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Toledo’s Citizen head toward the release of their fifth record, ‘Calling The Dogs’. A new and exciting leap into their constantly evolving sound, we spoke with lead vocalist Mat Kerekes and guitarist Nick Hamm about toughness, growing, and their new sound they have captured in this record.
With their roots firmly planted in the alternative music scene, Citizen has garnered a dedicated fanbase and critical acclaim for their thought-provoking lyrics and dynamic sound. In this conversation, we’ll be exploring the creative process behind ‘Calling The Dogs,’ the inspiration that fuelled its creation, and what fans can expect from this exciting new chapter.
I wanted to kick off the interview today by discussing your your new album. You’ve got a few new tracks come out which we’ve listened to and it’s been 2 years since your last album ‘Living In Your Glass World’
Can you fill us in on what you guys have been up to since then?
Matt: Tours, touring a whole bunch and we just did the ten year ‘YOUTH’ shows and we were writing and now we’re now we’re about to hit it full bore once again.
And with the new album ‘Calling The Dogs’ coming out, can you tell us how it differs to some of your earlier work?
Nick: I think with every Citizen album, it’s just kind of a further progression. I guess more personally where we just grow as listeners, as music listeners and I think our writing follows that and it’s like we don’t have any sort of resistance to what we want to write, given just what we listen to and what we feel makes sense for that given point in time. So in that way, it’s the same exact thing as with ‘Youth’. It’s coming from the same perspective. And, you know, if we didn’t have that feeling within us, we wouldn’t have written ‘Youth’ or ‘Everybody’s Going to Heaven’ or ’As You Please’ or ‘Life in Your Glass World’. It’s just that yet again and it just has its current sound and its current role in our catalog.
Do you feel like you’ve kind of fine tuned your sound over the years?
Matt: I feel like we’re we’re always fine tuning you know, like Nick said, every album’s just kind of a different version of us and, you know, time and place type thing. And I’m not sure if we’ll ever be fine tuned and totally, totally locked down. I think we’re, you know, we’re always going to just gradually change over time. And that’s kind of what makes music fun, right?
Absolutely. And on saying that each album is a different part of you guys as a band can you tell us behind the inspiration for the title ‘Calling the Dogs’ and what does it kind of signify for you guys as a band?
Matt: I think that, you know, I can’t give too epic of a story about the title because we just kind of combed through lyrics and that just stuck out to us. But I will say what is major about it is that it does reflect the spirit of the album. You know, when we were talking about the title, we were talking about, oh, it sounds kind of tough, you know, and I feel like it’s a tough album. And when you go through each album title in our catalog now, I feel like each one feels a certain way. And ‘Calling The Dogs’ feels so different from the rest of them and feels so hand-in-hand with with the spirit of the songs themselves.
Have you found the recording process for this album? Touching on what you said about this record feeling ‘harder’ how does it compare to previous albums and their process?
Nick: We did the record with Rob Schnap and you know, it’s always different just working with someone else’s process because, you know, we record with William for three records and we got very used to his process. And then we did ‘Glass World’ ourselves, which, you know, I think everybody in the band is used to my process because of how much we demo and all that stuff and so going somewhere new and just having it be a totally different experience came from left field a bit. We didn’t, you know, we just had to roll with it and we ended up really enjoying it. And I think it turned out pretty cool.
Looking more into the album I want to dive into one of the tracks you’ve released called ‘If You’re Lonely’.
Can you tell me more about it? The themes you explore and how that came to be.
Matt : ‘If you’re lonely’. It’s funny because the song was was written out of spite in a way. It’s like it’s kind of a Q, you know, track but I was listening to the song and just people I don’t really like in this band. And I remember I texted Nick, I said, I hate this band. Like we could write a song in 4 minutes. And then I sat down and we wrote ‘If You’re Lonely’ which is pretty funny to have a song that’s, you know, one of the, I guess, you know, more hopeful songs on the record come from that place. But, you know, I guess yeah, that’s, that’s there’s your answer right there. It’s pretty funny.
Aside from ‘If you’re Lonely’, can you tell me of any of the standout tracks on the album and what makes them special to you?
