CITIZENS!

Citizens!
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CITIZENS!



Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Tshepo Mokoena
01 Sunday 01st April 2012

Citizens! put that exclamation mark in on purpose – perhaps to set themselves apart from Citizen and cabaret collective Citizens Band – but mostly to pack the punch from their music into their name. They’re currently on a club residency at Ridley Road Market Bar and I meet singer Tom, keys/guitar player Lawrence, bassist Martyn, guitarist Thom and drummer Mike as they’re setting up for the first gig of three.

Since the band are playing our Easter Bank Holiday party this Sunday (shameless plug), co-hosted with their ever-chic label Kitsuné, we figured we’d ask Tom about recording with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos, their upcoming summer tour and putting on their own free parties.

So you guys have got this residency coming up at the Market Bar. How'd that all come about?

We just felt it's something people don't do any more: putting on their own parties. It was important to us that it was free to get in, and we're really chuffed the other bands have agreed to do it. In London there's obviously the 'industry' side of live shows, which we're happy to play too, but we wanted to set up a party for people to come to.

How'd the other bands sign on?

It's mostly other bands we've played with whom we really like. We just asked around, basically!

Citizens! seem to have done things the 'wrong' way round: recording a record first, getting a label deal sorted, then playing lots of gigs. Have I got the timeline right?

Absolutely, yeah.

Why that way round then?

I think we just didn't see what we'd achieve by just going out and playing loads of gigs straight away. We weren't looking to get ourselves into any kind of London 'scene' that was happening. We just wanted to do our own thing and had a really clear vision of what we wanted to achieve, so nailed it down behind closed doors. So we just wrote lots of songs - about a hundred, actually, before we'd even played them to anyone.

It wasn't the master plan from the beginning, but just the way things panned out.

How long have you all been playing together then?

Three of us have known each together for a few years, then met the others about a year ago. It's hard to explain why one song sounds identifiably like us, but when looking at our album we wanted it to be varied. We want it to be quite playful, and to do everything with that sense of humour and sense of fun.

Kitsuné's perfect for that. How did the signing come about?

The first contact we had with them was when they wanted to put us on one of the Maison compilations. We didn't even have a band name at that stage and we were won over by them when they just said 'hey, that's fine'. They put out the compilation and where the band name would be next to track number one they just left a blank space in front of 'Let's Go All The Way'.

They've got a great attitude towards new bands: they're not trying to change you into something you're not. We were pretty sold on them from the word ‘go’.

We're co-hosting that party with them this Sunday at Heaven. Could you tell us more about what it's like working with the label?

The bands thing is quite new for them, since they've focused more on the singles and compilations. I think people will be surprised by what they pull off in the next few years, because they're moving away from just being defined by the electro-pop singles thing. They're not really picking out bands to work with who sound like that, and are generally so supportive and positive. It's a lot of fun working with them.

I mean, Gildas [Loaec, head of Kitsuné press] said he signed us because he liked our shoes. He's got a wicked sense of humour.

What was Alex Kopranos like as a producer in the studio? And what do you make of people constantly saying you sound like Franz Ferdinand because he produced the album?

I don't really think we do sound like them [he laughs]! But people are entitled to their opinions, obviously. Working with him was very collaborative and similar to the label, really. When we were talking to producers, a lot of them wanted to turn us into a really big, factory-made act because we're quite poppy but Alex just wanted it to capture as much of our live character and energy as possible.

Everything happened in a room with real instruments. Before we went in, we'd demoed it all in Logic on our laptops, so it changed totally. It was just us five guys and him, in the west of Scotland in a big house, bouncing off the walls and driving that weird energy into playing all these songs [he laughs].

Finally, summer’s coming. Any dates you’re particularly looking forward to playing?

We can’t wait for the summer ones in Europe, and for Field Day. We’re actually doing Field Day in between two festival dates in Germany, so that’s going to be intense. We’re really enjoying gigging though! We did the whole ‘mysterious’ thing last year of just playing a few gigs and got really frustrated with it in the end [he laughs]. It should be great.

Indeed it should. For more on Citizens! click here, and to get tickets to our Easter Bank Holiday bash with Kitsuné just go here.

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