Interview: Citizen [June 2015]

By Glen Bushell

Following up on a debut album that receives widespread acclaim is a daunting task for any band. Citizen faced this hurdle after their 2013 full-lenght ‘Youth’ became one of the most beloved album’s of that year, and for good reason. Now in 2015, Citizen have released the record that no one expected them to make with ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’. A dark, heavy, and unrelenting record that has given the band a chance to really come in to their own.

As the band prepare to spend all summer on The Warped Tour, we caught up with guitarist Nick Hamm before their first show to discuss the new record, why they pushed the boundaries of their sound, and how the band has grown in the last two years.

You are about to release your new album ‘Everybody Is Going to Heaven’. How have you found the response to it so far?

It’s been really cool, I think it’s the first time we have taken the opportunity to do anything that’s kind of polarizing. There’s some people that’s aren’t into it which is cool, but there’s a lot of people who love it.

The overall sound is vastly different to that of ‘Youth’, what made you want to shift in that direction?

I think it was a very natural thing, and we never set out to make the same record twice. We just naturally wanted to do something different to keep things exciting.

It felt like people were either expecting you to go down a “shoegaze” route, or just make ‘Youth Pt. II’. Did you deliberately swerve what people thought you would do with ‘Everybody…’?

Yeah, I definitely think there was an acknowledgement that a lot of bands are going lighter and “janglier”, or shifting towards shoegaze. So we wanted to go against the grain, and make a record that was different to what our peers were doing. I mean they are doing a great job, we wanted to just do something different to our friends.

The heavier moments of the album such as ‘Stain’ and ‘Ten’ are reminiscent of Touch and Go bands like The Jesus Lizard and Slint. Were they bands that you looked to for inspiration?

Absolutely. We are a pretty young band, so there were a lot of bands I had heard of but didn’t really know I would like so much. So the Touch and Go influence was definitely a new thing for us. It was a real change of pace for us.

Lyrically, the album feels far bleaker than your previous work. Is there a central theme to the album? Does it correspond to the title ‘Everybody Is Going to Heaven’?

Not much really corresponds to the title, but Matt (Kerekes, vocals) definitely went through some things in the past year, like the curveballs that life throws at you.

Naturally you chose to work with Will Yip at the production helm again, do you feel he helps bring the best out in Citizen?

Definitely, he is like the sixth member of Citizen. He is very driven and he pushed us as far as we can go. I think that’s a very important factor to have, having someone you know can help push the boundaries a little bit.

How do you personally feel the band has changed or grown in the time since ‘Youth’ was released?

I feel like we wanted to make heavier music, and I think there’s a lot of subconscious influences that naturally pushed it that way. We also have a different line-up, because last time we recorded we didn’t have our drummer Jake, and he is definitely a tastemaker in the band. I think he is big factor in our overall desire to push things.

So, are just starting the Warped Tour in the U.S. This is your second time now is that right?

Yeah, that’s right.

We always hear how great the Warped Tour is, but also how gruelling it can be. What are some of both the up and downsides to the tour?

Upsides are that the sets are awesome, and it’s so fun to play. It’s not so great to set up though. Waking up in the heat and having to set up in the morning isn’t so much fun.

Do you prefer the setting of a festival, or would you rather be playing clubs?

I think I prefer club shows really. I mean when I go to shows, I’m going punk shows in small venues, or shows in skate shops or whatever. So that’s more of my element. I don’t really go to festivals but it’s fun to be a part of.

Is there anyone in particular you are looking forward to seeing while on the tour?

We did a tour with The Wonder Years about a year ago, so I’m excited to chill with them all summer. One of our good friends from Detroit is doing merch for them so it’s just going to be really fun.

Looking ahead, what are your plans post-Warped Tour? Any plans to come back the UK or Europe on the Horizon?

Yeah definitely, we are going to make sure we come back, probably early next year. In the meantime we are just going to keep touring the U.S, keep song writing, and keep pushing on.

Citizen’s excellent new album ‘Everybody Is Going To Heaven’ is available now via Run For Cover Records.

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