Matt: I really like a song called ‘Needs’. I feel like I feel like it taps into a cool kind of bouncy energy that we’ve otherwise never explored. And it was it was funny because I, I sent the initial demo to everybody and it didn’t really get the reaction I wanted. Nobody liked the song and I really like it. It sucks. And then when it came closer and everybody’s kind of reviewing everything, I remember Nick texted me, he’s like, Man, this song ‘Needs’ is really awesome. He then said “You never showed it to me”. And I was like, “Yes, I did”. And so it was kind of cool to have it come around. And when we got together, we all got together in a cabin and wrote the record pretty much. And when it came time to do that, it was like immediate. The first time we played it together. It just sounded so good and felt so right, you know. So I am really excited about that song personally. I’m amazing.
And Nick is the one for you?
Nick: Yeah, “Takes one to know one”, which is the last song on the album. When when Matt first showed it to me, I just thought that the melodies were so unlike anything that he’s written before. And they felt, you know, like, almost like they had this Ramones energy happening and I just loved it. And that one was just like, I don’t know, it was just always kind of like sitting there, like, didn’t need much. Like it was just ready for us to, to put it on the album and I always take a lot of importance in what we decide to close an album with. And I don’t know that one just like really called out. It was like, let’s end the album in this kind of like upbeat, bright, glorious way, you know? And so I just really like how it ties things up. It feels like that was the last song to ever be on a Citizen album. That would be like a really cool way to take it home, you know.
Looking at the album as a whole. I wanted to dive into the artwork. Can you explain how you guys came up with the album cover?
Nick: One thing that was really important to us was, you know, we did have the title already and there was no chance in hell that there was going to be anything to do with dogs in the artwork. It was just not to be literal like that, you know, and so I was just kind of digging for inspiration and I was looking at this folder of photos that we had taken when we were writing the album. And there was just this photo of Mason and I just wandering around this tree. And I don’t know, for some reason it just felt distinctly Ohio and it felt like I can paint this and it’s going to feel like a love letter to Ohio, which is just exactly what it was. It felt like it was honouring the place and the experience that we had writing the album and working together on the album. And it was like going back to writing music in like a garage with your friends. And I just loved that experience and wanted to honour it.
Just looking back at the album as a whole. When did you decide this was the time to release the new album?
Matt: The demoing just started randomly. We never had a conversation about, “hey, it’s time to do a new record”. It was just sometimes you feel inspired to write some songs and yeah, just started doing it and sending it to everybody. And you know, it’s always good when the overall morale is high and people get excited and it’s more motivating. So, you know, you send that first song and you get a positive response and all of a sudden like, you know, 15 more just come out. So we had we pretty much had most of the record. We did write some songs closer to recording, but we had enough material for a record before we even had a timeline to go record.
Looking at the road ahead what have you got planned for later this year? The UK tour and U.S. tour? What what are you most looking forward to?
Nick: We’ll have more shows announced as time goes on. And you know, something that’s really important to us is it’s just staying as active as possible and doing this as much as we can while we can. You know, we all know that this is won’t last forever. And we just want to capture the moment. And that’s I think that’s the spirit of this album cycle. It’s just keeping busy and trying to play new places or places we haven’t been in a long time, you know, and just keep things fun and exciting any way we can.
Is there any dream goals for the next year or so?
Nick: I think that we just want to play to as many people as possible and there’s many ways to, you know, make that happen. And we’ll see exactly how we can make that happen. But, you know, whether it’s playing first or with bands we’ve never played with before, just just trying to, you know, still operate like where we’re a new band and not operate in a way that is bitter to the way that music exists in this year. You know, it’s like you have to relearn every year and you can’t just like base everything off the way it was years ago or even two years ago. And I think that that’s the goal is to just stay as young mentally as possible. And we are young. We’re 20 years old, right? But that’s always the goal, in my opinion.
I just want to round things off by saying, can you guys share the funniest, craziest thing that’s happened to you guys?
Matt: Something for me personally that comes to mind. This one time we were in Australia and we were cliff jumping and I don’t know if that’s the right term. I think cliff jumping is more extreme than what we were doing. We were jumping off of tall rocks into the ocean and there was a moment where nobody was doing it and I just jumped off real quick and it was into the ocean. And when I popped my head up, everybody was screaming at me to swim, swim, swim, swim. So in my head I thought, “Oh my God, there’s a shark and I’m going to die”. And so I started swimming as fast as I could. And when I finally got to the rock and got up, I turned around and there was a school of jellyfish rising to the top, and I jumped right on top of it. So that was pretty crazy.
Nick: Watching Matt almost die was always something that I do not expect.
‘Calling The Dogs’ is out 10/06/2023 via Run for Cover.
Listen to If You’re Lonely‘ here: