From their early days as a high school pop-punk band, Citizen’s sound has evolved into melting pot of post-hardcore, shoegaze and molasses-thick indie over the course of their first two albums: 2013’s Youth and its 2015 follow-up Everybody Is Going To Heaven. They’re currently working on their third full-length with producer Will Yip (Title Fight, Circa Survive, Braid).
TeamRock caught up with guitarist Nick Hamm to talk about the pros and cons of making music without restrictions and how frontman Mat Kerekes is using the new material to exorcise some personal demons. Here’s what we found out…
How far are you into the next album?
Nick: “We’re about seven songs deep. Usually we end up going into the studio with around seven songs and do the rest in there. We’re ready to go, but we don’t record for a long time. Right now everything we have is so exciting. Straight up, it’s really good, I’m biased, but I feel like it’s the most collaborative we’ve ever been. Usually it’s just Mat and I going at it, but this time everyone’s involved, this one feels different.”
Is Mat writing the lyrics again?
“Yes, he does the lyrics because he’s really good at it. If I tried to do the lyrics it would be embarrassing. I feel like coming off the last record, we felt like we were in a box, and the only priority was getting out of it. We wanted to do something different; we don’t care if people like it or hate it. [We want] different vibes that we never would have experimented with before. I feel like a lot of bands are really strangely stagnant, and kind of willing to be stagnant, and I don’t know why that is. I feel like the bands that I really love, every record kind of pushes the wall a little more. We want to have a place in that. When we’re doing this record, it’s really important to continue to push a little further and try to change what people perceive Citizen to be. That’s really the goal right now.”
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Which of your contemporaries inspire you?
“I feel like the best example of a band that pushes themselves is Title Fight. Every record from their debut record was surprising, and I feel like they really make it possible for bands in this world to push a little further. They lead the pack and do what they want to do. Their producer, Will Yip, is also our guy.”
Why have you chosen to work with Will Yip again?
“The first thing we heard from him was a Blacklisted seven-inch that he did, and I have to assume that’s why I lot of bands went to him, because the tones on that Blacklisted record were crazy. It was really interesting and it was kind of fresh for rock music, so when he started doing the Title Fight stuff, that was when we put a name on it and were like, ‘Yeah, this is the guy’. We recorded with him in 2011 or 2012 and immediately clicked with him. He’s doing the new record; I really feel like when it comes to producers, a lot of them are actually just engineers. Will really cares about the song which is what I think makes him a producer versus a lot of other people. I’m not throwing shade at anybody but I feel like he’s really hands-on, and he really cares about pushing the band. That’s important to us because we need someone kicking our ass.”
What sort of themes are you exploring on the follow-up to Everybody Is Going To Heaven?
“I feel like Mat is tapping into some themes lyrically on the new album that people wouldn’t know about him and his experience at home growing up. It’s different things that he’s dealt with over the past few years, but I feel like not a lot of people have to deal with it. Addiction is a theme on the record; it’s not about us personally, but it’s indirectly affected everyone in the band over the past few years, so that’s become a talking point. I think there’s been a really crazy drug epidemic in our area and in a lot of people’s areas in the past few years and it seems like it keeps getting worse. People close to us keep falling into the wrong things.”
Do you feel that changing direction with each album is making a rock for the band’s back?
“There are a lot of bands that I think don’t get recognised that should. I think that that’s because they do what they want to do, and a lot of people don’t want bands to do whatever they want. They want bands to write the same record over and over, and we’ve never really been into that. Even from an outside perspective with the bands I like, if they put out the same record twice I’d be disappointed. It’s important to us to do whatever feels true for us, and if that makes it harder for us to gain success then so be it, but that’s the way we operate, and that’s the way we’ll continue to operate until we don’t want to do the band anymore. I think our first record gained us a fanbase that’s pretty trustworthy and are gonna rock with us no matter what. We don’t take that for granted.”