gave that to me, all of those opportunities to be there for her starting arising. That got long – sorry about that.

No problem. And I just got the cue to wrap it up. Do you have any messages for your fans out here in Southern California?
I love California and your state is a beautiful state!

Citizen is:
Mat Kerekes – Vocals
Nick Hamm – Guitar
Ryland Oehlers – Guitar
Eric Hamm – Bass
Cray Wilson – Drums

(Interview and Candid Photo by Kenneth Morton – Live Photo by Adam Gendler)

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